"USPS Bay Valley Career Conference 2017"

By Allan Angel

(August 18, 2017)

I was walking towards my job as a mail handler for the United States Postal Service, when I saw this bulletin on an easel saying the USPS would have a career day on August 12 and 13, 2017. I jumped at the chance to be at this event, a little bit trepidatious about the idea when I read that a dance party and karaoke would ensue after the formalities, but the thought of it piqued my interest so much as to allay any such reservations. I immediately wrote a check for 55 dollars when I got home, checked off the workshops I wanted to attend and once I got back to work the next day handed it to a clerk at the AFCS machine to process.

On Saturday, I prepared my short sleeved dotted dress shirt I bought from Nordstrom and dress pants I bought at Macy’s, a notebook and sturdy pen I received from Keypoint credit union as a result of being a member of the Banking and Investment Association at SJSU, my Lumix camera/camcorder and my iPhone 5c. At 5 o’clock I began my journey towards the Embassy Suites at Hilton Silicon Valley in Milpitas, CA in my old beaten down Ford.

Would they make fun of me for having this decrepit old car I thought. I didn’t care, there were so many questions I wanted answers to, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass. It was my niece’s birthday, so it was hard to bid my family who gathered for this occasion farewell, but I felt like there was something to this event.

I didn’t know what to expect, and it did not start out so well. My name was not on the roster, but I made sure to take a picture of the check and flyer I filled out indicating what workshops I wanted to attend when I sent my order in so the volunteers at the register let me in. There weren’t many people as I made my way towards the conference room, but eventually all seats were filled to capacity.

It was nice meeting our plant manager Larry Engler and he was very gracious towards the employees that sat at the same table. I had a lot of questions coming in to this event such as who was in charge of hiring at the Finance department or if there even was one. I really wanted to know who the hiring managers were. I was told that applying as an A.E.S., (supervisory position) first is the best way into opening up more opportunities. I didn’t want to be a supervisor, but I was hopeful that I would meet the people in charge of the finance department.

It was difficult at first to mingle with the crowd as I had when I won a scholarship to attend a WEIF event at Tesla and meet with the makers and doers in sustainable energy entrepreneurship. To me, at least, it seemed craft workers kept to themselves from the supervisors and vice versa. As with all things that begin anew, this was an undiscovered territory for both sides as no event prior has occurred but what was admirable was that everyone was game.

I was in deep conversation with a co worker about my experiences working with an elite group of people from Intel, when we were summoned to make our way towards the dining area to get our food. I have to tell you, this was one of the best, if not the best food I have ever tasted. The menu consisted of assorted vegetables, cooked just right, bread with butter shaped like balls, and this delicious casserole that was filled with just the right amount of cheese nary meat to be found. It harkens back to the great food Tesla served, but much better. It was amazing.

As we ate, actually I just finished my whole dinner(last one in, first one out), motivational speakers representing the supervisory positions in the Bay Valley district spoke one after another. The one person I was interested in and helped me decide on attending this meeting was finding out the person in charge of the finance department or anything related to the degree I received from San Jose State University, a BA in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. That person was Romy Deguzman, the many executives introduced by the speaker. I made sure to remember his face in the hopes of having a one to one conversation with him.

The first night was busy with the fervor of uncharted territory and the buzzing of noise as people talked to one another. It was impossible for me to go talk to Mr. Deguzman amidst the flurry of speakers that were speaking at the moment. Tomorrow, perhaps, I would be able to speak to him and possibly get the opportunity in putting my degree, which I sacrificed so much to achieve, to work.

These are just some of the many exceptional quotes that I collected during the slew of speakers I was fortunate to listen to!
"Money Grows on Trees just give it time."
"There is such a thing as a free lunch." (TSP)
"You're going to deal with adversity, no matter what."

Some of the points that were reiterated during the series of executives at the podium were the need of new hires to fill those positions held by supervisors who were ready to retire in the next five years or so. And that when one chooses to retire it was based on the average of the last 3 consecutive years of an employee’s base pay, and one is better off with a higher retirement if one chooses to join the ranks of a supervisory role.

Other speakers chimed the viability of the USPS saying that it was a multi billion dollar company and there was room for any job that could be filled by employees with talent and it was the employee’s prerogative to make themselves known to the people in charge of those talents they possess. It can be in any field, it doesn’t matter. There is a job for that skill/skillset.

During a brief brake, I was summoned to talk to someone outside the venue about a financial company of some sort. I talked to someone who owned his own business as a Finance advisor, which I soon learned to be one of those companies that lingers like a dark cloud with the intent to ‘educate people’, but ended up being just a waste of time for me. Luckily, the conference was not. For the first time in my career as a Mail Handler, I was truly proud to be one!

The night capped off with some dancing and karaoke. I missed some of the karaoke ones due to that little meeting which lasted an hour, but an interesting participant rapped to some Beastie Boys song of which I do not know, and really made this part of the night interesting. One could hardly hear the beat, but he held his own. By then, most of the people at my table had disappeared as were the rest of the tables and I was sleepy. I bid the night farewell, as I wanted to meet a few of my relatives who might have remained at my niece’s party and be up early enough for the second day of this glorious event!

The next day, my itinerary indicated the start of the program to be at 8:30 am. It was actually 8 am and by then almost all the seats were taken and, again, they didn’t have my name on the list. It was packed. Luckily, there were 2 seats left and I quickly grabbed one before anybody else got to it.

My spot was situated in the heart of the room and I was able to capture images that I tweeted and thought to be of great value for those who weren’t able to attend. I released some videos on Twitter and Instagram with the following hashtags #SanJoseUSPSallanangel #successallanangel if you care to see what this event was like. My tweets generated quite a lot of impressions on my Twitter account and I attracted followers who would come and go once the event was over.

Some of the basic information I have gathered are how to find the leaders of each department, TSP, life insurance, the difference between FERS and CSRS, etc. They’re pretty much similar, FERS compensating for lesser percentage of base pay through a bridge to one’s social security. This information was pertinent as most of us, 95% of us, were under this program.

The most confusing aspect came in how to sign up for life insurance, which I always found to be one of the better benefits that we have as postal workers. The attendees found out from Vinay Gupta that there is no definite date to sign up and it comes unannounced so I was confused which compelled me to ask- “ how does one sign up and can it be carried over to retirement.” Vinay said the following, “Signing up must have occurred at time of employment and eligibility or a life changing event such as divorce. And it can be carried in retirement but one must pay for it.” Or to that effect.

The seminars and speakers left me excited about opportunities that may come my way. Before going towards the workshops, however, schedules had to be altered due to the tremendously enthusiastic response that came from the audience that curtailed about 2 workshops that were scheduled between 10 to noon. I could have attended a more in depth review of finance, but Mr. Gupta’s informative lecture about TSP, retirement and whatnot went over its intended duration.

A raffle followed afterwards, which I couldn’t participate in as I wasn’t provided a badge with a number on it, even though I had sent the check a week before the deadline after seeing the billboard in front of the entrance at our plant. I was perturbed to say the least as I always win something. One prize was $100 supplied by one of the managers and a one night stay at the hotel.

Before going to the next 2 workshops, I stood in line for lunch. I saw Romy Deguzman pass by but he was busy and looked to be talking to the 16 or so something employees that won a chance to talk to the head of departments for 15 minutes or he was just preoccupied. I was hungry and I heard the food calling out to me. I figured I would talk to him after lunch.

As I stood in line, I found one of my coworkers from another tour or shift standing behind me and we talked heartily about TSP, what we learned from the event and North Carolina where he was from. I took an extra piece of chicken for the slight at not being able to participate at the raffle. I, later, found out that everybody took the same amount of chicken I did and I was upset at myself for not taking more.

We were told to go back inside once we got our food as I think the tables we meant to sit at were reserved for the executives. We went back inside and, luckily, we found our group leader or MDO’s from our plant. Again, I reiterated my background at Intel, my appearances on television and my experience with one of the greatest professor I have ever had, Prof. Frank Jones, a prominent figure in Wall Street, with my co-worker as the raffle continued to be called out in the background.

As I made my way outside, I saw Romy. I introduced myself and told him that I had just graduated from San Jose State University with a BA in finance and had worked for the post office as a mail handler for 20 years and wondered if there were any openings with my education and experience. He was ecstatic and seemed to be really impressed so he introduced me to the lady in charge of passing out the application for an Accountant Specialist position. I looked at the qualifications and there was something about being able to input information based on GAAP and I told her that I had a finance background but not accounting. She insisted I apply because I was well suited for the job.

I attended 2 more workshops on Acceleration and Advancement before heading back home. Here, I learned about the Employee development forms, and the lecturer told us that our supervisors should have the information on hand if we asked who was in charge of what department and any questions pertaining to upward mobility within the USPS. Tired and weary but definitely worth 3 times the price I paid to get in, the event exceeded my expectations. It was educational, fun, and the food was great! And, for the first time in my life, my heart was genuinely filled with hope.