Stepping Out

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Connecticut, where I’ve been since Sunday. We’re commissioning a new sortation site in South Windsor, and that means bringing a lot of hardware together to assemble and test. By “a lot” I mean a metric shit-ton of conveyers, scanning equipment, chutes, walkways and rails, all welded, wired and bolted together.

As an admin, I’m normally not on the site, but with only one guy on our team specialized in hardware the rest of us need to expand our skill set so we can assist in whatever way we can. I asked to accompany our guy, Nick, so I can learn more about what goes on during a commissioning. Sixteen hours of work later (starting Sunday afternoon and going into Monday), our job was — for the most part — done. The rest was just assisting our developers test everything, and at that point, I’d just be wasting my time there. Thus, I spent half of Tuesday and Wednesday, connected via VPN to the day job, being productive.

However I did get to help test portions of our million dollar sortation equipment with a cardboard box on a string. My job has its moments of awesome.

What I got from this experience is … well, a bigger picture. Normally during a commissioning, I sit in my cube and wait for a phone call or email from Nick telling me the servers I support are up. At that point I run a bunch of scripts and shell commands to tighten things up and voila, we’re ready for the go-live date. That part takes me about twenty to thirty minutes. Now having been to the site, I can say it takes about twelve plus hours of work to get to that point, assuming everything goes smoothly.

It’s easy for us to lose ourselves in our own roles, to become that cog in a machine without knowing just what the whole mess of gears does. Doesn’t matter if it’s Big Business or family or that one circle of weird friends you always end up with on a Saturday night. It helps to take a step or two outside yourself to see just what it can be that your life — and your actions — can touch.

This is one of those lessons we can forget all too easily — I know I’ve done it more than I’d like to admit. Fortunately, its one that can be practiced time and again. All you have to do is just take that first step…

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