mm010: Day in the life

May 17, 2007

MUDGE’s Musings

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Started the day at a satellite facility, here at HCA (how many times do I need to tell you this: Heart of Corporate America, not the name of the real company for whom I work!). Always an adventure, and about 15 minutes further than the standard morning commute.

It’s easier to park there than in previous years (I even once worked for several months on this campus), since many operations have apparently been sold off or closed. Stark evidence of this: the wreckers have leveled a bunch of buildings. My contact here tells me that this gets them off of the tax rolls. Imagine the taxes. Our own property taxes were reassessed for this year, and are up a mere 81%. Maybe tearing down our place would help.

So, arriving somewhat early I stop in the cafeteria to grab the day’s first DMD and check my Blackberry for activity. Ouch — two urgent notes from a longtime client finding errors on the server and absolutely certain it’s something she’s done wrong. No, as it turns out, the server that supports our conferencing system has gone down, as a newly appearing notice advises me. I get on the phone to let my party know that it’s not her, it’s us (is this all really like dating?). Now I’m worried about the meeting I’m there to support, due to start soon.

I get to the conference room at which I’m expected, and wait for my principal, who eventually arrives, sets up and connects his PC to our server, which is actually working (whew!) by the time he’s ready for it. The room is an awkward mix: high tech intentions (built in projector and speaker phone) and low tech workarounds due to indifferent maintenance, typical of a satellite site in my experience. So, my client is never sure the phone is going to work (it is controlled like a TV via remote to an infrared port mounted high in the audio/visual closet), and is so certain that the projector won’t work that he brings his own portable. They couldn’t fix the ceiling-mounted original, but they were good enough to provide him an under floor path for the cable that connects the podium with the table that supports the portable projector. Odd.

I’m present for the second time at one of these regular meetings because there have been web conference based issues in the past that my client is working hard to resolve. The connection is to one of our sites in the UK, where they’ve had consistent connection issues. In fact, at a test session last week, the UK manager in question admitted that other technology from that site seems to experience connection issues — perhaps not the site entirely, but certainly the conference room used regularly for these staff sessions.

So, I had my trepidations anyway, before the server issue at the beginning of the day was known (turns out that this was the 2nd of three such failures over the past 24 hours — ugh!). The conference room filled to overflowing, the people from the UK, less that manager who happened to be returning home from a visit to HQ, joined on the phone and the meeting began.

About 20 minutes into a typically arcane not to say stultifying briefing, as I stood in the back, the UK contingent admitted that they were having trouble with my technology, because they didn’t have a projector. I said (out loud I’m afraid) “I can help with the web conference, but I can’t help with a projector problem from here,” ascertained that indeed there was no other connection to the meeting, turned around and left to drive to my office, to prepare for a practice session scheduled later that hour.

I’m not happy about my abrupt departure, but it feels so futile at times like this. Tough enough to get the technology to work consistently, even five years in, only to be stopped because the minions overseas, without their manager to provide for them, didn’t have a projector with which to view the conference.

It gets better. No, I mean it, not ironically.

Conducted a couple of practice sessions for people with immediate meeting needs and unable to attend in a timely manner (or ignorant of) the advanced on-line class I teach for the technology I support. Spending about 30 minutes with each was typically rewarding — can’t beat one to one training. These days my regular classes can have between eight and 28 attendees, with the larger number assuring dilution of whatever telephonic charisma I might possess to an infinitesimal level. But, my feedback is still pretty good notwithstanding.

Server went down again mid-afternoon, and I’ve become concerned because my biggest client (in number and size of meetings), supporting our most important commercial product, has two meetings tomorrow. I’ve made arrangements to handle things on the backup server, but that’s a communication issue as much as a technological one (how to get the new URL to people in a timely, yet graceful [i.e., without impacting or delaying delivery of the critical training content] fashion). Is that last sentence convoluted enough? I’m reading (hearing actually) Melville for the first time since a high school senior, and now I understand where my propensity for chapter long sentences comes from!

So, those clients just called me — hard at work editing tomorrow’s presentation they missed my reply to late yesterday’s memo regarding the video they want to include. I have reservations that they’re going to like it they way they’ve presented it to me, so I’ll stay late today so we can run a test to show it to them.

I really do love my customers, even (especially, since they keep me in string cheese!) the clueless ones.


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