Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Baptism by Fire

From the beginning, my boss has promoted a slow and deliberate acclimation to the team and its duties. Myself, and the two other people that started around the same time as I did, have been given ample opportunity to ramp up at a speed that best suits us. My new teammates are the slow, deliberate, cautious types that take their time in accepting new responsibilities. I, on the other hand, am much more aggressive than that.

On the one-week anniversary of joining the team, I started volunteering myself to do case escalations from clients that needed network configurations done. I joined the official case-duty rotation in my third week on the team as a result of a switch with my mentor. And last week, four months after my inaguration, I took on the responsibility for the entire network as primary in the on-call rotation.

Insane ? Probably a little. There have been times where I have felt that I have truly bitten off more than I can chew. In my third week, I was horrendously stressed out at my mounting case queue and the difficulty in prioritizing all my tasks. Although my boss said that primary on-call is not expected until at least six months in, I felt like I was up to the challenge, due mostly to the fact that the team is always available for backup if needed. I was hoping that it would be a slow acclimation.

Little did I know.

Last week, I made the leap, and attached the duty pager to my hip. It turned out to be one of the busiest weeks that this group has seen in a very long time.

My first primary day was relatively easy. There was one high-priority outage, however the fix was a simple hardware swap that took me less than two hours to troubleshoot and execute. "This isn't too bad," I thought to myself. How wrong I was.

My second, and final, primary day on this week's rotation was Thursday. That night, I was absolutely ready for any escalation that may come my way. I placed the pager by the bed, and was prepared to jump up and assist if it went off. As luck would have it, I had a wonderful, peaceful night that was completely uninterrupted. I should have taken that as a sign.

I almost made it to the 10:00am cutoff time for the next person to come on duty.

At 9:55am sharp, the pager sounded for an outage at a remote office. "Damnit," I thought, "Just my luck. Couldn't it have waited 5 minutes ?" I called into the conference bridge and set out to find the elusive source of the problem.

Several hours and many client contacts later, I had finally isolated the source and mitigated the outage. But I still could not rest, or even think about grabbing something to eat for lunch, as there was another high-priority incident that I was called into as backup. I went down to the server room to assist in the emergency fiber upgrade.

At 3:30pm, I finally managed to take some time to eat. I was so famished that my hands were shaking, and I was experiencing the typical low-blood-sugar headache. One batch of leftovers and an Advil later, and I was finally ready to sit back down at my desk.

Just as I had done so, a call came in from my teammate. "One of our gateways in building X is down. You're the only one in the office right now, and we need you to go over there and help us with it." Off I went to help douse the next fire.

My day had started at 8:30 that morning.

It didn't end until 10:30 that night.

At least we get extra on-call pay. That is what makes it all worthwhile.

Unfortunately I have developed the most annoying, irritating twitch in my eye as a result of this day from hell. It has been 4 days already, with no sign of relief. Pressing on it doesn't help, either. Hopefully it will go away soon.

My mentor told me recently that he believes in "Baptism by Fire". Throw you in there, see how you do, and always be ready with a life raft to help if you need it. I was skeptical, because that is a scary proposition for someone who is still relatively new to the team.

And now, after last week, I have become a believer myself.

Baptism by Fire. It's the only way to fly.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I realize my updates to this site have been sporadic at best in the past few months. Unfortunately the time demands of my new job, plus my normal life stuff, have gotten in the way of my regular posting here. That hopefully will change soon, as I continue to grow into my new position.

I have always loved Network Operations. I did it for a few years back in Toronto, before I relocated to Silicon Valley to do software testing for my current company. Seven years after my move, however, I was ready for a change. I was unhappy in my software testing job, and wanted to get back to my roots. So I applied for a job in our IT department, to work at my first love, Network Operations.

Even though my Operations experience had had a seven-year gap, the IT group welcomed me as a part of their team. I threw myself fully into the new position; working long hours to study, ramp up and learn, with the same passion and dedication I had for my previous Ops job in Toronto. That effort, while taking me away from blogging and other such activities, was well worth the time spent.

For the first time in a long time, I actually love my job.

My boss is incredible, my coworkers are awesome, and this group is all about teamwork, helping others and doing what's best for the network and for the company. It is quite a contrast from the abusive, me-first, step-on-everyone-to-get-ahead mentality of my previous group.

The IT department is a true team in every sense of the word. When I need help, someone is always there to assist. When a team member asks me for help, I am there. Everyone has each other's back, and we do what is right for our clients and for our network.

I think I have found my home.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Dick's Laugh Resort

As is quickly becoming our custom, we booked our Vegas stay at the Excalibur, a nice yet inexpensive hotel/casino located directly on the strip. When I discovered that they had opened a Dick's Last Resort restaurant on the premises, I knew we just had to go.

The establishment prides itself on its sarcasm and its intentionally crabby waitstaff. They supplied us with one less place setting than we needed, and left us to taste the sodas to figure out which ones were diet and which ones were not. And when asked for a menu, we were given the following:

The greatest entertainment, of course, was the waitstaff and barstaff. Our server instantly took a liking to our friend Frank, and as such, had her (mock) jealousy directed at his wife Sandra. Something to the effect of "Hi. Your name is now Bitch. Hey Bitch." To solidify her contempt for the competition, she made a hat for Sandra with a very welcoming message on it:

And when Sandra asked this wonderful server lady to pose for a picture with Frank, she pulled out his chair and did the following:

Alrighty then ! A perfect way to start off a meal !

The bartender was an interesting character, as one of his favorite passtimes was to uncap beer bottles and attempt to fling them at us in the process. I got the last laugh, however: When it came time for us to leave, I picked up one of the offending bottle caps and threw it at him, hitting him square in the chest.

Good times, good times.

Friday, June 06, 2008

These are the faces...

...of the Co-Ed Softball champions for the spring season, 2008 !

It was a well-deserved honor, but it did not come easy.

In our Fall season, we tore apart our division, going 9-1 in the regular season. However, complete inattention to detail, and perhaps some cockiness, led us to be knocked out in the first round by the last place team. We were embarrassed, understandably, but that only strengthened our resolve. We were determined, this time, to atone for our mistakes.

This spring, we solidified our sometimes-spotty defense, and gave our bats a long-overdue workout. While we went a respectable 5-5 in the regular season, we were still not satisfied. We were better than a .500 team. We knew it, too.

In the first round of the playoffs, our third baseman made a comment that it should be easy to beat the team we were playing. I cautioned the whole team not to get cocky again, and to learn from our mistakes last season. We played a solid game, advancing to the semi-finals with a decisive win against our opponents.

The semi-final round pitted us against a team that had had our number for the entire time we'd been playing together.

We had never beaten this team, so far as I could remember. We came within a run one game, however, that was as close as we could manage. They were a solid team all around, with a relentless style of play that we simply could not break through. In the end, it came down to which team could execute at the critical times, and which could not. Against all odds, but not completely unexpectedly, we were triumphant, and moved on to the finals.

Against yet another team that previously had kicked our butts every time we faced them.

We could have given up. We could have buckled under the pressure. But we didn't, and because of our tenacity, our strength, our near-flawless execution and our passion, we emerged victorious, champions, for the first time in 3+ years.

We are the champions. And we now have the shirts to prove it.

We celebrated that night, with coach (me) supplying pizza, the same pizza that we have nicknamed "crack", because it is just that good. And beer. Must always have the beer.

We cannot bask for too long in the afterglow, however. Next week, we start the summer season, and our quest begins once again.

Go team !

Monday, June 02, 2008

Family Portrait

You know those silly family stickers that everyone has on the back of their minivans these days ?

There's a cool little flash utility on that allows you to create your own family sticker. How cool is that ? The only complaint I have is that the "pets" can only be cats or dogs. So Daniel's snake Snapper was unfortunately not included. Discrimination, I tell ya.

No, I am NOT putting this graphic on the back of my car. This blog is the only place it is going. :)
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