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IT Operations

On the Road: Business Travel, Fall 2008

Execution, with some elements of Inspiration

I don’t travel a significant amount in my current position, but when I do, it seems to come in chunks. I’m about half way through a round of travel this fall – mostly business, but with some personal travel mixed in. Six cities, three countries in less than four months. Some observations at the halfway point …

@ the Data Center: The Surreal Life

I’m finishing this entry around 4am – just off my second night in a row on the “late shift” for our Disaster Recovery (DR) exercise [Note: final edits and post mid-day, after I got home]. I’ve been deep in the “bunker” – a highly secured building with acres of processors, busily working away for any number of companies. No matter what city you are in (even New York!), the traffic is very light between 1 and 3am! And I’m definitely on a different cycle than the majority; yesterday morning, I got off the elevator heading out, and some late-night revelers were stumbling to their rooms after their own “late shift” at the local night spots. No fun like that for the IT folks – gotta keep the brain waves clear, working the checklists.

I’ve got an easy role; I’m a Shift Manager, just the “manager-in-charge” for the time I’m on. The techs are doing all the heavy lifting, although I get to join in the chorus should we need to escalate anything with our DR hosts. That, and making sure the folks trying to tough it out and go 20+ hours straight are not falling asleep at their consoles. The general preference is to work in the windowless rooms – time goes faster when you can’t see the beautiful weather outside. Added bonus – excellent bandwidth to the Internet, which makes it a much better place to work than the hotel room. There are also less distractions (junk daytime TV), and plenty of free food. Alas, that’s the other  difficult thing to manage when on the road – gotta watch the calories!

Staying Healthy

I’m getting too old to party much on these business trips. Typically, I’ve got some emails, presentations, or other such stuff to work on during my off time. I can’t always count on a decent health club / fitness room – I don’t typically stay at the high price joints, but every once in a while I’ll luck out and find an elliptical. However, I do like to walk around in the cities that I visit – big or small, always good to get a sense of the place.

Healthy eating is the other big challenge – typically, I’m eating in restaurants, and most American eateries serve up oversize portions that don’t help the cause. In general, I find I don’t gain much during most trips – never out long enough to develop any seriously bad habits. Unfortunately for this trip, the data center kitchen is always well stocked – has to be, the DR team is working a 24×7 task plan with a ton of stuff to get done in the allotted time. Gotta feed folks well to keep them awake and happy – lots of water, too.

The Crash of 2008, as seen from the Night Shift

It’s a strange sensation, working on a weekend project that really destroys your regular schedule – makes following the news of the week a bit disjointed. And what a week – the Dow lost more value than any other week in history. As we wait in the airport, rest in the hotel, or stare at the consoles as tapes load, conversation can wander towards events in the financial and business world – and this adds to the feeling of disconnectedness. It’s almost too big to comprehend – but the blogosphere is nicely provides a nuanced, multi-faceted view of the situation, stuff that really makes you think.

Staying Connected

I must say, traveling over the last 2 years has been a joy, now that I’m armed with my Blackberry Pearl and the Internet. I’ve downloaded the Google Maps application, and while my Pearl doesn’t have GPS, it can swag my location by triangulating against cell phone towers. I never get lost, and it’s easy to find the right spot to eat, shop, or visit. I was surprised to find out my current location has no pancake houses near the downtown area. Disappointing …

When you can get a decent connection, the Internet lessens that disconnected feeling. These days, I get the majority of my news from websites and blogs, and those stay comfortably constant, no matter where I’m at. Interesting sensation: the environment has changed considerably, but you are just as connected as when you are sitting at home.

Soon, it’s time to load up the van and head for the airport – and another round of experimentation with Ping.fm. I’ve been experimenting off and on with Twitter again, and since I’ve recently made the leap and started a page on Facebook, I thought I’d also try this multiple status updater. Note that I don’t send travelogue updates to LinkedIn – as I’ve noted before, the “what am I doing” feature doesn’t seem to be used much by my network, so I’m sure that the group doesn’t care to know when I take off and land. I assume Facebook will become my semi-professional, friends-and-family social network, while LinkedIn stays all business. Twitter? Well, I’m still not sure how relevant that is to me, but I’ll ping stuff every once in a while. I do like Ping.fm’s ability to quickly toggle parts of your notification list – I will Ping all (including LinkedIn) when I post to this blog, but the “social” stuff doesn’t go to the business network.

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