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How Not To Be In Two Places At Once

March 17, 2016

I remember when my daughter first told me that she and her husband were going to be parents. It was Father’s Day, 2013. She gave me a card that said, “Happy Father’s Day. . .Grandpa.” I still have the card and it still makes me smile. I told her, that having a baby changes your life like no other event can. It’s great, no mistake. But, it’s also like getting a second shadow. You literally have to think about the baby 24 hours per day. You have to always know where she is. You have to constantly be aware of her needs. When she develops motor skills but lack of judgement you have to literally strip from your house everything that is not nailed down that is within three feet of the floor. Your life changes. 

I haven’t felt like that in a long, long time. For the past week at work, I’ve felt like a new parent again. A systems issue caused some of our agents to not be able to take calls. It’s my job, in those cases to be on a phone conference, coordinating between IT people and call center agents to get the problem fixed. A long call takes 4-5 hours.This was not just a long call. Since last Wednesday, I’ve spent 50 hours on phone conferences for one issue. 

When I designed the process we follow for an outage, I didn’t even consider a multi-day outage. With a problem that lasts for several hours, I simply rearrange my schedule and put off meetings and projects until the outage is over. I can do that for about 2 days. After the third day, the rest of my job, like a toddler in a house with a new baby, insists on some attention as well. For the past four days, I’ve worked at being in two places at one time. 

Every morning has followed a similar routine, I call into the phone conference to track my outage and then I start going about my day. I answer email. I talk to coworkers. I go to meetings. I even attended a brief court appearance. 

Guys, I’m going to step away from the bridge for just a minute. I’ll be back in about 15 minutes. 

I put the phone on mute and turned off the ringer as I walked into the court room. Fifteen minutes later, I’m back on the bridge.

I’m back. How many agents do we still have impacted at this point? 

My home office is set up with multiple phones. I have my cell phone, of course. I also have a desk phone that uses the Internet to tie into our corporate phone system. If needed, I also have computer based phone systems that let me dial into online meetings. 

My typical look, when I’m on an outage call is I have my desk phone headset on my left ear, and my cell phone headset on my right. I work the mute button to hold two calls at once. From an IT perspective, I can literally be in two places at once. There are people who’ve written articles about how liberating it is to ditch their cell phone. I just laugh at those stories. 

My outage call became like a baby that I had to consider every minute of the day. Like a new mom who is going shopping, I took it along. Need to take a shower? Put the baby in her bassinet close by and hurriedly jump in and out. Need to go to the bathroom? MUTE BUTTON! Check it again. I just took my call everywhere.

Yesterday, my multi-day phone outage was finally winding down. We had finally identified the underlying cause. We’d fixed it and I was listening to my call center floors slowly getting everyone back on the phones. I was also in other meetings on my cell phone. And then I lost track of my baby.

My desk phone died. The screen went dark and it literally said, “I cannot connect you right now.” My computer, while it didn’t go dark, disconnected from the network. The online meeting I was in suddenly disappeared. My email announced it was no longer connected. 

The meeting I was dialed into on my cell phone was really important. Over half the participants were VPs. They were looking to me for explanations of our new call center location. I couldn’t drop out to go look for my baby. The baby called me. A second call came through on my cell phone. The number said it was our help desk. I knew why they were calling.Do I answer it? Can I sneak away to check briefly on the baby? 

So, Rodney. Could you explain again what the technical requirements from the client will be on this new site?

Sure. Happy to. After all, the baby will be fine for a few minutes on its own, right? It was practically done, anyway. I’m sure it’s not out playing in traffic or anything. 

I discovered later that a relay on an antenna on the side of a mountain failed and my internet service died. The technicians were in the process of fixing it. Sorry for the brief interruption. 

After the call with the VPs ended, I immediately called back into the outage call I’d been on for days. 

This is Rodney, rejoining the bridge.

Rodney, where did you go? We’re still seeing a few agents that are getting the error. 

Yup, my child still needed me for at least a little while longer. But, my superpower of being able to be in two places at one time was severely limited.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

  1. Emilio Teixeira permalink

    Just days full of productivity Rodney.

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