Friday, September 15, 2006

Working like it's my Job

Rovisys LogoWork is kind of a roller coaster now. I work at Rovisys in Apex, North Carolina (though it’s based in Aurora, Ohio). The big project that I have been working on for about a year is driving me absolutely insane at the moment. Here’s the deal: the project began with a spec written by another company. Rovisys was then hired to implement a bunch of software. About half of that software (a web application) was implemented quickly and installed successfully under a project lead by my friend and coworker Bryan, of the world famous Guy Behind the Guy.

I did some stuff for that but eventually moved over to the other half of the project which involved a multithreaded windows service that does a bunch of stuff as real-time things happen at the company’s plants around the world. I came into this side of the project a little late and eventually learned a whole lot about how not to manage the implementation of a project. The business side of things went ok, but the code…not so much.

As it turned out, I am still screwing around with this project a year later. We have 99% of everything complete, but we just can’t quite get the thing out the door. It was about a year ago that the eight person development team was cut down to three, then two, and last November, to one (me). Since then, I have worked to correct some problems and make lots (and lots) of major enhancements.

If we could only get this out the door…. We are currently on our third release cycle. That is, tomorrow will be the third time the software has been released. With each release, old problems are fixed and new problems are discovered.

I haven’t been working on this full time all year but damn near.

The reason work is like a roller coaster is that the days surrounding a release are incredibly stressful, mostly because time is rarely on your side. Leading up to the release, things seem peachy. Then, 48 hours before a release, the customer has a habit of calling me late at night with a line like, “function x isn’t working…and hasn’t worked for a month, though we didn’t bother telling you earlier and we’re probably the ones that broke it. Fix it ASAP. Our company will catch fire if you don’t work on this right now. What’s the number for 911?!” My cell, apparently. So we have long stretches of everything working great mixed in with short, panicky periods of chaos.

All that said, I do like my job. I enjoy the work I am doing. I really enjoy problem solving, too, so working in a high stress environment to fix bugs PDQ is usually enjoyable.

I have also been working on other projects besides this software job. Working on these other projects has taught me three things. First, I like working with other people from my company. Rovisys seems to hire good people so working with them is unsurprisingly, good. This is in contrast to working closely with a somewhat difficult customer for long periods of time.

Second, I like to write software. These other projects have not been software related. I have been doing a lot of documentation-related tasks for pharmaceuticals. Check out cGMP for some nitty gritty boring stuff related to that. I am glad to gain exposure to these other fields, which is especially important at Rovisys because they do so much of that kind of stuff, but I find that I enjoy working with software much more.

Lastly, I don’t like to travel much. Traveling would probably be fun if I were single, but I’m not. When I leave for weeks at a time, I miss my wife and my dogs. I have a family brewing back home and it’s tough to fly away, work 12-16 hours/day and live out of a hotel room. About that travel…yes let’s make this an obscenely long complainer post. Best to get it all out at once, right?

Travel

Last year I traveled 23% of business days. That’s slightly more than one day a week or one week a month. I talked to my mangers (plural) about this and received mixed feedback. My technical manager (according to the org chart) told me my travel was not unusual and to get used to it. Damn. My day to day manager (the one I actually do stuff for) told me he’d cut it down to a more reasonable level.

Well I guess it’s down slightly. Since June (my anniversary date), I have traveled one week to Cambridge, Massachusetts, one week to London, Ontario, and two weeks to Bloomington, Indiana. I have a couple days here and there scheduled for October but nothing else major planned at the moment.

Ok, so actually, that’s exactly the same pace: four weeks in four months. Damn.

I hate to complain, but this is probably my largest (by far) issue with my job. Relative to this, everything else is great!

BTW: I have another post titled "I Love my Job" that's been sitting in my drafts bin for months. Maybe now is a good time to polish it up and click Publish.