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Don’t Mistake Calm For Indifference

May 13, 2019

I need to see a sense of urgency, people!

The director was new. He’d been with the company for less than a month. The account he was brought in to manage was one of the most profitable, and high profile, for our company.

Stuff breaks. It’s what gives tech guys like me a job. I used to be the guy “crawling under the server” to fix stuff. I don’t do that much any more. Now, I’m the guy telling the guy to crawl under the server and fix stuff.

I’m also the IT face to management. They don’t want to know who needs to climb under the server, or what server to climb under, or even why this convoluted car example works. That’s what they pay me to do.

Something broke. There are two types of broken things.

Type 1: Stuff that breaks but doesn’t prevent us from making money
Type 2: Stuff that breaks and prevents us from making money

This was a Type 2 outage. An entire call floor in North Carolina was down. A car had hit a powerpole and knocked out power. That’s typically not a problem. We have a UPS (uninterupted power supply) and a great big diesel generator capable of powering our entire center for days.

The UPS is designed to “bridge” the gap between when we lose utility power and the generators kick in. Typically it’s less than 2 minutes. The UPS can power the center for about 40 minutes.

And if you great big diesel generator fails to come on, that’s how long you have before your entire building goes dark.

Our building went dark. And that’s the point at which we started losing money. When a center goes dark, the clock starts ticking. We start losing money right away. The clock just tells us how much money we are losing.

It also didn’t help that I’m in Utah, the center is in NC, and the new director was in Alabama. We set up a group text with the director and the rest of our management chain. And me, of course, the “IT guy.”

I started working the issue as soon as we lost power. I had engineers on site. Eventually, our power came back on. It was the public utility power.

computers, as you probably know, do not like to have their power cut. They tend to fail ungracefully. If they shut down ungracefully, they also don’t come up gracefully.

We turned the computers and servers on and waited for them to boot up.

All the while I was keeping the management team updated by text.

Servers are coming up now. If they boot successfully, we should be up and running in about 15 minutes. If not, we may need to get the network team involved.

Waiting for a server to boot is the IT equivalent for watching a pot waiting for it to boil. Eventually, the servers came up, but my engineer couldn’t get logged in. Neither could any of the agents.

Looks like the servers didn’t load the local engineer is looking at it.

I want a network engineer on the call, NOW!

We don’t know yet if we need them.

And that’s when I got the “show some urgency” text. I honestly didn’t know how to respond. Because, the fact was, I was being urgent. But, if you are following the best course, it makes no sense to put additional pressure on your team. My engineers were absolutely going as fast as they could. Most of computer troubleshooting is waiting for the computers to boot.

Ultimately I said nothing. But, it made me think. I’ve always been known as “good under pressure.” I think it’s the hyperfocus that often accompanies ADHD. When we get into true crisis mode, my whole body relaxes. It’s a weird sensation and it took me a while to figure out that not everyone reacts like I do.

I’ve been assaulted with a knife on the streets of Chicago. I’ve been in, or witnessed a few nasty car crashes. And, of course, I’ve had crisis at work. In all cases, it’s almost like I start mvoing in slow motion. I’m not being slow. I’m being deliberate.

During the battle of Midway, the turning point of WWII war in the Pacific, General Douglas McArthur, who had planned the American battle strategy took a nap. After the battle was put in motion, there was nothing more for McArthur to do until the enemy was engaged. His physician said that he not only took a nap, but his pulse was 68 bpm.

That’s how I get in a crisis.

So, just because you don’t see me agitated, don’t mistake that for lack of urgency.

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) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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