Doodling to a Conclusion

The other night, I found myself doodling away. Whatever popped into my mind was whipped up badly on paper. It’s not something I’ve done in a very long time but this was one of the results:

The possibilities are endless…

While it was nice to get creative for the first time in a very long time, seeing the above image on paper made me realise one of the long term side-effects of working in technology. For a long time, I was known as the person so laid back, that I’m almost horizontal. Issues arise, I take a look and help navigate through them.

The downside is that so much experience in seeing even the most well-planned change trip up does a number on you. It’s hard not to become anxious or paranoid that something will go wrong. It has in the past after all: flash storage failures turn a network config change into a day-long outage, broken fuse holders require an 11th hour trip to Maplin to allow a live radio show with McBusted to go ahead.

With a recent house move, I saw the same pattern – what if the bank doesn’t release the funds? What if the developer goes under with only weeks to go? Things never quite go to plan and some smaller things did go wrong (who’d have thought a brand new motorised valve could fail) but we’re in the new place and enjoying it.

At work, you eventually get to the point where you’re afraid of doing anything in production. The queue of angry people will get rather long outside your office (well, virtual office in today’s world) for even the slightest hiccup. Being communicative helps but once you’ve been associated with an outage or two, whether your fault or not, you’re damaged goods. It’s a lot of work improving things for people to ignore that one day you stopped the organisation working.

Even in my current line of work writing software rather than supporting it, I see the same pattern. There’s a data contract but we’ve got no evidence the third parties follow it the same way we do. What if we go live and this medical system can’t read messages from laboratories? It’s a genuine concern being tackled but adds to the pile of things that can go wrong.

That pile, much like in the drawing above, can be thought of more like a tree. There are endless possible combinations of things that can go right and wrong. You don’t know what branch you’ll end up on but you try to be ready. Though odds are it’ll be the one little thing you didn’t plan for that bites you.

The result of all this is a calm exterior but a worrying interior. It’s unfortunately an attitude you can pass on – just ask my wife about the “what ifs” I’ve planted in her head over the years. So, how do we fix it?

I’m no expert but my views are:

  • Try to be more creative. Find an positive outlet – like that show I’m piloting on Solid Radio in May, drawing, photography, writing, etc.
  • Realise things can and will go wrong – but you can’t have a plan for all of them. Be naive again and try to ingore some of the possibilities.
  • Move away from the coal face. Being hands on has its place but with enough flack from all directions can lead to turning bitter, angry and to dark places.

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