Blogging as a means of remaining sane

My dears, those of you who read regularly may recall that I have referred obliquely to my Great Project at work. It’s tedious for those not involved, I realise, but in summary I am trying to move a large database from old kit to new, including an Oracle upgrade and so on and so forth (just insert the Martian of your choice here). Obviously I am not doing this alone and have been accompanied in the Grand Tour by a wealth of brilliant and talented people to whom I owe my very sanity. If ever they track down my little rambling corner and work out who I am talking about, then know I love you all and am proud of you. I do also say so to them in the real world, well, at least the bit about being proud. “Love” is the kind of word that can result in restraining orders if misunderstood. And suppliers can get a bit twitchy if you tell them things like this, and start wondering if the contract is worth the candle.

Well, this weekend is the acid test and we are mid-migration as I type and preparing to start testing in the next couple of hours. Last night we had a conference call about an hour before shut-down and were all giddy as toddlers in a thunderstorm.

Have you noticed how kids get excited in stormy weather? Someone told me it was the ionisation of the air. It’s also why people sing in the shower or like sea air. To which I say “Wotevva!” and splash in puddles.

Anyway, the call was slightly hysterical with excitement because we have been working on this for two years and the big moment had arrived. I admit I cried a little when we finished. It’s a strange feeling. Next week I expect I will be doing bereavement counselling for the team – in fact I started last week as we began to recognise the end was nigh. When you have been working on a large project for a long time, ending it is a big loss.

I have just had the checkpoint call from the supplier to say we are ahead of schedule, so I have given the testers the green light to head into the test centre. Hopefully they are racing down the street right now, checking bus and train timetables, getting into the car, picking up their pack-ups and working off the adrenaline rush with frantic movement.

I sit still at home, trying to conduct the orchestra remotely, and have no such outlet. So I decided to blog through it, to try and keep sane. Trust me, meditation is not going to cut the mustard at the moment. I am not very good at it. I can type drivel for England though, so here I am.

What I was planning to blog about was Sigoth’s mighty sacrifice. Last night was also Red Nose Day. Sigoth and I have been keen supporters since the inaugural RND 25 years ago, when  I wore a red nose on the packed commuter train into London and was stared at so hard by everyone that my face ended up as red as the nose. But we like the pragmatism of the projects they run, and the split between home and abroad, and the focus on the positive. It may be more usual now, but back in the day it was more common for charities to be utterly patronising and show you nothing but desperation. I like to see the joy engendered by successful projects.

So Presentation1Sigoth decided to make the ultimate gift this year, because we can’t donate as much money as we have in the past. He shaved off his beard. He has had a beard forever. He may have been born with it, although the photographic evidence suggests not. In any case, he had it when I first met him in 1980, and has only been nude on the face for an occasional day since. He managed to raise £500 though, which is more than we could manage to donate by miles, and is my personal hero today. As soon as the beard has grown back he will also be himself again. So big shout out to the Wonder that is Sigoth, and to all the other people who did something funny for money.

 

Meanwhile, the project should conclude at 17.00 tonight, just as England kicks off against Wales in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Any elation I will be feeling will soon be depressed by watching England. They have a knack of winning in the most ungainly way or losing spectacularly. It’s painful supporting them. I also support Wales, given that I can sing the Welsh National Anthem in Welsh; possibly the most useful thing I ever learned at school, so the England/Wales match is always a difficult one. And it’s the final one of the tournament this year, deciding the winner. At the moment England can win the overall title – but only if they win this match. How much stress can I take today?

I like the Millennium Stadium. I have never been inside it, although I would love to go. I remember the season it was being built and Wales were playing their matches at Wembley. I lived near Wembley at the time and there was an International against the mighty All Blacks scheduled. As we had been over to New Zealand the previous year, I was quite keen to see them play again, so I rounded up friends and relations to make a party of it. My friend agreed to sort out tickets, and called the stadium.

“Any tickets for the match between Wales and the All Blacks?” she asked, crossing various extremities, and mentally reciting the Haka.

“No, sorry,” replied the ticket office person.

My friend was downcast, although not surprised. We had left it a bit late.

Then the ticket office person added, “I can do you tickets for Wales v New Zealand though. Is that any good?”

My friend choked a little and said “OK, that will do…”

So that was the day I saw Jonah Lomu belting down the left wing towards me with two Welshmen hanging from him like red flags. It was glorious, simply glorious.

I hope your Saturday is glorious too, and I hope for my sanity that my poor little project has a glorious result tonight.

Namaste.

 

Gang Agley

OK, OK, if you are not familiar with the Bard of Scotland, then that post title may look a little suspicious. Your trusty EBL does seem to have a penchant for quoting odd bits of schoolgirl poetry. I swear I don’t know where it comes from, I work in IT, for goodness sake.

The poem on question is “To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough”, and the bit I am referring to is

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

It’s just saying that things don’t always turn out as we expected and hoped.

Today was my last trip into the office for a while as tomorrow is The Operation, and I needed to go in and ensure I signed off The Project so everyone could crack on with it while I was out of action for a couple of days.

Well, the warning signs were there. When there are that many capitalised nouns in the schedule, something is bound to give. It’s one of the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Long story short, I did not sign off. On the plan I don’t sign off until Friday anyway, so I am leaving the goodly folk on the team to work a miracle tomorrow and will dial in for a sign off call on Friday afternoon, hoping that by then I can see well enough to press the right buttons, and will be recovered sufficiently from the general anaesthetic to be coherent and decisive.

It’s a bother.

Never mind, chin up me old muckers! The mantra for a Project Manager on my position is “No one will die!” My career, however, may not survive the business, not that it is a particularly robust or flourishing specimen. It may be best to put it out of its misery.

Oh look, everyone! EBL is catastrophising again!

On the plus side, I may have achieved agreement to proceed with a new project today. There’s nothing like looking someone in the eye and saying “We can do that!” with conviction and confidence. There is some kind of phrase about it: straws, drowning…I forget. The fact is I am confident we can do it, or at least do what is needed. The difference between want and need, there’s a thesis right there! Anyway, we’ll get that sorted next week when I am back.

I also managed to take some things into the office which needed to be there on time.

So not too agley, in retrospect. Perhaps more “fashionably late” than “ohmygodwe’reallgoingtodie!”

In fact, I am not completely distraught. Take note, my dears, that was a flash of optimism. In fact, my project officer said today “The new system has optimism built in!”

I must have caught some.

So here I am to pass some on to you. Catch!

Namaste.

 

Superstition

You know how people, other people that is, often say something along the lines of “I’m not <insert thing here>, but…” and then go on to demonstrate that they are in that very thing. The thing in question could be “racist” or “sexist” or “a Daily Redtop Newspaper Reader”. It’s often an –ist word though. And I’m not ist-ist but – those –ist words shouldn’t be allowed. It’s political correctness gone mad.

Well, anyway, I’m not superstitious, but…

Actually, what the hell, I am superstitious in certain sets of circumstances. Today was indeed one of those days when the circumstances happened. Today was the day when The Project entered the End Game.

That’s when the superstition kicked in. I am a nervous wreck, the nervousest wreckiest wreck. Not so much shivering me timbers as top of the Richter scale quaking them. It’s all gone so well so far, that it can’t go on.

The fact we plan to go live over the Ides of March is not making this any easier.

I was going to write more about it but I can’t. Talking about it will make it go wrong. It’s magic.

It’s not really superstition of course. I don’t actually think that walking under a ladder will make my project fail. I think I will have missed something and mess it up. That might happen, and it might not. Time will tell.

In my first proper job, I had a lovely boss who told me there are no such things as bad decisions.

“You don’t deliberately set out to fail,” he said. “You make the best decision you can at the time. Sometimes it’s wrong.”

That’s where I am today. Waiting to find out. Oh yes, and scrambling about like demented poultry trying to finish the work in time.

I’d be glad if you kept me company over the next few weeks. If you felt up to it we could share some irrational fears and phobias to pass the time. What larks!

Namaste.

Those old PM blues

It’s been a trying day so I thought I would share my pain. Because the world does not have enough blog entries full of moans and groans and wailing and gnashing of teeth. What is needed right now is extra pain and suffering.

Whatever.

I had a key project go pear-shaped last night. Today I was due to visit a university with youngest offspring and managed to spend the day on the phone instead as we drove up and down the motorway, getting stressed about the fact that things were not going well.

At this point I suppose I might reveal a certain masochistic streak. Actually this is what makes the job interesting. I knew this project was going to be trouble. As soon as it walked in the room I could see it was trouble. Those big brown eyes didn’t fool me for a moment. This was a project with trouble as its middle name, and it was looking for me. There are times when you can’t fight it any more, but have to surrender and drain the glass of bitter spirits to the very dregs.

Anyway.

It was always going to be a tricky project, not helped by the fact it relied on a third party which appeared not to be familiar with the concept of structured projects management, such as agreeing plans, meeting deadlines or even defining requirements. Yup, that risk register was lit up like a nuclear holocaust. And so it came to pass.

So now I will get all sentimental about the people I work with. We got through the "what the hell?" stage pretty quickly and by the end of this afternoon had a fine old plan. Can’t say there aren’t still huge risks, but we know what we are going to try and do, and are working on it together. Didn’t see that coming did you? Ha!

I’m so glad I moved jobs! There is still room for wailing and teeth gnashing however. We are also awaiting the results of the autumn spending review …. and if you want anything to ruin a project just let the government loose on it.