Day 0 – Prepare

When Leon mentioned this Word-a-Day challenge to me, I was intrigued. He’d mentioned that something like this is a commitment that requires foresight and planning – hence the Day 0 topic – Prepare. I then did what I do whenever I have a task like this presented before me, I ask my wife.

I asked her to throw out the first thing that came to mind when I said the words on the list and for “prepare” she immediately said “cooking.” Now, she worked for her family’s catering company when she was young and worked in food service in her teen years whereas I am not even allowed in my own kitchen if she is present. (Am I the only one here gents?)

But this got me thinking. In the growing world of DevOps where automation and continuous delivery are a very real thing, is it any wonder that one such company decided to call itself Chef?

Now, I’m not any kind of authority on Chef, DevOps as a whole, or cooking in general, but I’ve spent years in IT, so I can speak to that.

IT is (typically) an interrupt-driven job. Sure, you have general job duties, but most are superseded by the high priority email from the director, the alert that there is a failing drive in a server, the person standing in your cube asking for the TPS report, the CIO stating that they just bought the newest wiz-bang that they saw at the trade show and you need to implement it immediately. Regardless of what is causing the interruptions, your “normal” daily duties are typically defined by the those same interruptions.

So, how can you plan for interruptions? Short answer is that you can’t, but you can attempt to mitigate them.

  • Set expectations: Your job is not everything you are. Answering that email from the director may be important, but could someone else handle it better? Strive for a work-life balance. Leon’s covered this in a two-part series (Part 1 & Part 2). Make it your mission to not be defined by your job.
  • If you get alerts (via Email, RSS, Slack, whatever) and they are taking over your life, make an effort to wrangle them. If you are a monitoring professional, you can’t afford to hate what you do, so don’t. Leon, Dave and I spoke at length on how to do this.
  • If you are asked for repeated reports, why not automate them. There are any number of solutions that allow people to self-serve reports (SQL Server Reporting Services, Tableau, Crystal Reports, and many others) take some time an investigate them. Then determine the break-even point (time to setup the solution & train people vs. you running these reports). If it’s a net win, propose the solution. Don’t stop with reports – if there’s something that you do over and over again, find a way to automate it.
  • Lastly, if the [insert C-Suite title here] asks you to implement something that they got from a conference, their friend told them about, or something they say in a trade magazine (read “trade rag”), don’t outright deny them. Instead, take the time to ask them to join or organize meeting with stakeholders to discuss the ramifications and to make sure that everyone in the business is on board.

So, these are only a few ways that you can prepare so that your day job stays your day job – unless you work in an overnight NOC – if that’s the case, then ^day^night.

I’d love to get a better understanding of what people are facing and how you prepare to it, so comment below.



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