My writing habits have been random approaching completely erratic over the last few months of 2013, so much so that my friend Diane at Dglassme’s blog noticed I hadn’t been around much lately.
I started a new job 80 miles from home and although I wasn’t travelling every day I was soon spending very long days at work. It was all a little surreal and in truth paradoxical because I do my homework as far as new jobs are concerned and normally have a very good idea of what I’m letting myself in for. There’s no point being sentient if we don’t learn from experience! Working in Information Technology within non-technology organisations is challenging for three very common reasons:
- IT is often seen as a cost and not appreciated for its intrinsic value in all we do. From on-line applications to processing invoices, air conditioning to making phone calls, there’s no technology-free zone these days. Under-investing causes the same kind of pain as failing to go to the dentist. Teeth rotten beyond minor fillings need root canals, crowns or implants and if you’ve ever had a tooth in that condition you’ll know it’s excruciating in every sense of the word, including the time and expense of repairs!
- IT people (and I’m one of them) sometimes find it difficult to explain the complexities of designing, building, testing, deploying and maintaining systems (that work) to non-IT people. Assumptions are made, pressure is applied, short-cuts are taken and before you can say Bolognese there’s a pile of very over-cooked spaghetti that no-one (even the IT people) can easily unravel. Everyone knows it doesn’t look or taste good but some poor person still has to consume it.
- There’s a lot of snake oil. Some vendors will sell non-IT management whatever it is they want to hear, even if that happens to be unavailable until software version 99.9 (and they’re supplying v2.0). Another jolly wheeze is forgetting the complexities (and cost) of integration, data migration, security and business continuity, all of which deserve at least a nanosecond of thought when attempting to deal with the aforementioned over-cooked spaghetti.
As an IT person who has been in the industry a while, come across all the above on more than one occasion and then been gifted the opportunity to sort it out (have you ever tried untangling over-cooked spaghetti and reforming it into a non-toxic gourmet meal that looks and tastes good?!) I ask questions about the environment I’m coming in to. I try to assess how much bad pasta needs to be consumed, who is consuming it and how sick it’s making them. I evaluate how much time, effort and elbow-grease I need to devote because I want to improve things without becoming another casualty of discombobulated pasta! This time I didn’t expect a spaghetti mountain of Mount Etna-esque proportions. I believed I’d find something more like Capri – composed of a mixture of old and new, perhaps rocky in places but generally solid, well maintained and inhabited by people who were happy in their daily lives.
The battered old safe in the photo is a good metaphor for the last three months of 2013. I’ve been locked inside it, banging my head against it and trying to work out how to fix it. It didn’t take long to establish exactly how it came to be on its way to hell in a hand-basket and a very dear friend of mine recently joked that his experience elsewhere isn’t dissimilar. What we both know (and resign ourselves to) is that it takes longer (and costs more) to refurbish and re-install than it does to let things slip into a state of disrepair.
No matter how much you dislike the dentist, regular check-ups really are in your own interest.
Recently I broke out of the safe and despite the dereliction I’m encouraged. Signs of life remain. Those green things aren’t more mouldy spaghetti, they’re seeds and they’re growing in spite of a very barren landscape. Nature always finds a way to rebuild and restore given the right conditions. Fortunately I’m good with seeds; I plant them, tend to their needs and they grow. Rarely do I find myself surrounded by weeds because nurturing the seedlings helps them all become tall poppies. There is no sight more beautiful than a field of resplendent poppies and it certainly beats a Gordian knot of over-cooked pasta!
Breaking out of the safe reminded me that I have many gardens to attend and neglecting them, whether intentional or not, leads to dereliction. Dereliction – of gardens, people, past-times or well-being – is something that weighs heavy on my soul. I’m at home with chaos, have built a career from resolving it, but I choose not to live with it 24 hours per day any more. Sitting here in the winter sunlight I am reminded that balance in all my various commitments matters to me. The derelict safe is in balance with its derelict environment but dereliction isn’t welcome in my life, now or in future. I and my various gardens are beginning to flourish so sad as it may be, I cannot let the demands of one previously neglected environment overshadow the needs of all the others. I hope to untangle the spaghetti (for everyone’s sake) and I’d love to grow a new field of gloriously tall poppies but it has to happen alongside and not at the expense of the many other gardens I enjoy.