Published in The Business News on July 18th, 2022
Back in 2011, I climbed a mountain. There are plenty of lessons to learn from climbing a mountain, with themes including hard work, perseverance and preparation. For this article, I am going to focus on something that is a bit more on the nose, and use it as an analogy: The top of the mountain is only half way.
For the actual mountain, this is pretty simple. Don’t burn all of your energy and resources getting to the top, because you still have to descend. Unless your plan is to setup shop and live up there, the top was only halfway to your goal. Now relating to the figurative mountains that we face, the key here is to be patient, disciplined and see tasks through to successful completion.
Putting The Analogy In Practice
For example, when upgrading network hardware, you will have many steps and goals along the way. Your preparation comes in many forms. The skills you grow every day, by simply doing your job, is preparation for the complex projects of the future. Prep also includes researching proper hardware before ordering. The top of this mountain requires that telecommunications traffic is segmented out via VLAN, so an unmanaged switch is going to do you no good.
Your prep time should take longer than your install time. When you are in the middle of it, you won’t rationalize steps. Prep time is cool and relaxed, and it is your opportunity to work through every scenario. If you prepare successfully, the climb (or install in this case) will go much smoother.
Prep includes the analysis of current configurations, review of new equipment specifications, mapping out a plan for install, including finding 1u of space in a crowded cabinet, cabling and contingency plans. Patience and discipline, perseverance and preparation are the things that separate the professionally mature admins, from the rush and react kids.
When You’ve Reached The Top
For this scenario, the top of the mountain is getting that new network appliance installed. Testing connections and ensuring that everything works well and looks great is your top of the mountain dance. It’s probably 8:00 PM on a Friday at this point and you are anxious to head out. Your cabling is attractive, your VLANS work and all devices on the network are accessing internal and external network locations. Top of the mountain reached and it’s time to go home. Nice work.
But, the top of the mountain is only halfway. That anxious feeling that you can’t escape is because you are going to spend the weekend sleeping at 10,364 feet above sea level. Oxygen is thin and your heart rate is elevated. That’s a mountain analogy but the reality is that you know the bottom of the mountain, and success, is when your business or client is able to work on Monday morning.
Installing a network appliance is not the goal. The business working and benefiting from the upgrade is the goal. The decent down the mountain is the work that you put in, after the network appliance is installed.
Working Your Way Down
As you work your way down the mountain, you take steps to ensure success. On Saturday, you remote connect to the network and confirm that all of your configurations are still in place. You know, from your research and preparation, that modern network appliances can pull configurations from other appliances on the network. The work that you did Friday night, could have been overwritten overnight. It’s unlikely, because you planned for this, but it is possible, so you take the necessary steps to make sure.
On Sunday, you have a couple coworkers or client employees stopping by the office to test their equipment. Can their laptop reach the Internet? How about internal applications and documents? Did we test the phone; can we call internal and external numbers?
I always test with Time and Temperature. (920) 734-0123. It’s one of the only numbers that I remember form when I was a kid. It is an automated message that gives you the date, time and temperature. Try it out and enjoy the nostalgia. Who else rented Howard The Duck on VHS, from Video Visions?
You are getting close to the bottom of the mountain, as we roll into Monday. To finish strong, you are up early and onsite to provide any necessary support and confirm functionality. There is always something that slips through, and no IT project ever goes exactly to plan. Being there Monday morning ensures a successful completion to your project and your total mountain climb experience.
Whatever your goals are, make sure that you consider the entire task and experience. A network appliance that work is the top of the mountain. A business that works and benefits from technology is the entire climb, from top to bottom.