Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

No Dread For The Weekend

It’s Saturday, and I’m at my day job while I’m writing this, waiting for a number of people outside my department to finish testing the new server I just finished setting up at a remote location. At this point, the work I need to do is done, save for a few emails to be sent once testing is complete. If something comes up that requires my attention, you can bet I’m going to stop writing and do whatever it takes to set things straight. That’s my job. That’s what a systems administrator does.

My job began on 11 August. Since then I’ve had six Saturdays of work, all the same basic task as I’m doing right now. I’m not complaining, mind you — actually far from it. In this day and age weekend and off hour work is expected in most IT jobs. If your company has to have an online presence 24/7, you can take a server off to do an upgrade whenever you damn well please. I knew that in getting the contract for this position (in true Geekenary fashion), I’d be working on a project that would eat up more than one Saturday morning, and I’m okay with that.

Actually, it’s a bit more significant than that. In my last job, any weekend work was met the classic stages of grief that passed so fast it would make Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s head spin. I thought it over, and wondered what was behind my change in attitude. Maturity? That could be a part of it. I was at Mellon for nearly ten years, but the data points of frustration/off hour work dropped off in the latter half of that stage. When you’re always working with stuff that isn’t handling live data, the time tables shift a bit.

Was it the two years spent without a job that mellowed me out? I doubt that very much. I knew that my position in Deployment was an exception for someone with my career path and skill set. From the first day I started looking for work, I knew that off-hours and on-call would be part and parcel of any job in the field. To say I was resigned to it would be inaccurate — ready and accepting would be better words.

I think the difference — or at the very least the main factors in this — comes in the timing, the attitude and the team I’m with.

My employer is rather accommodating with change windows, all things considered. Some of them have taken place during the work week simply because that’s what some of the sites can offer. Even so, coming in on a Saturday morning to work is not painful. It’s not like I go out drinking on Friday nights with any sense of frequency, and once I’m done I still have the rest of the day ahead of me. Better yet, I have the rest of the weekend. Compare that to my last job, whose change window started at 00:00 on Sunday, and I think we can agree that where I’m at now is not too shabby.

In addition, I’m compensated for my work, both in money and time. As a consultant I’m paid by the hour, so any time spent at work is money in the bank. I also have the option of taking a day off during the week if I desire. Most times so far I have, unless I’m only here for an hour or two. Truthfully, I can’t justify a day off if the weekend work is that brief. That may change if I end up working here full time, but I don’t foresee the job becoming overbearing in that regard.

Location plays into a bit as well — I’m a stone’s throw from Robinson Town Center, and that by day or even evening is much more appealing than Downtown Pittsburgh at o’dark hundred. It’s nice to be able to decompress over a nice lunch or dinner.

The company’s attitude is very straight up and honest. No false expectations plus a mindset of “pace yourself (within reason) and do the job right the first time” makes for a healthier atmosphere. From start to finish my work was done in an hour and a half, and that includes taking my time, poring over output and logs to make sure all is well. The rest of the time is waiting — being on hand in case the site or application support team needs my assistance while they test everything. Personally, I couldn’t be happier that the change window includes testing by both site and support teams. That was hard to setup at Mellon, as some app teams didn’t want to come in during the aforementioned window to test their app due to a major system change. Can’t say I blame anyone, but if them’s the rules, then them’s the rules. It just feels different here, although I must admit I’ve only scratched the surface as to the number of sites I’ve worked with.

What’s most important, though, is that I don’t feel like I’m stuck out here on my own. It’s disparaging to call someone on your team for help, more so when it’s at an hour where anyone who’s not a gamer is asleep. I’ve only had to make one such call so far while working here, but I got the help I needed. During the regular work week, I discovered that if issues ever popped up somewhere, I wasn’t facing them alone. After feeling balkanized with how things were organized at Mellon, this was a welcome relief.

It’s been a very good run so far, and I’m glad to be working again. I’m doubly blessed to be working at a good company…in good company. Here’s hoping I’ll be there to stay.