Parents say the darnedest things...

Date May 10, 2011

I don't have kids, which for whatever reason, makes me hyper-aware that people who do always seem to talk about their kids. Like, a lot. It's "Bobby did this", or "Janie said that", or whatever. On a scientific, detached level, I understand. You're proud of your offspring, and you want to discuss that with people. I get that. Heck, I've met most of my coworkers' kids, and I like them, so I don't mind hearing about them. But I've noticed that parents never really get tired of talking about them, and could probably do it for days straight. I've never really had that inclination.

Until now.

My replacement successor (my coworkers keep correcting me, despite my continued efforts) started today, and we began what I can only assume is a multiweek endeavor to have me teach him everything about the existing network.

I originally looked at this as sort of a necessary evil; something to get done so that the real work (by him) could get done later...but after a day, I may have to mentally change my tune. As it turns out, I'm way, way more annoying that even the most talkative parent with the most precocious child could ever be.

Since I'm essentially being paid to talk about my network to someone who is being paid to listen, I have no disincentives to stop, slow, or even hesitate. I'm in the middle of an hour long description of the file server architecture and you show interest in the previous attempts at cluster config? Heck yeah I'll spend another 20 minutes telling you in-depth how bad it sucked! Do I know what the run rate is on the filesystem growth for the user directories? Nope, lets find out! Oh, you want to hear about the Nagios config? Terrific! But lets pick up lunch first, because this is going to take a while. No, it's cool, I'll walk you through the basics on the elevator

Seriously, I talked about my infrastructure for four hours straight today. I have no excuse. I could probably have doubled that and not broken a sweat or gotten tired of hearing myself talk about our setup.

In th end, it all serves a purpose, and it's for the best that I pass on as much information as possible. Today was mostly an introduction to the general infrastructure layout, how the networks are arranged, and generally speaking, how the business of the company is conducted.

I'm working on "lesson plans", for lack of a better term, which will provide a structured path by which we can concentrate on a deep dive in a particular subject, and I can explain, from stem to stern, how the service or topic works. If I do it in the right order, the later lessons can build on earlier ones, and there's a better chance for retention.

I have less than a month to transfer everything I know about the infrastructure to my successor. This would all be much easier if we had one of those Matrix-style jacks in our heads.

  • http://www.funnelfiasco.com Ben C

    Bender, are you jacking on in there?

  • http://telecom-and-it.blogspot.com/ AJ L.

    What you are giving in information though is a rarity I feel in todays industry. Many times I hear about how people take a job in our fields and maybe get to sit with the person that they are replacing for a few days at best....most of the time not at all because the company dragged its feet in replacement process.

  • Sean

    Hey there,
    As a parent and sysadmin I can relate to both examples of yacking above. :^)

    Thought I'd chime in from the parent side referenced above. I talk about my kids because I'm proud sometimes, but mostly it's just a socialization thing. Raising kids becomes your new hobby (most of your others fall away due to the time required to raise a kid) so you do a lot of note comparing, etc. with other parents and it just carries over into the rest of your life.

    Thanks for your blog!

    Sean

  • http://itforme.wordpress.com/ Pete

    Enjoyable. I've been there before. If it's a commentary on anything, it should be that everyone, in every position inre to IT should be obligated to provide design documentation. Keeps the need for the poor new guy to remember everything to a minimum. ...I cannot live without OneNote for this reason alone.

  • http://blog.jorijn.com/ Jorijn

    People tend to talk about the things they're proud of. I too can talk for hours about the complex systems I made. I'm sure my collegues are really irritated by my "Oh! Did you know X can do Y?" for when I'm working on something I find interesting.

    Don't feel bad. This is human behaviour.

  • http://www.paulgraydon.co.uk Twirrim

    I guess I could yack on for a little while about the infrastructure at work.. but it's not really mine. I'd love to overhaul it and make it mine, but I haven't had the time yet to even start to do more than scratch the surface of redesign. As such it's like talking about an abusive ex-partner... short, terse sentences :D

  • http://www.rackaid.com/resources/ jeffatrackaid

    What I find intriguing is the sense of ownership and pride IT workers, especially web developers and sysadmins, develop with their projects. Certainly, nothing wrong in being proud of a job well done, but the product is more nebulous than a Dodge Truck.

    Developing solutions to difficult IT challenges requires a certain amount of intellect, perseverance, and creativity, so why not show off those traits.

    When sysadmins gush over "their networks," I think they are simply showing their art to the world.

  • http://www.standalone-sysadmin.com Matt Simmons

    @Jeff

    You're not wrong. I also look at my network too much like a model railroad, too. Like Sean said above, parenting becomes a hobby, and since we're actually interested in what we do, our work runs the risk of becoming our hobby. Whether that's a bad thing or not probably depends on the environment (and the life you need or want to lead outside of work).

  • http://blog.rootmytoaster.org Kenny

    I don't think you've realized it yet, but your network is your baby, and that's why you can yack for hours about it. It's your kid, and you want everyone to know how proud you are of it. Up until the point it poops on your carpet.

  • http://www.standalone-sysadmin.com Matt Simmons

    Damnit Kenny, I hate it when you're right. Good call.

  • http://techslaves.org Ryan Thomson

    I received exactly zero face to face time with my predecessor despite the fact that his new position at the time was with our sister organization with whom we depend on greatly and interact with constantly. There was always some reason for him not to come by and talk me through the system. Sigh.

    Your successor is a lucky person!

  • Anthony

    The big thing to watch out for in these situations is not being offended, upset or otherwise too-attached to it when you hear later on that the new owner has changed, broken, disposed of, or otherwise altered 'your baby'.

    I find this all the time with software developers and sysadmins and network architects - even when the change is an improvement they often start behaving like overprotective parents about something which in reality isn't even their own possession.