Cogs in the Machine

This year I think I am finally off the big project I have worked on for the last 15 years. That was quite a run. Now that I have jumped around to a couple teams, I am seeing a different dynamic on the folks that work a project.

When I first joined my long lasting project, there were over 60 people on it. We were broken down into assorted teams. But if you paid attention, you pretty much would know everyone on the whole project. Might not interact directly with each one. But you would at least know them.

After a while, the project downsized a couple times. The steady state seemed to be 40+ people. Upwards of 45 team members. I still knew just about everyone on the team. Then I branched over to a future project that is to be built. Met a lot of people. Did not spend long on the project. But there were many hands. It did not feel like a unified team. I guess maybe because it wasn't.

Now I am on a huge project. There are 250 to 300 people total. I worked once on a project this big. But I knew almost all the people on that prior huge project. This time I just know my team of 7 or 8. We are very compartmentalized. It is kind of weird. Really focused on our specific task in the system.

The jury is not out whether this localized model is better or not. I will find out. Just an observation.

Life as a DBA

I rolled off my old project last year. They seemed to be out of money, at least for me. I did a short stint on an analysis gig. Then that job changed its requirements and I was again looking for work. My manager told me I could return to my old project, but in a different capacity. I would be on the DBA team.

So I reported to the lead DBA. He gave me a task. I hit the ground running and we figured out a problem that plagued the team for over a month. Win. My new team lead was going on a long vacation. He put me in charge of a database task. I was ready to make some progress.

Turns out I don't have the privileges to do the things I need to do in the development database. There are some other DBAs that handle that. Okay. I did some prep work for testing. Then I scheduled up a meeting with the DBAs in charge. We went nowhere fast. They apparently would run scripts on our behalf. Ok...

I had another developer write up some scripts. The DBA pulled it up onto the UNIX box and he kept getting Korn shell errors. The file was there. Ksh kept complaining that it could not find the file. I left the DBA to figure out the details. Turns out he uploaded the file in the wrong mode. The lines were terminated incorrectly. Doh.

I decided to take a look at the script files. The author put a tar file on the UNIX box. I grabbed a copy and tried to extract the files. He gave me instructions to extra via a tar -cvf. I tried a couple times. Tar kept giving me errors. This seemed like deja vu. Luckily I stepped back and read up on how tar works. Turns out that command was similar to the compression. I needed a tar -xvf. And I was off to the races.

Certified Network Pro

I talked with a couple guys who interviewed me for an interesting project. They could not tell me the specifics on the applications I would be developing. When pressed, they said learning to be a Certified Ethical Hacker would be of some use to understanding the problem domain. Great. Never heard of it. But my school has a whole cyber security track that leads up to the certification.

So I started at the beginning. Enrolled in a course called Network+. It turns out that this first course  prepares you for a introductory Network+ certification. The more the merrier I guess. There was no traditional textbook for this class. I purchased access to some online TestOut site. Initially I thought that was a rip off. Over $125 for access to a web site?

Turns out the $125 was actually money well spent. The site has detailed simulations for network activities. They simulate office buildings, completed with hardware and Windows operating systems. They even have some Windows Server installations you need to navigate. This is much easier that buying a bunch of hardware and setting up networks in my basement.

The cost of the subscription also gave me a voucher to take a Network Pro certification exam. This is different than the CompTIA Network+ cert. I had not heard of Network Pro before. My instructor says it is more common over in Europe. Okay. The Network Pro emphasizes hands on knowledge of choosing the best hardware and debugging real network problems.

Powering Through

I want to go work on this cool project at my company. Need to jump through some hoops to get prepared. I asked the guys on the team if there were any industry certifications that would help prepare me for the job. They all told me CEH.

Never heard of it. Apparently it stands for Certified Ethical Hacker. Sounds juicy. When needing training, my first stop is my local community college. I was in luck. They actually have a track that ends up getting you prepared for a CEH. Unfortunately it takes a whopping five classes to get you there.

I went to the department chair and asked what I should do. She referred me to the cyber security guy. He told me to start at the beginning with Network+. That class prepares you to pass the CompTIA Network+ Certification. It is entry level. Should be a breeze.

Nope. To start, the class I signed up for was an accelerated one. That means it only meets for half the semester. It is scheduled for two nights a week, four hours a pop. That's not the hard part. The assignments are brutal. I took some short cuts and got through most chapters for the week in a couple hours. The last one took almost 10 hours.

I heard another guy in the class. He works a full time job like me. He said he did all the work, and the last chapter took 20 hours for him. We read a couple chapters a week. Who has time for this? I can only imagine the regular paced classes are not as bad. There is only one thing to do at this point - power through the material.

Down a Slippery Slope

I recently moved to a project where I am doing analysis full time. No software development. No coding. Oh the horror. But hey, it pays the bills.

There are some good things about the job. I get a captive audience when I speak on a system that I know well. People are very interested when you know what you are talking about.

Here is the downer. The customer wants project management now, not analysis. Doh! If I stay, I will be figuring out releases. Not that I cannot perform such tasks, but do I want to?

This might be my opportunity. Run for the hills and get back to my true love - software development.

Going for Analysis

I am now off the project I have been on for the last 15 years. Got moved over to a new one. The new project plans to replace parts of the old project I worked on. Guess I am a good guy to talk to if you need to know what the system does.

The downside to my new task is that I do zero development. No programming is involved. My products are Excel spreadsheets, live demos of the application, and system requirement captured in Microsoft Word. Not too exciting for someone like me who likes to code a lot.

I do see some of the value in what I am doing. They people trying to design the new replacement system do not know a lot about the old system. That could make it quite difficult to do their jobs.

Luckily this analysis position is not the end game for me. I plan to eventually move onto a C++ Windows application position. However that job requires some security clearances that I have applied for but not been granted yet. I am biding my time, remaining billable (and receiving a paycheck).

The Trick User Interface

I use a computer provided by my customer to do all my work on the project. Guess this is due to security. The configuration of this computer is on lock down. Only approved software can be installed. Originally system administrators handled all software installs. Now that responsibility seems to be delegated to users themselves.

Our project has some software requirements tracking software from IBM Rational called ReqPro. I don't have the software. We have a separate requirements/analysis team on our project. They all have this software. Some other security team did an audit and found people like myself without direct access to the requirements. Not good. Now my mission is to install ReqPro on my machine.

So what do I do? My manager said call the customer help desk and have them open up a ticket for the install. I tried that twice. They refused. LOL. I ended up submitting a ticket online for the install. Then I got word that my access to the software was approved, and I was supposed to download and install the thing.

I accessed our Symmantec Software Portal, which knows what software I am authorized to grab. I selected the Rational Utility Selector. This brought up  a window in my browser to schedule an install. The only problem was that I could not see any OK button to confirm my request. The window was a weird one in my browser. It would not leave the client area of the browser window. I could not scroll in the window. What gives?

I tried to change my screen resolution in the hope that I could see the whole window. Nope. Screen resolution maxed out. Then I figured I might be able to change the Zoom ratio in my browser. That did the trick. Are these guys trying to prevent me from installing the software? So I get an install scheduled. After a few minutes, a program starts up. I choose to install my software. Then I get an error message stating that my machine is not authorized to get this software.

Oh boy. I can't take this much fun.