Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Girl With Good Conditioner

Bunch of stuff going on. Wore me out enough that I only drove 70mph on the way home and didn't turn on the radio coming back from work at 10:30. Part of the reason for the late hour is due to me procrastinating, part due to a frontloaded schedule this week, part due to doctor's appointments, and part is plain not wanting to write my review.

Usually writing my review is like exercise - I don't particularly enjoy the moment, but afterward I feel better about myself. Not so much this time. We know already that we aren't getting raises. No big surprise there for anyone on the planet who has seen the economic news. And nothing like a layoff to make one feel better about still having a job. So my review just had to get done well enough to not look incompetent.

But what I felt like writing was something along the lines of, technically, I performed above average, but even so, I still have problems I cannot yet solve and I'm feeling impotent about that.

Basically, everything on my primary tool is possible if only about 4 novel things work. And for every damn option, only 3 things work. So it has been an exercise in frustration all around to be thwarted at every turn. Although I do seem to be making progress, I honestly thought I'd be done with this project in 2 months. In reality, it took me about 4 months to work out the basic recipe. (I tend to be optimistic about timelines so this isn't so bad.) But with extended use and larger loads, we got drifting. When the machine is supposed to make the same thing every time, drifting is bad.

I would probably not be feeling as impotent had I listened to my manager earlier and brought other people in. But my general experience this year went like so:
  • Tool is not performing to expectation
  • Do reasonable test runs and confirm there is no easy fix
  • Talk to boss who says "call vendor"
  • Start writing up assessment and query for vendor
  • Realize there are further reasonable, though not easy things to test
  • Abort vendor contact and run more tests
  • Muck about in the data and come up with tantalizing lead and more questions
  • Run more tests to answer questions
  • Tantalizing lead doesn't pan out. Come up with some answers and more questions
  • Talk to boss who says "call vendor"
  • Decide, no, I'm sure I'm very close to solving this
  • Run more test runs, get conflicting data
  • Stew around in data analysis for a while
  • Run my confusion by my boss again
  • She says "bring in the vendor" [implied: like I suggested to 2 months ago]
  • I finally call the vendor.
  • Vendor tells us "it usually runs like that" (perhaps my least favorite response, ever)
  • And yet, it still doesn't meet expectations.
  • But we still get some options to try that help make progress.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat.

So far when I talk to her, she asserts that I'm "persistent" but I feel that I've been unnecessarily obstructive by not bringing in my vendor sooner. I'm also working with an internal contractor (for lack of better term) who writes interface software, and I keep hearing her saying, "have you brought IT in on this yet?" Um, kinda. We chatted in the hall 1 week. We actually had a sitdown the next week. He gave me action items of stuff to find out. My equipment engineer called the vendor. They told him we "kind of but don't really have that functionality". Or, "we should have that functionality but the parts are obsolete". We could get around that if only these 4 things worked...

On the plus side, I got a sufficient process up and running on time for the qual timeline. I also got two other processes up and running, did a contamination study, am almost done qualifying an external processor, and sustained my regular tools pretty well. But for almost every thing I could have worked faster, done more.

I wonder, constantly, if I'm really doing a reasonable job, or if I'm coming off as half assed. Are my timeline expectations for myself reasonable or not? Certainly I was near to useless before the election. And had some part-timer feel after that before the shutdown. I do need breaks during the day, but I think I go overboard on that; I do need to be better about regulating my internet breaks (the modern smoke break). Still and all, I meet hard timelines, I get along with my colleagues, and I do honestly try to do good work. I stay late if I come in late or take a long lunch.

I'm not sure if it's a consolation that I'm even worse at home. The place isn't gruesome, but I thought I'd work on it more often than I do. Yet progress is being made. Health wise, I have high hopes for this nose and tonsil surgery. If it doesn't work, I'm going to need a new plan. Come to think of it, this tool at work reminds me of going to doctors. "We can find anything wrong." So what can I fix? Lather, rinse, repeat.

(Lyrics: Honest Bob, Your Shampoo)

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