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The Inside Scoop @ BCA Blog 

Arlene | Training and Development

November 21, 2013

Change

A reoccurring theme in my United Way work is that of change. That life can change in an instant, and you never know when you or someone you know may be helped by programs so generously funded by the collective power of workplace campaigns. Change has become a central theme to my own life, not only in my work, but also in my personal and academic life. Now that I am in the last third of my United Way secondment, I find myself pondering what change I will be experiencing upon my return to BCA. Have the new communication tools changed the way we interact with our colleagues? Operationally, what will I notice has changed? Have my personal experiences changed me and what impact should I expect as a result? Will my work and work-place relationships fall back in familiar rhythms, or will everything have changed there as well?

Change has also found its way into the work I have been doing on my Learning and Technology Masters thesis proposal. My research has led me to a framework based on complexity theory that I have been contemplating as I write this. It postulates transitionary boundaries between complicated and complex situations, but a cliff between simple and chaotic ones. My challenge in the upcoming weeks will be to transition through this time of change without breaching the cliff into chaotic, and to transition with grace and wisdom.


Bill | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Office

November 1, 2013

A Sonnet for Summer Servicing

One of the things I like about my job is the ability to get out of the office. The benefits of doing so are manifold: I learn the layout of the areas I cover, I get a handle on what’s happening in my markets and most importantly, on a summer day when it’s a brilliant sunny and 27 degrees I can get out of the office and into the real world.

Okay, maybe that last part isn’t the most important, but it’s certainly a perk. On a day when the sun is figuratively splitting the rocks, to be out on the street getting to know your neighborhood, seeing who’s moving out of a building and who’s moving in, makes appreciating my job fairly easy. How much do I appreciate the servicing aspect of what I do? I appreciate it so much I wrote a sonnet for it.

The Summer Servicing Sonnet

Shall I visit thee on a summer’s day?
Thou art newly constructed, near replete;
Scads of TI’s hit the market in May
I see thee, one hundred percent complete.
Consider not pollution abatement;
No work done here to restore Mother Earth
T’is retail, I need but an income statement
Combined with sales to determine worth!

Tell the listing agents thou art finished!
Hang now the blinds as if vict’ry pennants;
A skyline much improved, not diminished!
Hang the shingle! Advertise for tenants!
Thou art filled with hope and promise this day
While I take a picture and go my way.


Arlene | Training and Development

September 30, 2013

Heart Work

There are many different kinds of work, those that extend beyond our vocations. Exercise and healthy eating is work we undertake for our bodies. Reading, discussion and reflection is work for our minds. And then there is heart work - the actions we take to build and maintain our relationships, our spirit and our beliefs. I am at the very fortunate crossroads where my vocation has endorsed me to undertake personal heart work. I am the 2013 Loaned Representative from BC Assessment for the United Way of Greater Victoria, and for 16 weeks I report to the United Way to assist with the fall workplace campaigns.

My vocation work is very different now. I spend a lot of time talking to employee campaign chairs on the phone or in their workplaces, helping them to understand the importance of their role and strategizing the best way to engage their co-workers. One way I do that is by providing information on how United Way funding is used to help individuals & families achieve financial stability, build community and help kids. Another is to bring real life examples into the workplace. I have the great pleasure of meeting many people who have been helped by United Way funded programs and introducing them at workplace kick off events. They are often times people very much like me or my friends, the only difference being that they have been effected by some unfortunate circumstances. The educated, healthy, professional woman whose life was turned upside down by a brain hemorrhage. The man who was mugged and injured while away from work upgrading his skills and lost both his job & his home during the recovery period. Their stories are both heart wrenching and inspiring, and my heart work is to remind each of us that the greatest thing we can do is take care of each other.


Jessica | DTR Team | North Fraser Office

September 24, 2013

To PIC or Not to PIC...

A Property Information Collector (PIC) ensures the data valueBC (customized in-house database program) has on all BC properties is accurate and up-to-date. Using tools such as aerial images, street front images, building plans, MLS (multiple listing service) data and building permits, PICs update the building areas and effective year of a home. PICs must document their changes through detailed notes; after a PIC is finished with a folio (a file that contains information on each property) appraisers and senior appraisers review the information. The purpose of gathering updated information is to ensure homeowners are assessed fairly and accurately for taxation purposes each year.

BC Assessment gives interested staff the opportunity to learn new things and take on new tasks. Within our summer team of sixteen PICs, four of us were trained to go out into the field and have a look at anything that required a more detailed, thorough inspection. A folio might require floor plans to update sketches, inventory (data within a folio that adds value to a property), or verification of areas of a split-level home (where the foundation level throughout varies or there is evident height differences between floors).

New development area: Burke Mountain in Coquitlam

After my extension as a PIC, I have been able to delve deeper into the position. PICs also go into the field to confirm the stage of development of homes that are under construction. PICs then obtain other necessary information, such as permits and building plans from City Hall to inventory new construction.

I was the eager PIC that made the trip out to Coquitlam City Hall to retrieve plans, and I took the opportunity to blog about my BCA experiences. Being a PIC is very rewarding; there is always a lot to learn and a continuous workload to keep you busy. Fire ablaze, I will take on future challenges and conquer them. With flexibility, a supportive management team and a positive work environment, working as a PIC with BC Assessment stays exciting and engaging.

 

Keith M | Appraiser | Vancouver Sea to Sky Office

July 25, 2013

The Pitchforked Career Path

When I was in Grade 8, I wanted to be an RCMP officer. By Grade 10 I had joined the “I want to be a Vet” bandwagon, but quickly jumped off after helping with a calving. When I was in CEGEP (Quebec’s version of Grade 12 and 1st year university), I wanted to be an outdoor adventure guide, but then decided to pursue a BBA at Bishop’s University. In the summer after 1st year, I decided that the tourism industry held my career path and drove across the country stopping in at Banff, Fernie, Whistler, Vancouver, Victoria and Tofino. I was just settling back into school (and still dreaming of Tofino), when alumni gave a presentation on the endless opportunities that China offered. Convinced that Mandarin was the way of the future, I put aside my surf dreams to enrol in a 3 month Mandarin program in Beijing. It was the most eye opening experience of my life, which involved over-stimulation of all my senses and extreme culture shock.

When I returned to university, I realized that my desire to explore took priority over my dream to conquer the business world. I jumped in my car the day after my last exam and 10 days later I was handing out resumes in Tofino. In my 3 years on the wild West Coast, I surfed most days, worked in a couple management positions, and lived the West Coast lifestyle. Life was amazing, but something in my career life was calling for a change. It was by chance that my cousin explained what he did as a private appraiser and introduced me to his boss. On his advice, I looked up BC Assessment, applied for a job and 2 weeks later, was invited to come in for a skills test. My luck paid off again when random connections introduced me to a BCA employee who shocked me by explaining that this ‘skills test’ involved actual appraisal judgement (something I had no major experience with). She was kind enough to lend me a textbook and highlight some chapters. Two days later I wrote the exam, 2 weeks after that I had an interview, and 5 weeks later I started my first day on the job.

So what’s the moral? It’s whatever you want it to be. Just don’t worry if your career path looks like a 2-year-old’s version of a straight line.

 

Sarah | Appraisal Assistant | Vancouver Sea to Sky

July 12, 2013

Spice Up Your Life

No, this post isn’t a ‘90s throwback to the Spice Girls (although I’m sure some of you secretly wish it was). What I’m talking about here, folks, is that good ol’ spice of life: variety.

One of the things I’ve been really impressed with during my almost three years at BC Assessment is the sheer volume of opportunities we’re given to add a little extra flavour to our day-to-day work lives. At the local office level, we’re able to do things like join the Social Committee, the Engagement Committee, or the Green Team. Ever wanted to try your hand at designing and teaching a seminar on an area of your expertise to your co-workers? Well gosh dang it, we can do that too.

But wait, there’s more! Opportunities frequently come hurling towards us at the corporate level as well. We often get emails called “Expressions of Interest,” which give interested employees the chance to participate in an even broader range of activities, such as BC Assessment innovation, online communications strategy, and yep, you guessed it- blog writing.

To me, this means that regardless of your job title, you can tailor your career at BC Assessment to suit your interests. And c’mon, who doesn’t like getting paid to do something that they love to do?

 


Jessica | DTR Team | North Fraser Office

June 19, 2013

Assessing BC Assessment

Within my first month at BC Assessment I've developed a liking for this North Fraser Office (not because I overheard, "This is the best office to work at!" [source withheld]); it may be the novelty or rose-coloured glasses, but let me share with you why I think this statement is correct.

Friendliness Everywhere- Coming through the door, zipping around corners, standing at the photocopier or in the lunch room...this is where kindness and warmth await. I've heard the horror stories; professors warn us of horrible monsters in the office, and all young students have envisioned "the workplace" to be a dreaded scary place. The first couple days were a phase of letting go of those convictions and warming up to the new idea that the office is pleasant and full of people that really know each other, care to have conversations, and even make the occasional joke.

Goldilocks' Approval- With a staff of roughly forty that was boosted to sixty with the DTR (Desktop Review) Team addition, the population here is not too big or too small. I've still been meeting and chatting with new faces; there is never a shortage of conversation here or a case of passing someone in the office and never seeing them again for weeks. We are a large 'long and skinny' physical space but even after the novelty wears off, I doubt the excitement of seeing everyone's smiling faces each day will.

Candy Store- I've been excited to learn about every nook and cranny of real estate, about people's experiences and why they got into the industry in the first place. BC Assessment is a great place for people to have a job that's stable and has opportunities for advancement. New talent, senior knowledge, and upcoming projects on all levels keep a hungry drive here at North Fraser well-fed, and keep my own goals to begin a career in appraisal in clear sight.

New friendships among this work family, knowledge and experience to gain, trying and funny times to keep me going- join me on this journey as I submerge myself into a life at BC Assessment.

 

Bill | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Office

May 27, 2013

A Concept for Life

Highest and Best Use - That reasonably probable and legal use of vacant land or an improved property that is physically possible, legally permissible, appropriately supported, financially feasible, and that results in the highest value (Appraisal of Real Estate 2nd Canadian Edition, 2002).

If you’ve ever had, or plan to have, any experience in the world of appraisal you’ll know the concept of highest & best use (H&BU); as a concept it’s one of the most basic and most complex. It stands to reason a thing- anything- whether it be land or time or money, would be put to a use which would be maximally productive, physically possible and financially feasible.

We won’t even mention legally permissible. We’ll just assume.

Once you start thinking about it, the concept of highest & best use becomes one of those sneaky concepts, hiding in the back of your mind waiting for the time when you have the surprising revelation you’ve been operating by it the whole time.

Or maybe that’s just me – frankly you give me a couple of economics classes 10 years ago and I’m still dragging around the concept of opportunity costs.

Here at BC Assessment the same principle applies. What’s the highest and best use of the time you’re given in the day? Do you work on a regional project? Perhaps work on a project you set yourself? Do you head out into the field to get to know the areas you cover?

It’s opportunity, cost and highest & best use all rolled into one because once you’ve made the choice to do one thing, you can’t do something else, so hopefully you’ll be able to discern which one is physically possible, financially feasible, definitely legally permissible and also maximally productive.

  


Bill | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Office

March 26, 2013

Paper Weight

I’m ducking my head up from under the pile of paper on my desk to contribute to the Inside Scoop once again and that very pile of paper is the subject of this blog.

I remember once, way back in the day, hearing the term “the paperless office” and it brought certain images to mind. Images of pristine desks, gleaming with cleanliness and promise, where the only trace of paper was contained in the photos of happy children on their parent’s desk. But much like the flying car, which I believe we were also promised around then, the paperless office has yet to manifest.

This time of year at BC Assessment is busy. A lot of data comes across our desks and it often requires in-depth analysis; a byproduct of this increased data? Paper. Here a sheet. There a sheet. Every where a sheet sheet. BC Assessment has attempted to be as green as it can be, but like any other office, things get printed and stared at with the hope they will eventually make sense.

For the most part I’m getting better with not having to print everything. Having an e-Reader is a good way to train yourself to analyze information on a screen without the need to print; but sometimes you need the feel of the paper in your hands, and the threat of the impending paper cut, to really take in the information that you’re reading.

Now I know some of the problem on my desk is not so much the amount of paper on it, but where it’s been strategically located. My desk is somewhat like a commercial neighborhood. The blank areas beside the keyboard are my prime commercial retail space. If a piece of paper needs to get noticed, that’s where I put it. Then of course I have my secondary desk space; it’s where the important but less imperative paper sits. To (over) extend my metaphor, that’s where my destination paper sits, i.e., the printed things needing to be there when I need them.

Maybe the problem is my own lack of organization, though I will happily argue my pile of chaos is an organized pile from whose depths I can cheerfully pluck whatever my brain desires.

Either way I know two things: one is that there is a lot of paper on my desk; two is that the truly paperless office is obviously a myth.

 

John | Manager | Communications

March 1, 2013

Life Long Learning

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
Henry Ford (founder of Ford Motor Company)

Look Mom, I’m guest blogging!

Why do I love working at BC Assessment? In my ten years here, the people and organization have supported my quest for lifelong learning.

Two years ago, BCA sponsored me to attend a two-day conference on social media for government communications to learn how we could improve online services to our customers and employees. I came away inspired and energized. I look back now and see that the ideas and best practices I learned about then have since been turned into online tools like this blog to help us connect with people in the social media sphere.

What goes around comes around, as the same conference organizers invited me to come back and tell our story this February at a similar event in Vancouver. As a presenter, I was able to participate at no charge. It was a great way to network, review where we’ve come from, and learn new ideas for where we need to go. Most importantly, it gave me a chance to pass on the knowledge we have learned to help other public sector organizations to develop their social media strategies.

Personal education and professional development are cornerstones of the opportunities within BC Assessment. Being able to connect with other professionals outside of our organization gives us the knowledge we need to stay relevant in our business and keep pace with tomorrow. Never stop learning!



Giulia | HR Assistant | Human Resources

December 17, 2012  

Ferris Bueller

I remember clearly the moment I learned about flex time. It was a provincial election day. I was sitting behind a table saying the same thing over and over to a shuffling queue of determined participants in democracy. The lady next to me, saying a different thing over and over, was working the election on her flex day and getting a hit of extra pocket money while serving her community.

Once we had travelled every other conversational highway and byway - fourteen hours is a long time to be required by law to sit in an airless church basement - she explained to me what flex time is. Flex time is the option to work 10 days’ worth of hours in 9 days and taking that 10th day off: that 10th day is your flex day.

She was like a creature from another planet. I started my career subcontracting. In that world, you work or you don’t get paid. Sometimes, you don’t get paid no matter how hard you work. The idea of being Ferris Bueller every 10th business day sounded impossible.

Three years after joining BC Assessment I still skulk around a bit on my flex days. I’m not quite over the feeling that I’m getting away with something, that I might be caught at any moment by truancy officers. Or by Mr Rooney. Or by my dad.

_____________________________________________

Ginette | Executive Administrative Assistant | Finance and People & Planning

December 4, 2012  

Exercising Charity

The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving. - Albert Einstein

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give. - Winston Churchill


Still one month before the New Year and here I am, thinking about a resolution I could make for 2013!  Thinking that exercise is often the first item on people’s list (mine included) I remembered a quote I came across once that said:  “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

Every time I see someone extending a hand asking for spare change, my heart breaks.  I can’t help but think that this person started out in life as someone’s child and I wonder what went wrong.   Dr. Seuss said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”

Well, I do care a whole awful lot and know that there are better ways to help than to hand out some spare change at street corners.   Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.   I had the privilege to lead our United Way Employee Campaign this year at our Head Office.   A wonderful team of people planned, organized, and held fun events throughout the year, events that are fully supported by our CEO and Executive.   I feel so blessed to work in an organization with a strong culture of charitable giving that so manifestly and concretely shows how much we care for our fellow citizens.

As we all know, exercise – in order to be most effective – should happen frequently and consistently and be fun, too!  Supporting our community’s less fortunate is also more effective if we follow the same principle.  We’re so lucky that we work where opportunities for giving are frequent and fun!  Let’s all make a resolution to keep our ‘giving heart’ muscles in shape!

_____________________________________________

Bill | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Region

November 20, 2012

Theatre of the Mind

edifice/ edəfis 1. A building, esp. a large, imposing one.

It’s about the time of year here at BC Assessment when things are starting to pick up; and by starting to pick up I mean that appraisers issue forth from their offices inspecting new construction and other types of buildings; picking them up and putting them on the assessment roll.

October 31 is one of the most important dates in the assessment cycle, because according to the legislation, it’s the date when the physical condition of the building should be reflected going forward. It all sounds nice in legislation form, but what does it mean practically?

Well for yours truly it means I start to get nervous. If you pay attention to your area throughout the year you get a sense of what’s going on and where, but there’s always the chance that overnight a building might surprise you.

It’s enough to give someone an edifice complex.

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Gina | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Region

October 23, 2012

Always Keep an Open Mind

After the two days of in-class training, it is time for us to test the new tools and see how they work!

In those two days, some of our appraisers were introduced to a new application and a new device – a fancy tablet. These new toys are very helpful with our work, especially when we are out in the field collecting data.

Sometimes, it is interesting to hear the stories from experienced co-workers about how they used to work in the 20th century. When there was only one electronic device (let’s call it a computer) in the office, everything was done by hand. I just cannot imagine it. Back then, magnifiers were their best friends. However, their biggest challenge was not to read those small numbers but to find a way to file all the papers so that they were not in their way but still accessible. This makes me feel more appreciative for what we have now at work.

Since I joined the company, I have always been amazed by BC Assessment on how “crazy” it is for new technologies and improvements. It seems that BCA is constantly looking for enhancement and trying to make work easier for its staff. So the only task for me now is to always keep an open mind and show my enthusiasm to these new friends!

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Giulia | HR Assistant | Human Resources

October 2, 2012

School Days

In a previous life, I shared a cubicle with a lovely gentleman whose name I have entirely forgotten. I had a degree in the history of Medieval and Early Modern Europe. He had a degree in Meteorology. Life had carried us both into a video games company, which struck us as hilarious.

“Why didn’t you go into meteorology for a living?” I asked, because I have a grip on the obvious questions in life.

“Because I didn’t really like meteorology,” he replied.

“At what point in your four-year program did you realize that?”

“It’s better to realize it before you spend thirty-five years doing it.” He was a wise man. He probably still is a wise man, out there somewhere, not working in meteorology. “Why didn’t you go into...?”

I waited patiently.

“...”

“Yes?”

He gave up. “What does somebody do with a degree in the history of Medieval and Early Modern Europe?”

              

The answer was, and still is, anything I want to. (Except drive a car. Knowing the difference between a Romanesque arch and a Gothic arch isn’t going to help me with that.) There is a dynamic and restless quality to Bachelors of Arts that freaks out the Bachelors of Science and Bachelors of Engineering. These are people who spent four years punning in Latin or reading a Victorian novel every week. What couldn’t we accomplish, if we put down our teacups and organized ourselves?

In fact, my brothers and sisters, if I choose to – and could drive a car – I could be a property appraiser. It’s not all about business degrees: a degree in any discipline supplemented by one property appraisal course and you can apply at BC Assessment. A proper job, with benefits and a pension, even if you have a degree that prioritized late classical asceticism over algebra.

Or a degree in Meteorology.

_____________________________________________

Bill | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Region

September 18, 2012

All Work and No Play

A couple of days from now, as I write this, a few brave souls from the Fraser Valley office will be heading out after work to grace the fairways of one of the many local golf courses. We are about to engage in that time honored tradition of bonding with co-workers over golf; by taking a big stick and hitting a little ball we will become a more tightly knit assessment unit, able to go to work the next day and mock each other for our poor performances.

There are many inherent risks in such a seemingly mundane activity; for instance, when I stand at the tee holding my driver, pretty much anyone standing on the left, on the right or behind me had best make sure they’ve signed and dated their wills. I play enthusiastically, not well. As my brother-in-law has stated many a time, when I’m at the tee the safest place to stand is on the fairway.

In the late days of summer we will descend upon the fairways of our local golf course like a swarm of steel and graphite swinging locusts, loosing ball after ball (or losing ball after ball in my case) in the hopes of making birdies and making memories.

I’ve always thought one of the main indicators of the quality of a workplace is in the amount of time you’re willing to spend with co-workers after the final bell has rung. In both offices where I’ve worked, Vancouver Sea to Sky and now the Fraser Valley, spending time with co-workers outside of the friendly confines of work has never been an issue. Good people equal good times.
 
And so, a few days from now, I go to bond with my co-workers yet again, even though in my case the bonding happens when I ask my teammates/co-workers to help me find the ball I’ve lost in the bush. Through adversity, more specifically through my adversity, we become something more than just co-workers: we become co-workers looking for my lost golf ball.

Wish me luck so that while I’m on the links I don’t put a hole in one (co-worker) but actually get a hole in one.

_____________________________________________

Lia | Financial Analyst | Finance

September 4, 2012

I Made the Right Choice

 Decisions, decisions… We struggle every day to try to find the right solution, answer or result. Which is the best and how do we eliminate the inappropriate one? It’s a matter of choice combined with a set of rules…

 When my first grade teacher asked me what I wanted to become when I grew up, my answer was a singer. I’m glad I chose a different career now that my 3-year-old son demands that I’m not allowed to sing. I always loved maths and playing with numbers, so I chose to become an economist. After graduating from university, I worked in a bank for 6 years as a loan officer and office supervisor.

 Next important decision that I had to make was moving to Canada! After moving here I started working as an accountant, and because I like continuous learning, I became a CGA student.  I usually like to think about future actions and plan ahead so I took the opportunity to work at BC Assessment.

 I started working here last year on a temporary position and starting April this year I became a permanent Financial Analyst. I’ve met such great and dedicated people here and I’ve made really good friends. Since then I have learned an incredible amount of new things and gained new knowledge.  BC Assessment has provided great training and many opportunities to grow that have made positive changes in my life both personally and professionally.

I am very happy that I made the right choice!

____________________________________________

Gina | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Region

August 27, 2012

What Is Your Favourite Season?

After celebrating my first anniversary with BC Assessment last month, I have finally experienced all the seasons in BC Assessment. By seasons, I mean busy season and busier season...

That is of course a joke. Every day with BCA was joyful for me that I never felt “busy” at all.

However, if I have to pick a favourite season with BCA, I would say SUMMER! I know everyone likes summer because of its beautiful weather. I just have one more reason to love summer – Inspections. Yes, summer is the season for our Appraisers to cruise the field and pick up new inventories. We go out a couple of times a month to the field taking pictures of new improvements to properties.

Last week when I was out for inspection, I met an owner in front of his house which I needed to inspect. I introduced myself and told him that I would like to take a picture for assessment purposes. He said “Sure, just one second.”

Then he started to fix up his shirt and said he should have worn a tie if he knew I would be coming. He was very disappointed when he found out that only his house was in the picture. His humour just made my day.

Well, every trip is like an adventure for me. New people I meet or new homes I see; they just make my summer even more cheerful. So, what is your favourite season?

_____________________________________________

Harry | Appraiser| Vancouver Sea to Sky

August 20, 2012

7/11=  ? Not Really!

When I woke up on the morning of July 11, 2012 my Blackberry day planner reminded me that it was a very special day: my 1st anniversary as an appraiser at BC Assessment! That's right, July 11 marked the day I embarked on a very special journey, when I started my career with BC Assessment.

I first started as a temporary appraiser at the North Fraser office in Burnaby, then became a permanent one at the Vancouver Sea to Sky office in October 2011. Prior to that, I was in real estate insurance sales while completing UBC's Post-Graduate Certificate in Real Property Valuation as an enhancement to my employment.

As my passion and knowledge for real estate grew stronger and deeper, I decided to pursue a career as a property appraiser and I was extremely excited to be given the opportunity to join a solid organization that has a good reputation for its job training, career advancement and benefits.

In the past 12 months, I have worked with many wonderful and friendly people who helped me thrive in developing my skills and knowledge necessary to perform my duties during the roll close season, Property Assessment Review Panels and in various strata team projects.

Every day is a new adventure and presents new challenges. I thoroughly enjoy my career with BC Assessment and am very proud to be a member of this organization that commits to provide reliable, accessible, uniform and respectful services to the public.

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Giulia | HR Assistant | Human Resources

August 7, 2012

Swagamama

SWAG (Noun)    
1.  (slang)  property obtained by theft or other illicit means 
2.  (slang)  goods; valuables 
3.  an ornamental festoon of fruit, flowers, or drapery
4.  a swaying movement; lurch

Or, if it's university career fairs we're talking about, "swag" is the catch all word for branded things given away for free.

The well-informed and pleasant graduate jobseeker will leave a university career fair with more than business cards in his or her pockets. Plastic pens. Stress balls shaped like military vehicles. Canvas shopping bags. Gummy brains in Petri dishes that stick beautifully to your boss's office window if you throw them overhand. Career fair swag can be a wonderland of unexpected joys.

One of my first areas of responsibility when I started in Human Resources at BC Assessment was to get our swag inventory in order. Recruitment & Career Services attends career fairs in the fall and spring in a normal year, different ones depending on the season, and every ambassador that works the BCA booth is responsible for handing out a table's worth of coffee mugs, water bottles, business card holders, and pads of sticky notes shaped like houses. But how many of these things do we have? Where are they stored? How long will they last?

I inventoried, I unpacked, I packed, I carried. (Okay, I carried the first box. After that, I dragged.) My desk turned into a fortress of cardboard boxes, blotting out the light and intimidating my neighbours. In a few short days I became the subject matter expert on pads of sticky notes shaped like houses.

Some of us have greatness thrust upon us, but it behooves us to remain humble.

It's a good day when the practical need for organization intersects with heaps of lovely shiny new swag. But let's be honest, the day I attend a career fair where they hand out ornamental festoons of fruit, I will be so happy I might just adopt a swaying movement.

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Ginette | Executive Administrative Assistant | Finance and People & Planning

July 24, 2012

The Best of Both Worlds

When asked if I was interested in “blogging”, I laughed. This is not a word I grew up with and I could hear my kids say, “Mom, blogging?”

But why not? So, here I am, sharing my thoughts with the world on a facet of my life.

When I’m not at my desk managing schedules and supporting two of our VPs, one of my roles is to be a mom to 2 young adults still living at home while being at university. If you want to keep up and stay connected with your kids nowadays, you need to add the words Facebook, texting, tweeting, vlogging, LinkedIn, and YouTube to your vocabulary. But we still use the old-fashioned way of sharing our days over a good family dinner where we debate the current events, or critique my son’s latest vlog, or place our bets on who’s going to win the Stanley Cup or the Grey Cup. We manage to use the best of both worlds and I think it’s a very healthy way to live.

That is one reason why I like working here at BC Assessment.  The benefits of both old and new are recognized and they’re spending the time and energy to find ways to innovate the business.  Seeing BCA embrace the future to attract the next generation of employees while listening to the past gives me hope for my kids and their friends that they will find a respectful place to work.

And then... better keep the rest in mind for my next blog!

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Bill | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Region

July 3, 2012

The Purge

Cause When You’re Filin’...

For the last two days my IC&I colleagues and I have been boarded up in a room going through old property files. We’ve been looking at information kept on hand for many years. In some cases the process uncovered hidden gems which, when brought to the light of day, answered some questions we’d been batting around for weeks.

But for the most part, what we found was outdated material which really had no bearing on anything we were dealing with today.

Yeah When You’re Filin’...

In many cases we asked ourselves how the situation could have gotten so out of hand. But then, when we finished the first installment of The Purge, I came back to my desk and was taken aback by the sheer amount of paper covering my work space.

Leases. Plans. Sales Questionnaires. Mapping. All these things and more littered my desk. And that’s when I knew: I am an informational pack rat.

 I fell to the floor and wept at the unfairness of it all (okay not really, that’s hyperbole).

I know this now. I have faced my paper ridden demons and, though I have not yet overcome them, we at least are on a first name basis and can go for coffee once in a while.

The Whole World Files With You…

Years ago they teased us with the promise of the paperless office. No more paper cuts, no more files. That didn’t happen. This and the flying car may just be the two greatest promises made by science as yet unfulfilled.

But this last couple of days we’ve come one step closer;  because although we’ve thrown out a mountain of material, all the stuff that’s useful will be scanned and available at our fingertips just waiting for us.

Now if we can only refrain from printing it off…

__________________________________________

Lydia | Property Information Collector | Vancouver Island Region

June 22, 2012

New Season, New Technology


I am now into my second “season” as a Property Information Collector.

I’ve become pretty handy with a tape measure, camera and clipboard as I go out to visit residences. And when I’m back in the office, I am now quite adept at inputting my field notes into the BCA computer system.

But what if… my notes got entered into the system as I wrote them in the field? What if I only had to record information once, instead of once in the field and then a second time back at the office? How much more efficient might that be?

Sure enough, BC Assessment has already thought it out, and this summer I now find myself working with a spiffy new handheld computer instead of my clipboard.

Portable computing devices aren’t new, not even to BC Assessment. But this handheld computer is truly something different! It is rugged and built for field use, for one thing. The really neat part is how the information I record in the field gets uploaded to the main BC Assessment database.  There’s no more recording things twice for me; I can now collect my information when I’m at a property as usual, and then I simply upload that information right from my “electronic clipboard” straight into the main computer files.

I love how BC Assessment is always looking forward. It’s exciting to be part of an organization that not only sees the future, but also embraces it! _____________________________________________

Bill | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Region

June 15, 2012

Hollywood North

For some time Vancouver has been known as Hollywood North thanks to all of the film and TV that’s shot here. At BC Assessment, the Fraser Valley has been my own Hollywood North because I’ve been acting as a senior appraiser for the last few months.


The acting senior appraiser role is a challenge, in part because you still have to take care of your normal responsibilities as well as the added supervisory tasks and duties. It’s a great opportunity of course, but one that comes with challenges.
I’ve completed acting terms now during both the Roll Close period (which is a super busy time doing a single job) and the Roll Defense period (which is a super busy time doing a single job). Both periods present very different challenges for the senior appraiser.

Fortunately I’ve managed to be an acting senior appraiser on a team that has a crazy good work ethic and the desire to get things done and done right, despite having reduced exposure in the area of BCA commercial appraisal experience.

The opportunity to fill the acting senior appraiser position is definitely a learning experience for me. I’ve learned more about my ability to work with people in a leadership roll over the last six months than I’ve ever thought possible. I now realize that I have some leadership strengths, but I also know that there are some areas for improvement that I can work on.

Learning, and at work no less!

Exit stage left!_____________________________________________

Dave | HR Manager | Head Office

April 26, 2012

Why do I work here?  

Over my career of almost 2 decades (sigh), I have worked at municipal levels, provincial government levels, in private sector and now at a provincial crown corporation.  My roles have been varied from Operations to Human Resources, union to management, and “front office” to “back office”. 

Now, I’ve only been with BC Assessment since September 2010, so I’m still a relative "newbie".  But, when I meet new employees starting out at BC Assessment, or when I am at recruitment events for BC Assessment, I always tell the same thing to anyone who asks (or even if they don’t).  I honestly and truly enjoy my job and really like working for this company.  I’ve worked in some really fun places in the past, and also in some not-so-fun places, but at BCA, I look forward to coming to work every day, and I can’t tell you how important that is!

Why?  It is the people.  I work with people who are really proud of the work they do and who are willing to will tell anyone what BC Assessment is, what we do and how we impact the province, the cities and towns, and all the property owners in British Columbia.  I work in a place where I feel supported, where I feel my family’s needs are supported and where I can grow professionally through education and experience.  I know that some people reading this will say “Sure, he’s in hiring, of course he’ll say all this...” and it is true – but I would say this regardless of my position in the company.  I think people out there in the www need to know that many people here at BCA enjoy working here and many are willing to shout it from the roof tops. 

I don’t jump into this blog too often, and I would not publically post this if I didn’t mean it, but if you are considering a career with BC Assessment, and I highly recommend it, try our “Answer Book” on our careers website, read all the information you can about us, talk to some staff who work here, and picture yourself working with us – I think you’ll be glad you did!

 ___________________________________________

Michelle | Senior Client Support Analyst |      Head Office

April 10, 2012

Vietnam Holidays

The longer you work at BC Assessment, the more paid vacation you get!

There are quite a few people in my office who have been with BC Assessment for over 30 years who get 35 vacation days a year. New employees start with 15 days (including me!).  I am happy with that – especially with flex days (1 day off in every 10 working days). 
 
This year I spent my holidays in Vietnam.  I was gone for a full 3 weeks and I spent Christmas Eve watching the sun set on a beautiful sandy beach.

Highlights of my trip were
-boating through Ha Long Bay,
-trekking in Sapa,
-traveling down the Mekong River and
-relaxing on Phu Quoc Island. 

The weather was much warmer in the south, and if I were to go again I would travel in reverse to what we did and visit the north first as the last 2 weeks were a bit cold and rainy ... and who doesn’t like to come back to the office with a tan?

But really, it sounds like I’m complaining and I shouldn’t.  The people were friendly, the sights were amazing and the food was awesome!!

Here are a few of my favourite pictures from the holidays:

___________________________________________

Michelle | Senior Client Support Analyst |      Head Office

Februrary 23, 2012

Live to Work or Work to Live

 

Engagement is a topic that has come up a lot in the year and a half that I have been at BC Assessment.  For me, I find life engaging and therefore find my job at BC Assessment is engaging. Working Monday to Friday at a desk job did not always appeal to me, but now, I love it. 

I work set hours (no on call and no surprises) and when I leave for the day – I get to leave for the day.  I am not expected to check my email or respond to phone calls after 4:30pm.  Outside of work I play soccer, do boot camp, race in the occasional half marathon and run a small self made business.  I love my job, but I don’t live to work it, and I feel BC Assessment understands and supports that.

My sister and I at a soccer tournament over May long weekend

___________________________________________

Keith | Appraiser | South Fraser Region

February 8, 2012

Finding Things to do on Flex Days

When I first started at BC Assessment, my supervisor assumed that I would want to work on a compressed schedule. On a compressed schedule, you basically work more hours each day and use all that banked time to have an earned day off every two weeks. Being the foolish and naïve 23 year old that I was, I said why would I want to wake up (ugh) and come to work 45 minutes early every day. Eventually, the supervisor told me to just try it and I am guaranteed to change my mind. Oh boy, did I ever change my mind.
 
Sure, I like to run some errands on select flex days: Hair needs to be cut, teeth need to be checked and courses need to be studied for. But if you like to be outside like I do, you will be running most of your errands at night or on the weekends! I brought back a few photos from my latest flex day skiing on Cypress Mountain. Where is everybody? Oh right, they’re at work. 

 

___________________________________________

Sue | Appraisal Assistant & United Way Loaned Representative| South Fraser Region

February 1, 2012

What a Ride

I just wanted to share my experiences being a loaned representative to the United Way this fall. 

I previously blogged  about my training, and the early stages of my campaigns, but so much more has happened since then.  I am so very grateful for Connie Fair and the executives who made the decision to send a loaned representative this year. It truly has been a life changing experience and the feeling is difficult to put into words, but the good feeling runs deep in my heart. Here are a few short stories of my experiences.

 
One aspect of our role as a loaned rep was public speaking. We would go to companies and give presentations about the United Way.  I typically speak for 10-15 minutes, and then I would answer any questions, so in total I would stand up in front of companies for 20-30 minutes.  It was quite intimidating at first, but the more I did it, the more comfortable I felt. 

Public speaking is still not one of my favourite things to do, however it is not as intimidating as it once was...because of preparation.  I remember once when I went into a bank location where my job was to strictly introduce an agency speaker; however the speaker did not show up at all.  I had to deliver a presentation with no notes, and no preparation.  It was very intimidating for me, but I did it and felt good that I was able to get through it. One of the things I learned was that we should always expect the unexpected and never assume plans will unfold the way we hope they would.  There were many instances where planned events never came to fruition and we had to go with the flow, so being very flexible made the job much easier. 

On another occasion, I was to go and speak to all the leaders (VP’s, branch managers, Sr Account managers, etc) at a large bank downtown early one morning.  It was pouring outside, and it had been raining all night and large puddles developed everywhere.  I parked underground, walked out to the street and noticed a deep puddle at the entrance.  I thought I would be smart and step around the puddle into the barkmulch, which proved to be a big mistake.  I stepped into a huge mud pit both feet completely submerged my high heels.  I barely got out if it with both shoes on.  I had to be in the bank within minutes of this happening, and all I had to clean up with was a Subway napkin I had in my pocket.  I was very embarrassed walking into the bank, but I had to do it as people were counting on my presence.

These are just a couple of humorous stories that happened on my journey with the United Way. We worked many early 4am pancake breakfasts, and late evenings. I didn’t even miss my flex days at BC Assessment very much because the work we were doing was so rewarding.


What did I get out of this experience? 

I gained confidence in myself, time management skills, account management skills, public speaking skills, teamwork skills like no other, negotiation skills, and above all, I have become more compassionate.  I take away a life changing experience.  I see the homeless person on the street corner differently, I see the teen mom differently, and I see our communities differently.  My eyes have been opened and I plan to do more volunteer work in my community.

What did BC Assessment get out of this?

Every time I spoke at a company, did a presentation, I introduced myself and told everyone that I was loaned from BC Assessment.  That is good advertising for BC Assessment, and it shows that we invest in our communities.  BC Assessment is getting back an employee who is more dedicated to making a difference in our communities.

Again, I want to thank the company for this opportunity, it is one that I will hold onto forever. 


 _____________________________________________

Lydia | Property Information Collector | Vancouver Island Region

January 18, 2012

I’m ENGAGED (corporately)!

When I started with BC Assessment just a few short months ago (time flies!), one of the first terms I heard was “employee engagement”. I supposed that referred to involving staff in the organization in some manner; it certainly impressed me that my new employer would even be talking such language… and I was curious and interested to see what it all meant.

Well…! I quickly learned that each BCA region has an Engagement Committee, and that there is a corporate one as well. Their purpose is to increase employee satisfaction in the workplace, and let me tell you, they MEAN it! Here’s just some of what my local (Vancouver Island Region) committee accomplished for ME this past year:

1) More team building workshops 
2) Attention to a more equitable distribution of workloads, especially at those busy times 
3) Regional work sharing, meaning that opportunities will be opened up for employees to gain experience in other sections 
4) Better mirrors in the bathrooms and more cupboards in the lunch room 
5) Flexible work location between the Nanaimo and Courtney offices (for example, in case of bad weather) 

These things came about because staff were asked  about what sorts of things mattered to them. Recently, I filled out the 2011 corporate Employee Engagement Survey. It felt really good to be asked what’s important to me at my place of work, and I know that BC Assessment is committed to listening.
_____________________________________________

Michelle | Senior Client Support Analyst |      Head Office

January 6, 2012

SharePoint 2010 Is Coming

BC Assessment's internal website is a collaborative SharePoint wonder!  It has information and tools from all of the different groups and regions across BC Assessment. 

Over the past while, our webmaster has been working hard on a transition from SharePoint 2007 to the new SharePoint 2010. 

He plans to have the entire website moved by February 2012 with the help of an application called Metalogix Migration. This tool allows him to point to a place in the old site and move it right into the 2010 SharePoint site.  It is so smart that it maintains the original ownership, rights and restrictions! 

Of course, once migrated there is always a little aesthetic tweaking required. When I asked webmaster Jim about SharePoint 2010, he said “Scroll is the new click”.  On our previous site we had a habit of putting a couple of paragraphs on one page and then a bit more information on the next page.  It could take up to seven clicks to get the information you were looking for!  In SharePoint 2010, things are more centralized, and most information is on the same page as your first click. 

As for being able to find information, the search function for SharePoint 2010 is also amazing. First of all, it gives you a deep text search, which means it even searches through documents posted on the site.  After the search, you can filter information by Author, Document type, Site or Modified date.  This is going to be so helpful that Jim can see people using the Enterprise Search page to replace their intranet home page.
_____________________________________________

Bill | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Region

December 16, 2011

The Importance of Audits

As an appraiser one of the most vile parts of the job is the auditing. If you threatened me with the choice to be dipped in sugar and left for fire ants or sit down for a week and do audits; I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even hesitate. I’d chose auditing in a heartbeat (I dislike ants strenuously). However, I wouldn’t be happy auditing.

The problem is the auditing process is vital to the strength of the assessment roll. So there’s no getting away from them. The Roll is only as good as the information contained in it; and the information contained in it is only as good as the auditing process.

In a way, auditing is almost as bad as trying to edit my own blogs (fortunately Keith is stuck with that); I always know what I meant to say so when I read what I actually said, my brain imposes what I meant to say over what I said. When I review properties I’ve appraised, my brain knows what values it feels should be applied, and when it looks at these properties it reads what I mean the valuation to be, not necessarily what it is.

That’s where auditing comes in.

At BC Assessment we have a fine cotillion of people whose job it is to provide us with auditing tools which improve the quality of the assessment roll. I may not like auditing, but I like these people because they provide me with a means to enhance the quality of my work.

It isn’t the most glorious parts of work life at BC Assessment, but it is one of the most important.
_____________________________________________

Keith | Appraiser | South Fraser Region

November 29, 2011

Prime Time Appraisal

 If there was a busy season for appraisers, this would be it.  In October, many of us are out of the office taking pictures and jotting down all the new construction we can (see the last post by Bill: Happy State and Condition). We must input all our information from the field into our computers system quickly so that the municipalities can have a preview of how much new construction has been completed. New construction information is particularly crucial to municipalities because it represents new tax revenue which pays for our fire trucks, roads, parks and other great things.

After we get all the new construction done, we must finish setting the roll by early December. Setting the roll means finalizing our values for all two million assessable properties in British Columbia. During November the days go by quickly and the work is challenging which is the type of work we wanted when we decided to become part of the real estate industry.

Don’t get the impression I’m pulling 80 hour work weeks though because I still have plenty of time to enjoy life outside of work too!

______________________________________________

Bill | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Region

November 17, 2011

          Happy State          &        Condition Date

October 31st often sees a fair number of strange people walking the streets in any given jurisdiction. Some of them are zombies, some of them are witches, some of them are Transformers. Some of them, however, are appraisers.

For the folks at BC Assessment October 31st is more than just a day to dress up in a whacky costume and hit the streets looking for candy; October 31 is the state and condition date as indicated by The Assessment Act. 

What’s the state and condition date you ask? Why it’s the state of the building on October 31st; what’s the condition you ask? Pretty much the same thing actually. Appraisers flock from their offices attempting to garner such important information as status of renovations and TI’s (tenant improvements), how far a long a new project might be towards completion, who or what is occupying a previously unoccupied piece of property, whether or not a haunted house has been demolished and a haunted shopping centre has been put up in its place…

For appraisers Halloween is more than just a day to go from door to door to get candy; it’s a day to go door and door to try and pick up the next sweetest thing: information.

___________________________________________

Michelle | Senior Client Support Analyst |      Head Office

November 8, 2011

Big Shoes To Fill

It is great to see advancement opportunities within BC Assessment. 

My counterpart here at the Contact Centre just received an exciting new position. She is off to be a Business Analyst Trainee with the Customer Services group.  Although I am really excited for her, I will miss working alongside her.  Since I have been at BCA, I have been very fortunate to work with this amazing individual.  She is terrific at her job and it has been fun working with her because we have the same sense of humour and enjoy similar things.  At times, people have a hard time telling us apart.

The unknown can be scary but also exciting, so welcome to the new Client Support Analyst, whoever you will be...

AND good luck Cori! 

______________________________________________

Lydia | Property Information Collector | Vancouver Island Region

October 25, 2011

Special Projects!

As the Property Information Collector season goes on, new and different tasks are starting to appear. With much of the local construction now inspected and documented for the 2012 Assessment Roll, focus for the Nanaimo office ‘PICSs’ has shifted a bit. Recently we had a chance to look at construction that, for various reasons, has not been assessed in a while (if ever!). Our area includes places such as the Gulf Islands, and Tofino and Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island – some properties are quite remote, and it can be an adventure to get to them!

In the latest exploit, it was not unusual to spend the entire day hiking around without ever running into another soul. What an incredible experience it was to be assigned to this year’s Small Islands Reassessment Project. A team of us spent a few days travelling by water taxi to visit recreational properties in the Straight of Georgia. Our pilot, “Captain Wylie”, dropped us off each day at a suitable spot, and away we would go (with our backpacks stuffed), each in our own direction, to check on our assigned properties. What a sense of accomplishment we all felt at the end! I have to say, when you share daily jokes (unprintable!) courtesy of your boat pilot, nerve-wracking spider sightings (“is that a black widow?!”) and a bit of sea sickness with your coworkers, you really start to feel a bond with them!

______________________________________________

Bill | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Region

October 19, 2011

I Know What I Did Last Summer

There’s a fable by Aesop which tells the harrowing tale of an ant and a grasshopper.
The grasshopper laughs and dances all summer while the ants are hard at work for the winter; when winter comes around the ants are in a pretty good spot, while the grasshopper doesn’t fare so well. The moral of the story is: are ants are no fun, or it is better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all, or that hard work pays off; or be prepared.

Working at BC Assessment is a pretty good spot to be in if you’re the ant type personality. While projects have to be done throughout the summer there’s all the market information zooming by, which as an appraiser you have to keep your finger on so that when its time to set the Assessment Roll for the next year, you at least have an idea of what’s been going on.

Summer is also the best time for vacation. In a good year, not necessarily this year mind you, summer has the majority of the good weather. 

When summer winds down to fall, you find you don’t have much time at all.  You might not know exactly what you’re going to do when the stormy clouds of roll close show up on the horizon, but if you’ve been hoarding away those little bits of market knowledge you’ve managed to accumulate over the summer by the time it's time, you’ll be ready.

Fortunately, underneath my fun-loving grasshopper exterior there is the soul of an ant; I’ve been paying attention to what’s been happening in my areas this past six months, and have some idea which direction my markets went.

Because I know what I did this summer, I know what I need to do this fall. 
______________________________________________

Sue | Appraisal Assistant & United Way Loaned Representative| South Fraser Region

October 13, 2011

A Helping Hand

This week we want to share something neat our colleague, Sue, sent to us.

Sue is normally an Appraisal Assistant here at BCA, but is currently on a unique secondment with the United Way as a Loaned Representative for the remainder of 2011. This secondment is sponsored by BC Assessment for one of our staff to work and participate within their community with the United Way.  Thanks Sue for your continuing passion and stewardship for our Community!

I just thought I would share with my fellow employees and those considering a career at BC Assessment, my remarkable journey so far.

Our first week was called “Bootcamp” and it really was.  We were given so much information in a short period of time, that it felt overwhelming at times.  The training was fantastic. We had professional public speakers give us tips and tricks on presentations. We also had a personality training session similar to the ones given at the BCA education seminars, but a lot more in depth.  We had to do a five minute presentation which proved to be very frightening for a lot of us, especially after we had our professional public speaker teach us how to critique each other.

Week two was exciting as we found out which teams we would be on and which companies and accounts we would be responsible for.  We also participated in the Kickoff at the Cauldron at the Jack Poole Plaza where the Olympic cauldron was lit.  We had a barbeque while listening to live music which made for a fun and successful day.  I’m on the Financial Services team which includes the major banks such as CIBC, TD, BMO, RBC and major insurance companies and investment companies.  I get the chance to work on an amazing team with an awesome leader.

 
Week three we finally get to the guts of our job, where we meet and visit our companies to help them plan their campaigns.  Late hours and weekends come with the territory, and while there are no flex days it is truly fulfilling.

I have come to really understand what the United Way stands for and I am a true believer in the cause. Remember, “Change Starts Here.” The United Way has helped my family in some of the programs that they offer. We will make our communities stronger if we all invest in them.  Your support is critical, please join me and invest in your community by giving.

I don’t know if I will have an opportunity to give you an update again since our busy time is fast approaching, but I hope this gives you a taste of what we do.

____________________________________________

Michelle | Senior Client Support Analyst |      Head Office

October 6, 2011

Kicking Butt and Winning - Both In and Out of the Office

Nancy Carleton, Manager, Strategic Project Solutions does exactly this.

 
Part of Nancy’s job is to manage the project of updating our current appraisal software (valueBC).  She seems to have this project (Next Gen valueBC) charging along like a commander leading an army into battle (although she has referred to it as “herding cats” or managing a group of pre-schoolers in a candy store).  Around here, Nancy is frequently holding PM Forum Meetings so we can all learn from each other’s experience, while she freely shares her knowledge and previous project experiences.  This week’s meeting she will focus on what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what suggestions people have to improve the processes on the latest valueBC update.  All findings will be documented to be put to best use.  She believes it’s important to assess ‘how it’s going’ through all project phases (requirements, design, development, testing, implementation and post-implementation support), as it’s easier to collect lessons learned and implement suggested changes on an ongoing basis.   
Being at the contact centre, I do not attend most of her meetings, but recently, had the chance and valued and appreciated that she listened and recorded my input.

Outside of work, Nancy is an extremely fit and competitive racer in triathlons.
Recently she raced in the Canadian National Triathlon Championships at the Apple Triathlon in Kelowna and became the 2011 Canadian National Champion in her age division.
Nancy will be travelling to Auckland, NZ in October 2012 to represent Canada at the Triathlon World Championships.

Go Nancy Go!

Photos - Nancy in Action!

_____________________________________________

Keith | Appraiser | South Fraser Region

September 30, 2011

Going back to the UBC Real Estate Club

As a UBC Commerce alumnus, I get the chance to reconnect with old friends and meet the future of our industry at UBC Real Estate Club events. This Wednesday night (Oct. 5), I’ll be at the Foundations of Real Estate Event with a few of my colleagues. Why should you come? Well… I have the great privilege of giving a short speech about what it’s like to be an Appraiser and I need you to come and give a little applause so I don’t look foolish up there! 

Come by and chat with us! See you there.

______________________________________________

Lydia | Property Information Collector | Vancouver Island Region

September 28, 2011

It’s an ‘office’ day today

I love being outside, travelling to different places to look at properties. There is more to what I do than driving around, though. The office part of my job is very interesting as well. For every new property I look at, I do a rough sketch in the field (with my trusty measuring tape to assist!) and then enter this information into the valueBC computer system when I get back to the office. It’s quite satisfying to see my field notes and sketches translated into tidy, digital packages.

The “Sketch” software program we use is quite interesting to me. I have some background in structural steel detailing, so I enjoy being able to exercise my computer rendering skills. Having an accurate sketch of a property on the system is crucial. Square footage and type of use, which are only two of the components considered for property assessments, are determined directly from the sketches that I do on the computer!

 

In a lot of ways, Property Information Collectors like myself are the eyes and ears of BC Assessment. Our Appraisers aren’t able to visit every single property (as much as they’d like to!), and so it is up to me and my fellow PICs to get each detail into the database with absolute accuracy. It’s another task and challenge that I love!

______________________________________________

Keith | Appraiser | South Fraser Region

September 14, 2011

A BC Assessment Summer

This is my third summer here at BCA, and I’ve noticed that the summer experience is much different from the winter one.  Our valuation date is July 1st so over the summer we wait for sales and other information to accumulate. After we receive this information, we report what the market has been doing through our assessments.


The summer is often characterized by people going away on great vacation adventures and projects where we improve the quality of the roll. For example, this year our team set off on a mission to improve our data in regards to townhome basements. We compared data from various sources and contacted owners of townhomes we weren’t sure of through snail mail. Often times our projects don’t have a step-by-step process in place. We must be creative in how we tackle problems because each project tends to have its unique set of problems.

______________________________________________

Bill | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Region

September 8, 2011

Lend Me Your Year

In any given year we work in three years. The year that was, the year that is, and the year that will be. It may sound awfully nifty, but its occasionally confusing.
 
Have you often found when the old year rolls over into the new that you have difficulty writing the New Year correctly for a month or so? This is like that. Only more so.

Once appeals begin your focus is on the year just passed; people have questions about the Assessment Roll that went out and it’s your responsibility to explain what happened even if it seems lost in the mists of time. (Take good notes; that way it won’t get lost in the mists of time.)

Then there’s all the day to day things that have to be done in the current year; questions to respond to; responses to question. All the things that go into making day to day office life flow smoothly.

Lastly there’s all the work that has to be done for the Assessment Roll, which historically is futuristic; that is to say, I work in 2011 on information for the 2012 Roll.

It’s like playing with time but without the danger of creating a temporal paradox by accidentally running over your father when he’s a teenager a la Back to the Future.

 __________________________________________

Dave | HR Manager | Head Office

September 8, 2011

Breaking the Mould

Now I know I’m not one of the regular blog writers here on “The Inside Scoop”, but I felt compelled to share a quick experience from the Human Resource perspective.  Please pardon my intrusion fellow writers...

So they let the HR guy out of the office and into one of our field offices in Prince George!   I recently went out to our PG office to meet the staff and chat about HR stuff.  An additional bonus was getting the chance to head out with an Appraiser and visit some new construction sites in a residential neighbourhood.  I must admit I always have found it interesting to watch new homes being built at various stages of construction.  On this trip, I learned about the steps involved in assessing a new home’s value on site and then how we record the information into the valueBC software back in the office.  I found that my shorthand and note-taking abilities need work, but thankfully my local BCA Mentor (also a Dave) kept me in line and “showed me the basic ropes”. 

Meeting with the office staff was equally interesting as their energy during an all staff meeting was truly engaging.  Within the office, there are different teams.  To keep a “silo” effect from happening between teams, each team reviews what they do and how they do certain aspects of their work.  On this occasion, the residential team presented in a fun and interesting way while also allowing for staff to get to know each other even better with “getting to know” type activities like “Guess who’s favourite band these are” interspersed throughout the presentation.  As a newcomer from Victoria, I really enjoyed meeting, seeing, and learning about my colleagues in one of our regional offices.  If anyone from the PG office is reading this, thanks again!
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Michelle | Senior Client Support Analyst |      Head Office

August 31, 2011

Cupcake Day for the United Way

It is terrific to see creativity at work when it comes to raising money for a good cause.  It can be tough to find fun and different ways of engaging people to give back to the community.

Here at BC Assessment Head Office, we have a United Way Campaign team who does an amazing job at making this happen.

In the last year, I have seen re-gift bingo, a spelling bee contest, a mini golf tournament and casual days (where I gladly chip in a toonie to wear my jeans!).  My favourite event so far is an international lunch tour.  Each division/department that participated selected a country, decorated their area to reflect that country and supplied some tasty ethnic food.  $5 got you a passport that was stamped as you went from country to country sampling the cuisine.

Today’s fundraiser, Cupcake day!!

    
– Mine are the dirt cupcakes

Last year BC Assessment’s Head Office raised over $30,000 for the United Way.

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Bill | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Region

August 18, 2011

GPS.O.S.

One of the good things about being an Appraiser with BC Assessment is the ability to leave the office and go explore the neighbourhoods you cover. It’s a good stretch and it also helps to familiarize you with the areas for which you’re responsible.

I however am directionally challenged.

Some days it doesn’t seem to matter what I do, I can look at a map, I can look at a street view, I can even have been there the day before; once I hop behind the steering wheel my brain goes into safe mode and only gives me the tools I need to operate the vehicle safely. Apparently my brain doesn’t realize directions are an important part of vehicle safety.

Thankfully someone discovered satellites were good for more than spying on countries and lo! The GPS was born.

Now, for the most part I love my GPS; I tell it where to go, it tells me how to get there.

But what do you do when your GPS doesn’t know the best route has changed? What do you do when your GPS tells you to turn right, and turning right will put you in a ditch?

You get lost… that’s what you do.

So there I was in the wilds of the Fraser Valley (I was actually in Langley, which frankly isn’t wild at all) and my GPS was rather insistent I turn right; now I’m not knocking my GPS (mostly because I’m afraid it will read this (it’s a computer and computers talk to other computers) and start giving me incorrect directions on purpose) but this time I was fairly certain I was seeing something the GPS was not.

And so I continued straight where it told me to turn right:

“Recalculating,” said my GPS, unimpressed with my choice. “Turn right.”

There being no right to speak of, I maintained current course and trajectory operating at impulse power.

“Recalculating,” and there was no mistaking the disapproval now.

Being a man of sound principles, and an intense dislike of ditches, I stayed the course.

“Recalculating. Turn right at next right. Then turn right.”

My GPS, as you can see, likes turning right. I however like staying on the road so I continued to follow the road as it turned and straightened, all the while my GPS recalculated more than an engineer working for NASA.

Eventually I found myself in familiar territory, and my GPS, finally within its own comfort zone, decided to try something different.

“Go 2.5 kilometres,” it said. “Then turn left”

And I did.  Okay so it’s not so much a harrowing tale as the tale of man against machine; and it’s barely that really.

But I learned a lot in those few brief minutes my GPS was lying to me; I learned technology cannot be trusted blindly, I learned to truly find yourself, sometimes you have to get lost; I learned the road goes ever on and on out from the door where it began.

But most importantly I learned this: the building I went to look at was no longer used for what I thought it was and that it was a good thing I went out there, because I needed to make some changes to the Roll for next year.

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Keith | Appraiser | South Fraser Region

August 9, 2011

The Daily Commute

Summer is here in the Lower Mainland (sort of) and that means a healthy dose of road construction everywhere. To beat the congestion I’ve been riding my bike to the office and saving money for a helicopter. My office has secure bike storage and a shower with good singing acoustics in it. It couldn’t be easier to bike!

Anyway, it’s just great to finish off a work day with a ride through beautiful Steveston Village.  Hopefully the following photos will help you agree!

 

 

 

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Michelle | Senior Client Support Analyst |      Head Office

August 3, 2011

It's Tablet Time 

Things have been really busy for everyone in our Infrastructure Services area over the last few weeks.  We have been doing a ton of ordering, inventory taking and prep work to get ready for outfitting all BCA employees with new HP Elitebook tablets complete with Windows 7.  Part of the prep work included starring in a video tutorial on how to use the new machines.  I don’t expect to win any Emmys but it is nice to do something out of your comfort level once in a while.

We have just started to install the new workstations and have completed a couple of BC Assessment area offices already.  We plan on having all the offices done by the end of August and on a wireless network by the end of the year.  I’m looking forward to seeing the benefits of increased flexibility, mobility and efficiency.

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Lydia | Property Information Collector | Vancouver Island Region

July 27, 2011

The People in my Neighbourhood 

Yesterday was a great day. The nice thing is, it’s not unusual for me here. The weather (which has not been stellar this summer on Vancouver Island) was finally quite appealing, so it was an especially good time to be out and about. I had several new residential properties on my list to inspect, and most of them turned out to be still under construction.

When I go to new properties, I encounter a lot of tradespeople. Drywallers, painters, plumbers, electricians, carpenters – any type of trade you could think of might be at work on site. I have really enjoyed saying hi to these folks, and what I realized early on is that they know BC Assessment. Most are familiar with Property Information Collectors, which makes sense, since every summer during peak construction season it also happens to be peak information collection season. Turns out we cross paths quite often, and it makes my job that much more fun – I feel like part of the crew!

Gaining a new appreciation for the construction trades is one of the unexpected bonuses of working for BC Assessment. Every day here I discover something else to enjoy about my job!

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Bill | Appraiser | Fraser Valley Region

July 17, 2011

Sherlock "Homes"

Normally I’m not one for confrontation but today I’m working on appeals for the Property Assessment Appeal Board (or PAAB as it’s called) and enjoying it. If you’re not familiar with the appeals process for assessment, check it out on our FAQ, but essentially the PAAB stage is the second level of appeal.

The part which, ahem, appeals to me (I ask no pardon for the pun) is the investigation process.

While it's true sometimes I wish I could employ the techniques used on CSI – you know, time lapses including a montage complete with music, those funky blue lights, and a department full of people to do my work for me – for the most part I enjoy the process of exploring a) why a property is valued the way it is and b) whether or not it should be valued that way.

At times like this I feel like a detective, sifting through pieces of evidence (this building’s too small to be comparable, this building’s too old, this building is just right) and, like the fictitious characters of CSI I go where the evidence takes me.

Just call me Sherlock "Homes"…

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Keith | Appraiser | South Fraser Region

June 10, 2011

A new cycle begins!

As April rolls around, we begin to look ahead to the 2013 roll year! On the strata team, we’re looking at catching up on the mountain of sales  that accrue during the first three months of the year. Every single sales needs to be looked at to make sure they are legit so our data doesn’t get soiled. Sales = haystack, invalid sales = needles. It’s actually pretty cool to be able to see how the real estate market flows from doing these sales reviews. There are less sales to review before/during recessions, that’s for sure!

That is all =). TGIF!!

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BC Assessment employees are talking!

If you want to join the BC Assessment team, find out what we do and what our employees are thinking.  We've put together a team of bloggers from different areas of the company to "tell the tale" of a day in the life at BCA.

Come back often to see the updated articles and be informed, entertained and tempted to join our team at BC Assessment!

 Recent posts

  Heart Work
  To PIC or Not to PIC...
  The Pitchforked Career Path
  Spice Up Your Life
  Assessing BC Assessment
  A Concept for Life
  Paper Weight
  Life Long Learning
  Ferris Bueller
  Exercising Charity
  Edifice Complex
  Always Keep an Open Mind
  School Days
  All Work and No Play
  I Made the Right Choice
  What Is Your Favourite Season?
  7/11=7-Eleven? Not really!
  Swagamama
  The Best of Both Worlds
  The Purge
(More Links...)

Meet our INSIDE SCOOP writers...

Ginette is an Executive Administrative Assistant who supports both the Vice President of Finance and the Vice President of Human Resources. She works at the Uptown office in Victoria and has been with BC Assessment for almost two years.

Harry is an Appraiser at the Vancouver Sea to Sky office. He has been with BC Assessment for just over one year.  

Gina is an Appraiser at the Fraser Valley office in Abbotsford. She has been with BC Assessment for just over a year.

Kurtis is an Appraiser on the Multifamily/Strata team in the Fraser Valley office. He graduated from the University of Victoria with a Bachelor of Commerce. He has been with BC Assessment for less than a year.

Lia is a Financial Analyst at the Uptown office in Victoria. She has been with BC Assessment for a year and a half.

Mariana is an Appraiser at the Cariboo office in Williams Lake. She has been with BC Assessment for one year.

Bill graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland twice, first with a BA specializing in English and then with an MBA. He exchanged the snows of Newfoundland for the rain of British Columbia and for the last seven plus years has been working with BC Assessment; currently as an appraiser of retail properties in the Fraser Valley region.

Lydia is a Property Information Collector in the Nanaimo office. She visits residential properties with a camera and tape measure to gather up-to-date information for the assessment roll. She is a proud graduate of Trent University, and loves her life on Vancouver Island.

Keith is a recent grad from UBC with a B.Comm in Real Estate. Shortly after graduating from UBC, he began working as an appraiser for BC Assessment. Currently, he is an appraiser of strata residential properties in the South Fraser region. Keith is in the final year of the Applied Experience Program of the Appraisal Institute of Canada and is looking to earn the AACI designation.

Jessica joined the North Fraser DTR (Desktop Review) team this May and is finishing a BBA in Business Management during which she is concurrently pursuing an AACI designation. She founded the Langara Real Estate Society in Jan. '13 and hopes to achieve more great things in the future.

Keith M is an Appraiser in the Vancouver Sea to Sky office. He grew up in Quebec, got his BBA with a major in HR at Bishop's University and has lived in BC for over 6 years. He chairs the social committee at his office and loves the flexibility that BC Assessment offers.

Sarah is an Appraisal Assistant at the Vancouver Sea to Sky office. She graduated from UBC with a BA in English and History in 2006. She is part of the social committee and is an alternate union representative for her office. She has been with BC Assessment since August 2010.