2018-12-15 The One About Old Dogs and New Tricks

Ok.. I’ve really tried the last couple weeks to keep the ranting to a minimum, but if something is bothering me, I just have to get it out. Perhaps the answer is just to write about it and then throw it away, but somehow that’s not as cathartic. As the title of this post might suggest, it has something to do with my age, and the challenge of taking on something new. I’m this case, I’m talking about work.

You know, I didn’t ask for this. I’m trying very hard to be a team player but the level of micromanagement in the face of my being a newbie with this current project is starting to get to me. When I was hired, it was to be a technical writer. I was going to working behind the scenes on documentation, which is totally in my wheelhouse. I was also hired for my high standards when it comes to repeatable process and continued process improvement, and my experience in the software development process. Everything from one end to the other and starting at the beginning again, over and over.

It’s a cyclical process. Issues are discovered and new requests come in (with an established application anyway). You work to document, collaborate with devs to make those changes, then you test the shit out of it, then deploy. That repeats over and over. I’m very familiar with this within the context of my last job.

It helped that I was a subject matter expert in what the software was supposed to do, and learning the app I was supporting came easy. I digress.

My new contract deals with most of the same data, but that’s where the similarities end. There’s not a defined process and my role is so undefined. I’m a month in and my role is still fuzzy… that’s fucked up. Am I a PM? No, because one of the other people on the team is largely filling that role (though she refuses to acknowledge or adopt the project timeline I was asked to develop). Whatever. 🙄

My role seems to be more of a SQL dev, because that’s how we are extracting the data and formatting it. But I have very limited experience in that and there is also absolutely no process in place though the company has had “teams” do this like 6 times already. All of it is other people’s heads, primarily my boss.

I was told that my role in the contract was defined as project liaison and, like I said, that’s not happening. I’m ok with that – I hate being the “front man” anyway. As I’ve been introduced in meetings I’ve been introduced as the data expert doing the “heavy lifting” of analysis, running scripts, and operationalizing the process for the data conversion. Again, I’m no expert in a process that is contained within someone else’s head, so that feels like a fabrication.

I have all the credentials to log in and access all the tools and resources now and I’m really just getting started with some smaller requests. We’re currently just doing analysis. My SQL knowledge goes like this.. 1. Find the tables and fields 2. Start with a basic select * and inner joins. 3. Add in qualifiers. 4. Limit, sort, group as needed.

These SQLs I was given copies of are hundreds of lines, creating schema and doing tons of formatting and logic/case statements on the data. That is ALL new to me. I’m ok with learning it, as long as they are ok with the fact that the learning curve takes time. On one hand my boss is saying they are totally ok with that, but when we work together he has zero patience (and a very low tolerance for things being done differently than he would do them).

So yesterday, I have a working session with my boss. It’s to go over the server and confirm all the tools and start setting things up. At least that was my intent. We get 3 minutes in and he’s all like “we’re not ready for that yet. We won’t be doing the ETL project setup for a few months”. I’m all like “ohhhh Kay”. So then what? I know, let’s work on transferring some of the canned scripts to the server.

For one, I don’t know what scripts he wants me to start with, so I’m dependent on him for retrieving those. There’s no standard library of scripts and according to him, the best source is the lastest customer because they are always making improvements. Again I’m like “ohhhh Kay”. He logs into the other customer (which I obviously can’t do on my own), and saves them to google drive.

From there, I can pick up the scripts and put them on the local server I’m working on. But no. That’s not right/good enough. I’m told it would be better for me to download the google drive app that lets you navigate the folders and files through a traditional windows window instead of in the browser. So we go down a path to set that up. Mind you, I didn’t even know this was a thing and he assures me I’ll “love it”.

By this time, he’s controlling my desktop and driving the session and doing things so fast, I’m not really learning, just watching. He’s insisting sql mgmt studio access the drive files directly and not store things on the local server. I’m not an idiot.. I know the reason for this is so other people can update the scripts on the drive without access to the server. By now, he knows my skill level and probably has no confidence in my ability to do the job.

He’s even gone so far as to ask the customer for his own login credentials. In my mind that sends a clear message to the customer that I’m not capable. I guess I should be ok with that since I’m not capable. Well, I AM completely capable but right now I’m on a learning curve. The problem with that is that when you hire contractors, you expect to have experts, not people learning in the job.

By the end of the session yesterday, he was driving so fast I could not keep up and had truly gotten frustrated with that. It made me feel like a puppet. I’m the one with the login credentials and just sitting there while he was working away. That makes me the ultimate front man. Ick!

Then I ask myself, “ohhhh Kay, what now?”. Do I just keep doing what I’m doing, which is the best that I can? I guess. What choice do I have? I guess we’ll see how next week goes.

I suppose another factor that I should not gloss over, is that this is my last contract like this and there are other unknowns, like how many of these type of projects are left in the industry. Just by the very specific nature of the beast, there may not be many. So how much effort do you put into defining a repeatable process. That IS something I’m good at, but not a part of my job description in this case. So where’s my value? I don’t like feeling like a puppet or a person who is not adding any value. We all want to feel like we are adding value in our jobs. That’s part of job satisfaction. Again, I guess I’ll just wait and see how things unfold.

I swear, if we have another working session where he completely takes control of my machine and just starts doing the work, I’m gonna lose it. I’m really not an old dog and I’m certainly smart enough to learn new tricks, but what’s my motivation. Maybe it’s less about my motivation and more about this strange dynamic between my boss and I. I dunno. 🤷‍♀️

Wow… that’s quite a rant indeed. I’m not sure if getting all this out now is doing any good. (I should just delete it). I feel like composing an email, but my instincts are telling me to hold off on doing that too. It’s Saturday and I should be focusing on my Christmas shopping and hanging with the kids. I should be relaxing and NOT thinking about work. I’m gonna go try and do that now.

Flame Off,

~Miss SugarCookie

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