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A Working Vacation

July 12, 2017

Facebook popped up one of those “reminder” posts. It was exactly a year ago today that my family was enjoying Yellowstone National Park. I didn’t work that vacation and it was a near disaster. As much time as I’m taking this summer, surprisingly today was our only family vacation day.

We headed up to Bear Lake in Northern Utah. We took 8 of our kids with us. The plan was to rent paddleboards, rent a pontoon boat and a tow-behind tube and make a day of it. We really only felt we could carve out a single day. My lovely wife did the lion’s share of the planning.

You’re going to be there, right?

What do you mean?

Wednesday the 12th, you aren’t going to schedule anything else!

I assured her that I would block out that day. Of course, stuff came up. It always does. My client announced they were flying in from Jacksonville for a two day visit starting on the 11th.

I’m sorry. I won’t be able to attend any meetings on Wednesday.

We moved all my parts to Tuesday. I cancelled other meetings. I frontloaded tasks. And then I went through the process of getting a backup for any escalations.

Our Account Management team has agreed to be my backup. Mine is a technical role. They are not a technical team. The way we set it up is I write them out a playbook for how to handle escalations if something breaks while I’m gone. Then, I sent email to several dozen people telling them that I will be out of the office and who my backup will be.

But, there’s a catch. Part of my agreement with the Account Managers was that I would take calls if I’m able. So, my email to the various teams I work with says, “Call me first. If I don’t answer then call the backup.”

We left our house at 7:00AM this morning headed for the lake. My phone rang at 7:45AM. My Rockford site was having an issue. Normally when I work an outage call I use two phones. This time I only had my cell phone. My lovely wife kept the kids quiet, while I toggled back and forth between a call with my team and a call with the client to resolve the issue.

The trip to the lake takes about three and a half hours. I managed to wrap up the call after about three hours. I invited my backup, Craig, to join the call so that he could see how outage calls typically run. We rarely have more than a single outage in a day, so I assumed that Craig was safe. He wasn’t.

At the lake, I left my phone on but in the car. Coverage was spotty and we were in and out of the water all day. As we headed back to the van about 6:15pm, my phone rang. It was the client following up on an outage that had been ongoing for the past four hours.

I called Craig to get some background on what the issue was.

Rodney, I have a much greater appreciation for what you do now.

The outage was mostly winding down. I helped wrap up the call and scheduled a follow up for 9:00PM to make some changes to the system that would hopefully correct the problem. We were still driving home at 9:00PM. We have another call scheduled for tomorrow morning at 6:45AM to test the fix.

My kids had a great time at the lake. I had a great time at the lake. Even though it’s only a single day, my kids seemed to appreciate the “family” vacation. The fact I ended up working for about 5 hours wasn’t surprising.

Compared to the issues with taking a non-working vacation last year, today’s experience was great.

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

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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