Code: Verizon Stuff

After leaving The U.S. Naval Institute at the beginning of 2005, I took some time off and finished off my degree. After eight years of working and going to college, it was nice to finally get to be just a regular student. I got to hang out on campus like a regular student. I got to go to events like a regular student.

And I got to be poor like a regular student.

So … after summer graduation–with honors–just sayin’ … I put my resume out and started looking for work. It wasn’t long before I got a call from a recruiter for a six-week contract with an internal agency for a Fortune 15 company in Alexandria, Virginia.

The job was with Verizon MultiMedia for multiple Flash-based installation wizards for their VoiceWing products. They needed someone who could do instructional animations and the actual programming to pull data from Verizon servers.

I worked with a project manager based out of Ohio for a client based in Texas. I got a VPN security dongle and a deal on Verizon service so I could tether my Blackberry and work on the train to DC.

Working for such a big company was very different from working for a small non-profit. But projects are projects. And I nailed this one.

The End Was Not The End

Near when the six weeks was coming to an end, I got called into a meeting and shown some static comps for a kiosk for Verizon’s next big thing: FiOS. (You’ve probably heard of FiOS now, but this was winter of 2005.) Then they showed me an attempt that one of their designers had done to make it into a kiosk using Flash. It wasn’t code-based. It was all timeline movement. So, it was clunky and they were not happy with it. This project was going to be something that put big-time corporate scrutiny on them. The account director on the project looked a little disheartened.

I looked at the heavily geometric design of the attract loop (the animation that runs when no one is interacting with a kiosk) and each of the internal ‘pages.’ Even though there weren’t a lot of exact re-uses, I could see patterns.

The Internet-connected FiOS kiosk that I coded entirely in ActionScript. | © Verizon Communications

“Wouldn’t it be cool,” I suggested as I spread out the pages on the table, “if the attract loop was a really smooth, coded animation. And then, when a user interacts with it, there is no jumpiness when they go to the main menu. We have all the pieces that are on the screen just kind of fly out from wherever they are. And some of them will actually stretch and build the main menu interface?”

I looked over and saw the account director look up from her Blackberry. “You can do that?”

“Well,” I sat back and smiled. “Of course I can.”

“It needs to be completely done in ten weeks,” she emphasized.

“Yeah. Ten weeks is fine.”

“They need to see a first version in two.”

I think I may have coughed on my own saliva.

That was my first real taste of The Corporate World.

But …

With all necessary overtime pre-approved I hit every one of my deadlines.

Ongoing Work

The success of the FiOS kiosk cemented my reputation and project managers started seeking me out for estimates and feedback. (The agency was 99% contractors, including the project managers, so the PMs were also what served as a sales force.)

Some other things I worked on:

  • I managed junior developers on a long-term project of internal SCORM-compliant e-learning.
  • I worked on a series of animated stories about employees who did noteworthy things.
  • I worked on a handful of one-off regional and internal kiosks.

In 2008, work began slowing. And the future of the agency was uncertain …

When the End WAS the End

So it was at this point that I put myself out to other contract ventures. So when I didn’t have work at Verizon MultiMedia, I filled my calendar with work for GEICO, PBS, and the American Institute of Architects.

Then I closed the book on Verizon for good in September 2008, when I joined TBC full time.

FiOS Kiosk for Initial Product Launch Nationwide
© Verizon Communications
Verizon SmartPark Kiosk
© Verizon Communications

Smart Park is a B2B play that had the struggle of potential customers not even knowing that their building was already equipped to start receiving service. | © Verizon Communications