Keep swimming

Work has been…a challenge lately. I don’t think I’ve done anything so mentally challenging in quite awhile. I’ve essentially become a developer again, even though I never really was one even when I was one. And yet in an odd confluence of fate, I find myself oddly qualified to be doing precisely what I’m doing. Pieces are starting to come together in interesting ways.

Our company is getting ready to deploy a major system this fall as one of the first pieces in an enterprise-wide transformation intended to standardize and simplify our entire operation. The system is “off-the-shelf” software from a major vendor, but it’s highly configurable. I’m part of the configuration team, specifically assigned to creating links from the database to dynamic document templates to support our business cycle.

The trouble is that no one has ever asked for documentation of the complexity we’re asking for, and our vendor can’t really provide it. They’re usually just able to convince their customers to use their out-of-the-box forms, evidently. They do provide a great deal of user-customization resources within the system, but it seems increasingly apparent no one really pushes the envelope  with its capabilities. Not like we’re doing.

As a result I’m having to extend what they give us farther than it seems it intended to go–certainly farther than our consulting resource seems to be aware is possible. We’ll ask him how to do something in our weekly meeting, he’ll promise to find out, and by the time he comes back and tells us no one knows the answer I’ve already figured it out. Mind you, I’m not blowing my own horn so much as being disgusted that I seem to know the vendor’s system better than they do.

I have to admit, though, that much of my success is due to my odd career path. I’ve been a developer, tech support liaison, QA tester, project manager, editor, designer, business analyst, and entrepreneur through the years. Every one of those roles comes into play on this particular assignment. I’m finding my bag of tricks surprisingly adequate to the challenge.

Anyway, as a result (and now I am blowing my horn) I seem to have attracted some attention around work. This week another workgroup got frustrated with the vendor’s lack of progress on a key piece and challenged me to see if I could get it done before they could. I did. It took me two days, and they’re still not done. The project manager has been talking with my boss, and has requested me specifically to be part of the team maintaining the system once it’s deployed. This may turn into other opportunities down the road, but it would be premature to elaborate yet.

I will admit it feels very nice to be noticed. Though it’s not the job I was hired to do, and not the sort of work I ever thought I’d do again, I’m finding it quite enjoyable. Only the break-neck pace of the project keeps this from being the most fun I’ve had at work in a long time. I come home just drained from thinking so hard for extended periods. It’s been a steep learning curve, and even though it seems I’m nearing the top now, it’s not been long enough for it to become instinctive yet. Even the most basic bits of script can still break and cost me an hour troubleshooting and fixing it. Though I’m gaining speed, the deadline is still aggressive, and I can’t relax yet.

Work on my novel has slowed significantly. My mental exertions at work leave little mental energy and creativity for writing. Nor for blogging, present post excepted. I’ve tried to post, but I haven’t been able to think of much to say. Though I did warn you. I’m hoping things will even out a bit over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile I press forward, buoyed by the recognition and the possibility of turning this opportunity into even better opportunities down the road. A week ago I was getting pretty discouraged. This week has improved my perspective significantly. Like many things in life, if you keep pushing forward long enough things will get better.

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