Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Release Teamwork

Something was missing.

I looked up from my umpteenth yo-yo of the morning and away from the two-hour season opener of Burn Notice. My work Blackberry wasn’t blinking. Cats were in sunshine. Cats were snoozing in chairs. The dog was having a bit of a scratch.

I looked at my husband who is also working on a project of his own.

“Wasn’t there supposed to be more tea?”

Saturday morning was a study in calculated laziness. We had slept as long as Tony would let us, with his Tigger-like bouncing, all 17 pounds concentrated in impossibly small feet for such a lot of cat.

“Eight-fifteen,” I mumbled.

“Are you late?” John’s voice was muffled by several layers of quilts, blankets, sheets, pillows and one very comfortable cocker spaniel.

“No, it’s not supposed to start again until 11 or so.”

He had already started to zuzz a little, back in the arms of Morpheus for a precious few more minutes. Tony would be happy that I was up and would leave John and the dog alone.

I padded into my office. I had been up past 11 PM the night before working on a software release. My work computer was still turned on, saved at the spots I left it the night before.

When we do a software release, we do it in steps. Some of it happens in the evening, and some of it happens a little later after some other steps have run. It’s pretty typical in my experience which is long.

Some people who work on the business side of software development refuse the late-night hours and weekend work. I never could understand that but then again I spent 20-some years on the technology side of software development. I was used to the “convenience” of being able to work all four days of Thanksgiving weekend uninterrupted by anything longer than a bathroom break to make sure that business users could come to work uninterrupted Monday morning. I missed a lot of Thanksgivings.

I had signed up for that kind of life when I changed careers long ago. Staying up all night to fix little disasters became something normal. Over time, the “leash” to my software systems graduated from pagers buzzing at my waistline to small blinking “smart things” of some kind or another. Many phone calls in the middle of the night were sultry male voices informing me of a scrambled database or a batch job failure, of cryptic error codes and other jargon that sounds like a recipe made from license plate numbers. Nothing personal, except that I was expected to make it all better before someone besides the stagehands in the little drama that is technology notices there’s a problem.

At least software installs are often positive in their intent. The idea is that someone has thought of some improvement and we’re making it happen. To keep things from utter chaos, we put the changes for all the good ideas in together in bunches. Releases become something of a pizza party without the pizza with all of us on the computers, the phones, instant messages and all the magical techhie tools we have at our disposal. The months of document writing, pictures, coding, coordination, meeting, testing, corrections, happy results, horrifying discoveries, scrambling, assembly and making lists and checking them twice, well, all that turns into something like Christmas a few times a year. Sometimes you’re Santa. Sometimes you’re an elf. Sometimes you’re a reindeer. Sometimes you’re the Grinch. Sometimes you’re all of those roles at once.

Then the big night comes and we get together and even with several dry runs, sometimes Tab A doesn’t quite fit into Slot B. Depending on how complicated we all see the issue as, we may try to jiggle a few things that night. We did that last night and got a few things to work a little better than the first try. A few things had to wait until Saturday.

We try to do things in shifts, a lot more casual a schedule than it sounds. By about 11:30 PM Friday night, I knew I had done and seen what I could until the next steps. By the time Tony woke us up Saturday, the few who stuck with it into the night had fixed a few more things. Progress! I could test and verify their fixes worked. I hope the all-nighters were getting some sleep.

The 3 of Pentacles can indicate teamwork, the meeting of different talents and forces to create concrete results, united with a common vision and diverse abilities. We use that energy to create software. Some people are very methodical, thinking firmly inside the box. Some people, like me, have trouble finding the box but have an intuitive sense of where problems may occur, the motives of business users and a sense of the impact of small things on the bigger picture. We are like a 3-legged stool sometimes. Without all of us, the release could not happen. We are all necessary.

The next step was set for 11 AM, so I settled into my big comfy chair to one of my needlework projects. Yo-yos are small circles of gathered material that can be sewn together to create bedspreads, etc. You can find them in flea markets sometimes with their authentic 1930’s and 1940’s flour-sack materials. My project intent is to make a jacket from a big sweatshirt covered in yo-yo’s, mostly blue with a pattern on the back made from other color yo-yo’s. I’ll post a picture when I get it done. The yo-yos are about an inch across, so it will take a while. However, working on a project that is made of a lot of little parts is actually ideal when you’re waiting for your Blackberry to blink at you.

Eleven o’clock came and went and we got a notice that it would be more like 2 PM before we could test the next steps. It’s one of the characteristics of a release weekend. My bosses are nice about it and said they don’t expect us to hang out at the computer every second, but we all know there’s some element of staying close by because the timing isn’t always easy to predict.

So, I like to distract myself with catching up on recorded TV shows. There was a great new mystery from PBS. If John is with me catching up, we watch mysteries instead of the ghost hunting shows. Perfect needlework entertainment!

“Wait!” John said, looking at the space where his mug should be if he had tea. “I got up to go to the bathroom, took the mugs in and … yup,” he called from the kitchen as he retraced his steps, “left them in here.”

The microwave buzzed merrily and dinged. We settled back into our second cups. So many yo-yos to cover a whole jacket, I thought. It will take some time, much longer than the weekend. But the vision of the jacket is there. All the pieces are necessary.

That’s something like our lives, our country and our world, too. It just may not be obvious at the time where everything fits. It’s a good mystery for a Saturday.

Best wishes.

No comments:

Post a Comment