Nothirdber Vem Tine Thwosend Nu

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I was going to write about the guy who cornered me while on my bikeride home, but it’s obviously not totally processed for me, so I’m gonna have to sit on that story for another day.

We’re watching the Grapes of Wrath, and just heard the “I’ll be there” speech.  My brain keeps trying to treat it like some sorta documentary.

“Then I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be ever’where—wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there… I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’—I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folk eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build—why, I’ll be there.”

Then I remembered hearing this piece by Mario Savio

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.” – December 2, 1964

And I think about activisty types, and I wonder if they were scared.  Were they aware what they were doing was dangerous to the establishment, or were they just trucking along and doing what they figured needed to be done?  I suspect maybe it was a little of column A and a little of column B, and that they may have started out thinking “Okaaaay here we go…” and ended up starting each morning thinking “Okay, what’s left to do?”

I think I started shaking the tree a little when I was at BigCo, because I had a nice long conversation with my manager, during which he kept asking me why I hadn’t applied for the position of Desktop Manager (have I told you guys this story before?) and talking about Military Presence and Royal Jelly and a number of other things that I had never thought would apply to me, and that got me thinking about it.  A few weeks later, when I was transferred from my little outpost at Blackbox to the Mothership, I lead a meeting in which I started out by asking the following question off the top of my head:

“Anyone hate their job?”

That question was literally met with a couple of jaw drops, and a nice long uncomfortable silence.  I thought maybe I’d overdone it.  Maybe I’d gone too far, and maybe I’d outed myself as someone who enjoys a good overdramatic moment.  I knew there’d been a problem at the Mothership with morale, and that the existing Desktop Manager was away (he was on his way out, and he knew it), so I figured this was our moment to find out what was making things difficult for this group of people who were keeping the systems running so the artists and programmers could keep doing their thing.

What slowly happened, once they realized that I wasn’t trying to create a bitch & moan session, was that we started talking about the stuff that was bugging us.  We were being driven by our numbers.  By statistics.  Not actual deadlines for real things.  Nothing that would cause stress and then let up, but just these magical numbers that could be manipulated by those who were willing to fudge a little here and there, and could be ignored by the higher-ups the second something happened that was outside of what they thought should be happening.  It was eye-opening.  It was somehow good for us all, I hope.  It was good for me, even though I didn’t get anything out of it personally.

Eventually, the current Desktop Manager was shuffled off, and a new one was hired.  I got the distinct impression that she’d been told/warned that I was someone who she should talk to, and that I had information about some of the things that were causing friction and problems in the department (and outside of it).  We sat down and had a good long talk, and then she hit me with this:

“Please don’t organize them.”

It turned out that someone, somewhere, high up enough in the system had noticed that maybe I was one of those people who’d unwittingly made the shift from “How do I start?” to “What else needs doing?” when it came to making myself and those around me start taking themselves and their work environment seriously.  They thought I was going to try to unionize EA’s desktop support team.  Even better, they thought that if I tried to do it, it might work.  I was flabbergasted.  I’m not entirely sure I even responded to the request to not do it.  I’d often said that the job was hard enough as it was without also having to deal with outside stuff that had NOTHING to do with our jobs and everything to do with the lifeblood of that place: Politics.

At my next job, there was no politics.  No, that’s not true.  There was politics, but we in IT generally didn’t see it, thanks to a great head of the department.  It meant that I could just dig in and have those “What else needs doing” moments more and more often.

Today, at the new job, I got a little piece of news that something I’d (mostly) penned was getting really positive reviews.  That people liked it, that it was changing the way staff was perceiving IT.  As we all know when you work in an “Overhead” department, perception is reality.  If they THINK you’re doing a bad job, you are.  Simple as that.

Today I heard that there was one thing that was clearly being seen as being done right.  Something that was shining a positive light on the department.  Difficult to do, when your department is generally invisible unless something is going wrong.

So yeah.  Today was good.  Now I just need to work on whatever’s next to make that keep happening about once a week, and we’ll start getting more and more of those good moments, I hope.  It helps, when so much of the studio requires hardware and software to “just work,” if the IT department are seen more as some crazed pit crew instead of the punching bag of the company.

No Movember photos yet, but once they start, you’ll see what’s happening on my face.  It’ll either be subtle, or I’ll end up looking like some weird cross between Billy Idol and a motorcycle cop from 1982.  Are you scared?  As Yoda would say “You will be.”

Posted on November 3rd 2009 in General
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