Sunday, 7 October 2012

Not too often I hope

This was supposed to be written last night.  In fact this *was* written last night - or at least started - but didn't have time to finish...

Picture a 1930's art-deco school in the middle of the night.  It is in complete darkness, the gates to the school playground unlock with a couple of loud clicks and the well oiled gates swing open almost silently.

A car swings into the playground, the headlights illuminating the intricate pattern of the bricks in the walls and picking up the detailing that the architect put into the building. Still the headlights swing and now they are pointed at the wall made of a lattice work of windows.  The shadows creep and jump over the walls, door and equipment contained within.

Eventually the car creeps to a halt and a lone woman gets out.  The cold hits her like sledgehammer - could it really only be a few weeks ago that she was standing in the garden at a similar time of night taking photographs of the stars? She collects her handbag from the back seat of the car and picks up a blanket as well against the cold.

She clicks her way across to the building door and unlocks it, once inside she locks it behind her - the click of the lock amplified by the tiled floors and walls.  The alarm beeps, echoing around the hallway as she turns it off.

As she turns on the hallway light the unearthly glow from the emergency signs is replaced by lights from large ball lamps hanging from the ceiling. Oddly, she thinks, this does nothing to diminish the gloom in the hallway, it simply makes it more visible.

The walk to her office has a number of locked doors, each lock echoing around the hallway the same as the last. When the office door is opened it is almost pitch black within.  Just the flashing LED's of network equipment and monitor buttons shining out from the darkness.

She presses the switch and lights flicker on. She walks around the room, slides into her chair and logs in to her computer.  The keyboard then echos around the room.  It's an old building, one that settles in the evening cold.  Clicks and small bangs echo around the place.

Then suddenly!  A strange noise, not quite a voice, but not a building noise either.  It doesn't stop - bangs to happen as well.  She picks up her keys and takes a look out of the room into the pitch black school yard. Two figures are standing next to the door - thank god!  It's the DBA and web master!

I don't like being in old buildings by myself, I have a very active imagination (when you don't want it to be!) and each bang, squeak and click goes all the way down my spine!  So I was not really happy that I was the first person to arrive at the office last night.  It was dark, windy and my head decided that it would be great to freak me out by pointing out all of the spookiness that an old school can conjure up.

We were there as a major project was about to go live and we needed to do it at a time when people would not be using our website - as a web site the last thing you want to do is have people see the dreaded 'Maintenance' page.

Over the next hour lots of people turned up - technical people involved in the project and managers and directors who had responsibility for this going well. My manager brought in home made quiche and burgers, the finance director had sushi with him - which is what we started with.

After the first hour we had to test the entire site. Originally I was one of the people just turning up as I have responsibility for the site running well, but our tester could not make the weekend and so I offered to take his role as I was going to be there anyway. The tests went well; there were problems - that were solved - and once I was happy we called in all of our product managers.

Over the next hour they all did detailed tests ensuring that the site worked to their expectations.  A couple of minor things were found, and again fixed (always the sign of a good test - find something that is broken, rather than letting users find it the next day ;p). And eventually at just gone 2am the last product manager was finished and we were ready for our definitive go live!  Cue champagne (that I could only have a sip of as I was driving home)  and speeches from the finance director.

It was a great evening, and great to say that it was something we I been a part of. One of the things I love about the company I work for is that people pull together when needed to make sure that things run smoothly.

All the same though; after only having 5 hours sleep I hope it doesn't happen too often!


  1. Congratulations on a clean migration! :-)

    1. Thanks - for such a major enterprise it's been very successful! (Knock on wood, spin round three times, and hope the DB cluster doesn't fail over again tonight!)


  2. Stace, the way you started off this post really got me hooked on reading all of it. I do know how scary a lonely dark building can be at night. Been there, done that in the work that I do.

    Sounds like you have a first class team. Congratulations!

    Calie xxx

    1. Thanks Calie! When the mood gets me I love writing small descriptive passages. And my imagination went into overtime on Saturday evening, so I though I's try and put it to good use :)

      It was a great team on the night. IT, ICT and Product Managers all coming together to make sure everything worked. As people have commented this week, it's not nice having to work at that time in the weekend (well ever) but the atmosphere make it quite an enjoyable evening in the end.