Posted by Josh | Posted in GTD, Life As A DBA, SQL Server, The Rookie DBA, Uncategorized | Posted on 08-10-2010
Tags: documentation, GTD, T-SQL Tuesday, vacation
Background: T-SQL Tuesday is the brainchild of Adam Machanic (Blog|Twitter) and is described as “the SQL Server blogosphere’s first recurring, revolving blog party. The idea is simple: Each month a blog will host the party, and about a week before the second Tuesday of the month a theme will be posted. Any blogger that wishes to participate is invited to write a post on the chosen topic.”
This month’s theme: “Beach Time”, hosted by Jason Brimhall (blog | twitter). Basically, we’re being asked to write about “What do you do prior to ‘Beach Time’ to ensure that the beach time will not involve work.”
This is actually a good topic for me, as last month I took the longest consecutive vacation of my working life at two full weeks. It was challenging to get everything in order before leaving, and I did get a phone call once (ironically on the first day off), but all in all my team did great work and kept all my projects in good order while I was gone (with one minor exception, but that was at least partially my fault as you’ll see).
So how did I pull this extended absence off?
I documented the status of all my projects, including what was outstanding from others and what needed to be done while I was gone.
We have a wonderful SharePoint site where we keep all our projects listed and have detailed status notes on all of them. This means that if any one of us ever had to suddenly be out for an extended period of time, someone else could just glance over their list and pick up where they left off.
This reminds me strongly of one of my GTD habits: keep things in lists and not in your head. By forcing us (and yes, I do sometimes neglect it a little, hence my first (but only) phone call) to keep this updated, we don’t have to rely on our memory to keep track of what’s on our plates.
I made sure my runbooks were up to date.
Just before I left, I closed out a major phase of a project to build a massive data warehouse containing PerfMon data for all the SQL servers we support. It’s a complex system with multiple inputs and moving pieces. Because of this, I made sure the write up a thorough document detailing the ins and outs of the system, including architecture and troubleshooting steps. No way was I being called when I was away because this thing broke.
Now as it turns out, the system did fail while I was gone, but was unnoticed! And while my teammates sheepishly admitted that they missed the alerts and should have at least dug into them a little further, I also took responsibility for not ensuring they (the alerts) were a) urgent enough to be noticed, b) clear enough to tell the reader where to get more information.
Once I was gone, I made damn sure I was very hard to get in touch with.
While I am the first to admit I have a pretty bad addiction to my Crackberry, when I’m on paid vacation I strictly enforce the “no e-mail rule”. I go so far as to actually turn off the mail synchronization on my phone and make it clear in my out of office that I will not be checking my mail at any time during my absence. Only my teammates know my phone number and they are told they can call me if absolutely necessary, but that I may not immediately respond. While I do tend to take my work laptop, that’s only because it’s also my playground for testing SQL related things, and I do not connect to the office.
Being selfish? Maybe a little, but hey, it’s my vacation time and I’m damn well going to enjoy it and not waste it working. That being said, on this last vacation I did end up working for about 3 hours, but that was wholly my fault for not properly documenting something before I left.
I have a great, strong team around me.
While this may not have much directly to do with me, I consider it a crucial factor in vacation success. If your team can’t hold down the fort, even given good documentation, then you’re pretty much sunk. I’ve been in those situations before, and let’s be honest: it sucks. There’s few things in the world more maddening than getting called on vacation because “Mr. So and So is here and he says you told him X, but that doesn’t make sense?”, especially when your conversations with Mr. So and So are explicitly detailed in writing, and readily accessible to your teammates. That’s a real example by the way, from my time as a retail store manager. Let’s just say that individual got politely redirected to where I kept a log of all my conversations, along with a gentle reminder that I was not to be disturbed. Thankfully, this is not the case where I am now, and I am eternally grateful for the hard work and dedication of my fellow DBAs.