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.


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