Monday, July 22, 2013

The Antagonist

At the moment my big work project boils down to copying files. Or, slightly more accurately, selecting huge swaths of files and instructing the computer to copy them from their network location to a movable location that will eventually bridge over to a terminal the classified network, where they will be copied yet again to their new, secured network home. Once the copy command is given, the process just chugs and chugs and chugs, interminably. I leave my computer on when I depart the office for the day and it keeps on chugging. Occasionally a problematic file throws an error and I answer the computer’s prompt about retrying or skipping, and onward it chugs. Eventually it processes through the tens of thousands of files and then I select another set of different files and those get copied.

I’m about halfway done, and hopeful that part of what’s taken this long has been some trial and error about exactly what the network traffic can and cannot accommodate in terms of my excess data demands, so this week might very well see the completion of everything (in this round, at least, the “copying down”, not to be confused with the subsequent “copying up”) now that I know what I’m doing. And to a certain extent I’m oversimplifying, as there’s more to be done than just mindless file replication, but the other tasks that need doing are ones which - even now, after all of my jumping through hoop after hoop this entire year to be certified compliant and whatnot - I am not allowed or enabled to do myself. All I can do is spell out what I need and request that someone else with the proper access perform these tasks for me. And if they don’t do so in a timely fashion, then I have to ask repeatedly.

This, it goes without saying, is inherently frustrating, but it also rankles me because it goes against every best practice that I’ve figured out for myself over the years of my career. Namely, (1) do not be a nuisance, and (2) be extra nice to the IT guys. Nuisance-avoidance is self-evidently a good idea for a number of reasons: when your supervisor performs your annual review, you don’t want them to latch onto any negativity, nor do you ever want to get caught up in petty office politics stemming from your co-workers finding you intolerable. Keep your head down, get your work done right and on time, that’s what’s worked for me. And because most jobs, especially mine, require functional IT equipment in order to be performed, it’s in everyone’s best interest to stay on IT’s good side. And it’s very easy to get on their bad side! They often find themselves needed by people who don’t understand what they do or how the things they are responsible for actually work. I, at a minimum, know enough to avoid the explicitly annoying questions like “Well can’t you just make it work?” as if the IT guys were magical computer-whisperers who are prone to feeling sullen and obstinate and taking it out on others.

I know that keeping an entire corporate infrastructure up and running is a demanding job. I know that clueless users are supremely irritating. I am usually more than willing to cut the IT guys a lot of slack, sympathize with them, and ask them if there’s anything I can do to help them out just as often as I ask them to help me out. And by and large the dividends get paid on the regular. When I do in fact need a big favor, I can call it in.

Now, however, I feel like I have little choice than to be acutely unreasonable, to resort to every stereotypical squeaky-wheel approach I have always rolled my eyes at other people relying on. This project has simply dragged on too long for me to adopt my usual laid-back zen attitude. I asked for something to be done on Wednesday. By Friday it wasn’t done and I asked for a status follow-up. It still isn’t done today and I’m debating whether the weekend counts as 72 hours since my last inquiry or only 24. I don’t like thinking this way, I really don’t, and I like even less the thought of the disruptive impact it may have. I truly have no desire to burn any bridges, but I have even less desire to let this project continue to limp along if I can actually bring about faster results by pitching a bit of customer-entitlement fit. So I’ll probably just have to grit my teeth and do it.

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