The midday sun beats relentlessly, light, and unfettered on the grass, turning the blades a lurid shade of green. Two ACS teams wait on either side of the green carpet, impatient and tearing up the turf in preparation for their moment of release. (Please bare with me, this will all make sense shortly...)
A whistle blows, piercing the atmosphere, as for one day a year a release of energy, which is normally bound behind phones and spreadsheets, explodes onto the ACS lawn in a frenzy that is manic yet playful.
I am of course describing my expectations of the annual ACS BBQ antics, where food is eaten, friends & family socialise, and games are played between the ACS departments for honour, courage, and doughnuts! One team prepares its combatants astride undulating polecats in a constant wave of movement, whilst the other team seem calmer on their sedate stoats, containing their enthusiasm until it really counts.
Just picture the two sides charging with keyboard shields and mouse flails as they surge towards each other in true competitive spirit!
Off to the side, sitting resplendently, the marketing team take their positions to referee the proceedings and the accounts team sit with power as they get ready to take the scores. And so, such tales are told...we will come back to this shortly.
But now we've had some foreshadowing, it's time for my flashback origin story.
Prior to becoming one of the ACS team I had worked with ACS as a customer. I was the IT manager for a business that had been bought by a customer of ACS. I came along as part of the buyout and almost immediately was brought alongside the ACS team to work with them to provide a comprehensive IT support platform across the customer's new (and constantly growing) group.
I had worked in the same position with the original firm for 17 years, essentially just a techie with delusions of a grandeur when I started. The delusions were certainly complete by the time the business was enveloped into the new group. I'd been the sole IT support/manager for six years, running anywhere up to five sites at one time. But when it came to it, I actually relished the opportunity to work with ACS. Being alone in IT is difficult, you need to talk geek to keep up, otherwise you do much as I did and just stick to the simple; retain the status quo.
One thing that was clear when working with ACS (both the support team and our account manager, Adrian Richings) was that there was a depth of personality. Always professional and courteous, yet friendly and playful underneath.
It was mentioned quite early on that there was a chance that I could be moved into the ACS fold. This was worrying as the grass is not always greener. I started to keep my eye on things while working with the team at ACS, thinking just how green could that grass be?
There's also the further worry that as an outsider, you won't be able to make the move and fit in. To use a Homer Simpsonism; "I had developed my own ass groove where I was." But by May 2015 I was brought in for negotiations about having my contract moved to ACS via TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)). It was time to see if the grass really was greener!
Thankfully, it is. I think it is fair to say that things were initially a little turbulent. Moving out of my ass groove and trying to forge a new one at ACS was never going to be easy. Which leads me to where I get to tell you why I love my job here so much...
I have lost my old ass groove and I don't want a new one. It is clear that the dynamics within ACS are too fluid to ever let you sit still long enough to develop one. There is constant opportunity for movement and development. After all, Paige, this year's Employee of the Year, went from mild-mannered administrator to professional service desk wrestler, so the sky really is the limit!
It is the way that people are there for you that really gets me. Helpfulness is endemic within ACS and underpinning that, there is a wonderful, relaxed attitude that flows through the business which nurtures this culture.
In my opinion, the phrase "work hard/play hard" is too often used within business to suggest that it is a toil from 9-5 and then everyone heads off to the pub for outrageous antics under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol. I mean, I'm not saying that isn't always the case, but from an ACS perspective, this turn of phrase means so much more. It is about dedication and discipline where it's required professionally, complimented by a calm, familial camaraderie when the hard work finishes. What's not to love about working for a place like that?!
What's not to love about working for a place like that?!
And as for the grand battle of the games at the ACS BBQ? Well, truthfully, I have not attended an ACS BBQ yet, the above is just what I imagine the games to be like. But this year, I shall be there! Even if there isn't a pitched battle on giant mammals, I am sure it will be at the very least a day of fun and bonding between all of the employees present.
And above all, the grass will undoubtedly, be green.