Billable Hours and My Desire to Work

This morning has been frustrating. But, it has been frustrating because I feel trapped in a box and I am missing the key to get out. That, and I just got taught a lesson on how your billable hours get monitored. For those of you who don’t have to do this, lucky you. But, here’s what has happened.

The Bench

Since I rolled off of my last project, about 4 weeks ago, I have been on “the bench” (un-staffed) for three of those weeks. This is time where you complete training on materials that interest you, are beneficial to the company, and move you towards your certifications. As an employee in the delivery management practice I am required to obtain my MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) within one year of my employment. Well, as of a couple months ago, I have earned that certification.

So, what’s next? PMP certification. However, that takes much more time and has an hours requirement. I could study up on the stuff that the PMI has outlined, but I’m in no rush since I need at least a good three years of project management experience to even take the test. But, alas, there in lies the problem. I am not doing any time of project management work. None. I am a tester. So, what is my incentive to train for these things, not much. Nothing more than saying I’m a certified P-I-M-P, er… PMP.

My Bind

Now, over the time that I have been training since our fiscal year began, I have racked up 270% of my needed training hours. So, I’m way over the minimum and almost double the maximum budgeted for me in a given year. That puts me in a bind. So, they ask me to bill for the hours that I am actually working and to be honest on my time sheets. Well, I am and now I have been told that for my honesty that if I am to be consistently under 40 hours a week that I will need to take time out of my vacation to make up the difference. I have a problem with this.

Being on the bench, there is not much that I can do to get me staffed. Well, not much more than what I already did. I told all three of our Project Management Directors that I was looking for work, I told our staffing coordinator, and even my General Manager knew (granted, he doesn’t do staffing). At that point there weren’t may others that could help me get staffed, so I sat and I waited to get the call when I was staffed. In the interim, I worked on a “presentation” for our GM that will be presented at a leadership conference, so that was about 40ish hours right there. Alright, now I am down to two weeks of training. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if I hadn’t been racking up the training hours as I was rolling off of my last project. So, I am consistently racking up the training hours and having nothing to train.

What to Learn?

It was suggested that I train on Microsoft Project and SharePoint. Well, I am not too inclined to train on Project because I am not getting roles that utilize this tool (not yet at least). This is no excuse for not training, but it doesn’t provide me much motivation to train on this software when I don’t know when I’ll even use it. And it’s not like I’d learn it for “fun”.

As for SharePoint, there will be a new version released this fall (in Office 12) and it seems kind of silly to me to train on software that is being updated. But, that’s just me. Really, I don’t want to train on it because I am not a developer, I don’t want to be one and this training is development work. Beyond this, there is no training plan for me and it has been up to me on what I am training on.

Here Comes the Problem

So, fast forward to today and I get an e-mail from payroll telling me that my hours have been under what is expected of me to do. Alright, from their end I can see why they feel like that. To them it’s unacceptable, to me I’m just a rock in a hard place. I’m not getting work when I am staffed, so I feel that I shouldn’t be billing hours for work I am not doing, I am already way over my training hours for this year (which ends 7/31), and I am not going to take vacation because I am not getting work. So, as I see it, I have two outs:

  1. Bill the customer more, even though I do not have work to do
  2. Bill training, even though I am way over my budgeted hours

Well, I don’t like either of those optoins and they leave me at the crossroads with no easy path to take.

Needless to say, I am frustrated with the current situation. Maybe it is frustration with what I am doing (or more so what I am not doing) and I am just caught in a cycle that I can’t find a good way out of. I hate not working. I hate it. Yea, it’s nice to be training and not doing project work, but that’s not fun for me. Well, not fun anymore. I need some work to do and that’s why I keep myself occupied with little projects here and there. If you know me, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

In the end, where does this leave me. Well, it leaves me with a desire to do work and wondering what is next…

3 thoughts on “Billable Hours and My Desire to Work”

  1. Damned if you, damned if you don’t. I wouldn’t worry about billing training, as long as you’re doing something. I think reading articles or books about anything related to your job would be fine for training. I’ve talked many times to others about the training hours, and have been told that although they look at them, they never get upset about seeing over the amounts on that… actually she said “We smile.” Just my opinion ;-)

  2. When you said “Nothing more than saying I’m a certified P-I-M-P, er… PMP.”You had me laughing out loud. :P

    I know how you feel. I’ve been really worried because I’ve been off of a project for a while now, by this friday it will be six weeks. That’s not including two other weeks of being on the bench between my first and second project. I talked to the staffing also and they told me things were really slow right now. crossed fingers.

  3. When I see “billable hours” I get scared. I don’t know how many you have to do, but most of the big law firms in NYC have a minimum of 1900-2200 billable hours. It’s a fact that’s pounded into our heads as first year law students all the time. On one hand I can’t wait to make money. On the other hand, I like not doing actual work every day.

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