The Search for Something Else
After about three and a half years in software support, there could be no doubt that I needed to mix things up.
My options appeared to be:
- Search for a new position within the company
- Seek a complete career change
- Tough it out indefinitely, while finding ways to make the current gig more bearable.
The path of least resistance was option 1, so I jumped on that first.
At SoftwareCompany there were three primary lines of promotion for people in technical support — management, debugging, and quality assurance (qa).
I ruled out management because a) I wanted to stay technical and b) I disliked most of the managers at SoftwareCompany and couldn’t envision a future which involved spending a lot more time with those folks. QA was also out; the division had just shed 50% of its staff over the past three years as the NASDAQ fell. Apparently people who ensure product reliability are deemed to be fairly expendable in tough times, because they’re not customer facing.
This left debugging. I had a pretty good friend on the team, a guy in his mid thirties from the UK that I’m going to call Special Debugger 007 because he had a British accent on account of him being from England, and he managed to wiggle out of problem after problem, seemingly unscathed.
I took 007 out for dinner so I could get the dirt on his position.
I started out by stating that I was getting burnt on support, but more importantly, boredom was creeping in and I needed new challenges. (Note that the whole thing about challenges was total bullshit. I find myself automatically saying PC nonsense like this because I worry that if I simply state I want job X because it’s easier that people will see me as lazy. And I don’t want to be perceived that way.) Anyway, I ask how he likes debugging and if he’d recommend it at all.
He goes nuts, transforming from a semi-relaxed dude slumping against a chair to a wide-eyed lunatic on the edge of his seat in under a second. It’s like I just dosed him with PCP.
Do I like debugging? Do I like debugging?!?!
Yeah, man, do you?
Do you like being shit on every day?
No need to get nasty. Is it so bad?
Well, we’ve had a reduction in staff over the past two years but at the same time our workload has objectively increased by 30%. I’m working most nights, parts of weekends, and can’t think about anything other than work for more than an hour at a time. I thought about a bug in the middle of making out with my wife the other night. Who does that? WHO DOES THAT??
OK, I hear you. Everyone has too much work. I get that. What about the work itself — do you like the function?
Look, you’ve done a crossword puzzle right?
Well yeah, of course. Everyone has.
Because debugging is kind of like solving crossword puzzles where the answers are all interconnected and you have some but not others. And not only are you solving your own puzzle but it’s relationally linked to four other crossword puzzles which were solved by other people. Now here’s the complete shit part. Those crosswords filled out by other people may not have been done correctly. They think their answers were right, but maybe they’re not. So your solution, even if correct, doesn’t fit in the space because some other letter is blocking you.
Now you’re not just solving your own puzzle, but you’re fact-checking answers for other people and you absolutely depend on their responses when doing your own work. You can’t even necessarily find those people to ask them questions about the solutions they entered. Maybe they’re in another country, or they’ve left the company altogether.
Ok, so at that point I’d just fill out whatever answer occurred to me.
Well, you can’t do that because your answer may break their answers. There are all of these goddamned dependencies, everything relates to everything else in one way or another and if you don’t understand that relationship I guarantee that something will bust apart and then the QA folks are going to be on your ass about it. So now you’re not just doing the crossword, you’re also required to memorize a few hundred crossword puzzles that someone else completed. Does it sound like fun yet?
Still, that just sounds like basic problem solving to me, maybe even with some creativity involved. Because when you don’t have all of the requisite information, you have to make best-case choices with incomplete data. That’s better than what I do because when things aren’t going well on a ticket, then a customer is yelling directly into my ear. That’s what support is all about, you know.
You think no one’s shouting at debuggers? Are you shitting me?
Dude, no need to yell. Keep calm and have another beer.
Everyone’s screaming their head off all day. I got support guys on one side asking when fixes are going to be available for issues they’ve filed. I’ve got managers on top of me telling me I have too many bugs to fix and cracking the whip. Behind me I’ve got account reps who are asking for favors so I work on this bug instead of that bug so they can look good for a particular customer. And then I’ve got QA guys telling me my fixes have broken something so I have to re-open old bugs and start from scratch again. It’s fucking bollocks.
Seriously, 007, calm down. Look, we’ll change the subject, nice and easy. How about them San Francisco 49ers?
I bloody hate American football.
I’ve suddenly lost all interest in doing what Special Debugger 007 is doing.
At SoftwareCompany, apparently work sucks for everyone.