I Left My Window Office For This

12 March 2013

The past two years have been crazy, if not chaotic, as I transitioned from the world of office hours, dress pants, and bi-weekly paychecks, to a world of coffee shops, 3am fire drills, and skiing on Wednesdays.

Only a few short years ago, I was making a decent salary, stuck in a 8’x8′ office, and having an hour long lunch break. As much as that sounds like hell, there are also days now that it sounds like heaven. There have been too days many where I have been awoken at 7am by server alarms or e-mails asking why A or Z does not work. These are the days I just want to come home from an office at 5pm sharp, drink heavily not worrying about work at all, and the of course, have to set an alarm for an ungodly hour.

Firstly, I am a meteorologist. A meteorologist that is now the CTO and the lone developer on a site that has had 17 million pageviews in just under 18 months. A meteorologist that has learned server, database, and data administration through blogs and helpful e-mails just to make the whole thing work. A meteorologist that has no idea what is going on 99% of the time, and has fully adopted the phrase “I am looking into it” when actually meaning “I am googling what the hell that error means”.

Last week I got into a conversation about our uptime during traffic spikes and feature releases, and going into that conversation I knew exactly what reaction I was going to get. I was very proud of our 99.54% uptime this season. While only having half a clue on how to optimize and balance server hardware, we managed to only go down a dozen times when hundreds of thousands of snow crazed fans visited the site. For me, that was a glowing success. Though, I probably aged a few dozen years every time I heard my phone buzz at 7am, always worried what was breaking now. However, to the unnamed savvy tech person I was speaking to, that number was completely unacceptable.

In a world where Facebook and Google rarely break, the Twitter fail whale is a figment of our imagination, and Amazon EC2 is the catchphrase for instant scaling, 99 point anything is unacceptable. I have fully come to accept this premise through the apologetic e-mails I have written to users that have spent way too much of their time ranting to me about how we need to move to blah-blah framework or this-that hosting. Nonetheless, none of this will change the fact that I am a meteorologist.

It is because of this, that I love my job.

Some days I feel like I get nothing accomplished because I have spent it reading post after post, or page after page of case studies and tech guides. I have learned to accept that this is entirely necessary for both me and my company to grow. If it wasn’t for this time spent, I don’t believe that I could have built half of the features I did or have an uptime above 50%, even with the best of circumstances.

But how does this apply to both my mine and my company’s future? Maybe some time down the road we will be able to hire a proper developer that can teach me the ways of 100% uptime (and be responsible for waking up at 7am some days). Maybe I will teach myself a skill that makes doing something ten times easier, or makes our company an extra ten thousand dollars. Maybe I will end up writing a guide that helps teach some other non-tech person how to accomplish some techy skill. Just maybe.

Sometimes I close my eyes and remember when I used to stare out my office window, bored out of my mind wishing I was in a coffee shop or anywhere else but the 8’x8′ cell I inhabited. Some days I close my eyes now and wish I was bored in an 8’x8′ cell, not worried about every email I receive about the site.

However, it’s those days that I open my eyes and realise that I am on a ski lift. On a Wednesday. And then everything comes back into focus. I love my job.

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Comments

  • “A meteorologist that has no idea what is going on 99% of the time, and has fully adopted the phrase ‘I am looking into it’ when actually meaning ‘I am googling what the hell that error means’.”

    Welcome to the world of IT my friend. 🙂 Most of what us IT people do is read blogs, network, and google crap. If Google did not exist, my job would be millions of times harder then it already is. I was actually working as a Systems Administrator long before I had the schooling or degrees to say I actually knew what I knew.
    I’m mainly a Microsoft / Windows (Server, MSSQL, Etc) guy myself (it’s what I have to support at my company), but I know lots of other stuff should you find your self beating your head against a desk too much. Or need any ideas on scaling, framework, left-field ideas…