Rusty Divine

Live, Love, Learn, Teach

Down to business

Part four of a series of storied experiences on a small project at a large consulting company in the Pacific Northwest.

It was Monday, and I was finally starting to feel at peace with my job and personal life. Friday's confrontation with Robert ended amiable enough with an agreement that we were basically on the same page; the problem was that we didn't know each other well enough yet for trust and understanding to develop. Even the confrontation started building our understanding of each other and brining us closer together as a team instead of driving a wedge between us.

I took the elevator up two stories to the fifth floor where Robert's office is, and waited for him to finish a phone call. While sitting in an adjacent common area staring at a wall-sized white board scribbled with notes, I took stock of my feelings. Although I had harbored waves of viewpoints taking me from angst for my career, to self-righteousness, to apathy, and back again over the weekend, I had finally found the calm of melding them in appropriate proportions.

"Are you finished?" I asked, as I stood in the doorway. Robert had just finished one call, but had a dial tone buzzing out through the speaker phone.

"Sure, come in, I will just be a second," he replied as he dialed a number and had a gave an answer to someone on the other end before promising to call back later.

I had come up to discuss the plan for brining in two developers from the Portland office to help out with the DTX and CPUD projects. Before we got into that though, Robert tested the water with his toe, "I just wanted to say that I think you guys are doing a great job on CPUD. I think we will cut into our profit a little on this job, but instead of asking for the extra $12K," money that we knew they had in contingency for the project we were working on, "I want to show them our integrity and not grab that cookie, even though I think they are waiting for us to do so."

I nodded and agreed. "I think we can really show them what our IT department can do on this project," he continued. "They've worked with our company's other departments, but this is the first experience they've had with us, which is why I want to impress them by brining this project in on schedule, too."

Understanding the undertone referring to last Friday's conversation about working overtime, I answered to his meaning, "Yes, I've been thinking about that. I think the reason I was so upset was because you were asking me to enforce your schedule," a schedule that I had objected to during our internal kickoff meeting as way too tight, "If I made the schedule, I would feel more comfortable asking people to stick to it," as I said this I wondered if I would ask people to stick to my schedule even if it meant overtime, and realized with a tinge of disgust that I would; the difference being whether I had bought into the schedule or not. "I think since it's your schedule, you should ask the developers to work overtime."

"Well, it's not my schedule either," Robert replied with a chuckle as I remembered he was right. Robert had been brought into the project after that schedule had been set by the client and to a lesser extent, our analyst who closed the deal. Feeling somewhat sheepish, I acknowledged that it wasn't. "But I understand, and I will ask them, no problem."

"Thanks," I said, "I realize now that it wasn't your schedule; I'm sorry that I had forgotten that it wasn't. Now, let me fill you in on Janet and Jon from the Portland office."

We talked and decided that Janet wasn't needed to help out on DTX; instead, I would finish the project myself and Jon from Portland would stay this week to help Ryan out on the CPUD project while I stayed on the periphery to answer questions.

I was relieved with how everything shook out, and headed back down to the team room to get to work on completing DTX. About a half hour later, Robert did come down and talk to Ryan and Jon about working overtime, and somewhat to my surprise, they both seemed eager to do it.

The rest of the week went very well for both projects. Ryan, a brand new employee at our company, had shown he could work independently and efficiently. He wasn't one to pester me with trivial questions; instead he had shown he was perfectly capable and competent to make all the little decisions that are necessary to bring a web application into being, from choosing colors to deciding the best way to implement a feature.

Jon showed a quiet and understated personality. He would ask probing questions like, "Do you want a person to be able to belong to two organizations?" And I'd start out answering, "Yes, some people may work out of two offices, which will each be treated as their own organization," and then sometimes I'd realize what he was getting at, "Ohh, I see, but then we'll need to do multiple templates for each," or some such realization, but usually he would then shine the light in on the problem.

On Robert's suggestion, I brought in some Krispy Kreme donuts one day for the crew, which were a nice perk for all of us. The next day, the guys gave me a coffee order and I went down to the café to get them their drinks. After that, I considered it a standing order and filled it every morning on my way to the team room.

Our team was really starting to jell, and the projects were both benefiting from it. By the end of the week, we were well prepared for the Alpha demonstration scheduled for the following Monday. We would use Net Meeting to do share our desktop with the client and walk through the application to get their comments.

Continued next week...

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