Possibly random thoughts of a oddly organized dba with a very short attention span


growing pains ...

My role at work has been shifting over the past six months and I'm still not sure how I feel about this. In theory, I'm supposed to be 'architecting' but most of the time, I feel like I'm somewhere between a technical writer and a hostage negotiator, with the hostage alternating at turns between the integrity of the database and my sanity. Tensions have been high for everyone, the project is growing and somehow, we all have completely different ideas about what constitutes an Architecture Design Document and a Design Specification, and what information really belongs in an Installation Guide or a User Manual or even a project plan. (then there are those that expect one document to be all of the above which makes the whole thing incomprehensible) There are lots of different viewpoints on what kind of information should be published on the team wiki vs. what falls under 'need to know'. (my current bitch on this topic is that someone decided to publish the finalized version of a SOW - including the fee to be paid to a third party vendor. Seriously!! Now I've got cranky developers to add to the fun.) This is a big project but we have just one expert per system area, which means we have a small group of people with a deep understanding of their specialty, but each with a completely different vantage point into the system which makes communications well ... let's just say 'full of opportunities'. There's new hardware devices with occasionally failing components, global teams and of course, the ever present customer with continually evolving requirements.

I've always avoided this role and usually started scheduling interviews as soon as management even hinted that my job was going to move in this direction. But this time it's different. I like the company I work for and I like the people I work with - it's a good place to be and this beast of a project is starting to turn into something worthwhile. There is a good side to this role: I've been able to choose who gets to do the work. So I adjusted my outlook and try to take comfort in seeing the work go to really good people, even if it does mean I'm spending my time wading through documents and talking about how to do it instead of actually doing it. Besides, I can always come in when no one's around and play with hardware when my sanity is teetering on the edge. (Benchmarks on new HP hardware are ever so much more fun that documents and meetings.)

There is a down side: I've been absolutely burnt out on writing. For most of this year, the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is write more, and writing is something I like. On the project, I'm reading other people's documents, the feature agreements and stuff all day so I don't feel much like doing any extra reading either. This means my favorite blogs just slowly age off my reader and disappear into oblivion, and I really don't like that.

But finally, in the past few weeks, I'm finally starting to see some signs that success is possible even for this project. Problems are getting resolved and the plans for the next phase of development are starting gel. Communications are getting easier as we learn to understand each other and realize that while we sometimes use the same words, those words don't necessarily mean the same things in the different system components. Plus, the next round of features under discussion will make the Oracle part of the implementation very, very cool.

The biggest challenge for me on this project is trust. My portion of the application has clearly drawn lines between what it does and doesn't do. There are other applications and other databases involved, and my responsibilities are set by contractual agreements. Each of us gets to solve our part of the problem, but then we need to coordinate with those responsible for the other pieces and let that team solve their part of the equation (even when I know Oracle could do it better). Of course, it should always be trust and verify, but complete verification isn't possible to achieve until a certain level of development is complete. By then, we'll have already gone a bit of distance down that yellow brick road and it may be too late to turn back. That's just a little bit scary to the OCD side of my brain but I'm learning - slowly maybe, painfully for sure, but I'm learning.


Troy said...

Sounds like you need some help! :)

Robyn said...

Hi Troy ...

If things continue to go well, we could need some help soon. Then it will be time to move into the productizing of the app so it's repeatable and fault tolerant and all that other stuff I usually talk about.

That will be a very good day :)


PdV said...

aaah. You are becoming an Architect.

Well, you know the difference between an architect and a terrorist, dont you ?

Robyn said...

hello Piet,

with terrorists, there is less damage? or maybe, with terrorists, the damage is well planned? :)

I've been called some form of architect since about 2003. For the past two years, the full title was 'System Design Architecture Manager'. (I seldom admitted to it)

We've all been shifted around again at work and now I am titled as a software engineer in R&D. (but still doing more architecting than I did as an architect) Since everyone knows your intelligence goes down when you become an architect, and drops even further when you're a manager, I figure I have regained at least 50 I.Q. points ...

PdV said...

LOL @ the IQ points. Well Said.

But with the Terrorist, you can sometimes negociate. The architect just goes ahead and does "whatever".

Dont worry, my official title seems to be "infrastructure architect" nowadays. But I'll have m put "Consultant" or "Database Consultant" on my card (if and when we are allowed to have cards printed again...).

Some managers fear that I can actually do the amount of damage that warrants the title.

Keep smiling.

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