Though this first crisis was over, I was actually terrified at being so responsible for a critical business function and being so unprepared for it. I resolved to master this program and the entire millions of lines of code that it encompassed. I could not do that, however, without first mastering the business function ”the warehouse system ”itself.
My manager took me to a local warehouse and walked me through every stage of the customer order being picked, bar-code scanned, and packed into cartons. By seeing the actual business function being performed, I could much more easily visualize what the computer programs that automated the function should do. Then the many programs that I had to learn, support, and enhance made much more sense to me, as they were simply the procedures that some programmer had automated as source text in a computer program rather than in a procedures manual.
I learned the warehouse business function by watching a single packer scanning items into a carton, much the way a supermarket cashier scans and packs groceries. What I couldn t see or visualize was all the detailed information generated by the hundreds of other packers in warehouses far remote from the IT department. In a warehouse environment there are crisis-creating events that not even a good project design can anticipate ”scanner, scale, or conveyor problems; power outages; inaccurate labeling; poor bar-code quality. And, of course, human frailty: trainee packers getting the job done in ways no programmer could anticipate; packers abandoning their unpacked carton after getting a phone call. Unexpected warehouse events that could potentially cause problems show that new issues can occur months and years after a system is implemented, and are missed in even a good project design.
I worked hard at being able to see exactly what every packer did, including every pick-ticket he worked on, every item he scanned, and every mistake he made, and exactly when he made it. I kept track of details by putting in Hello statements for everything that happened in that RF scanning program, and then in virtually every other complex program that I had to understand, support, and enhance. I couldn t hear what the packers said when they got those phone calls, but everything they did in the packing process was mine to see and master.
It all ended well.
There s not much you can do prevent experiencing major stress in an intensely focused, high-responsibility, high-pressure job. So you soldier on ”with medication , meditation, or, when you get home, the blood-pressure-lowering benefits of long sessions in an easy chair with the cat on your lap. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that stress produces adrenalin, and adrenaline can galvanize you into action that boosts your career.