Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Isolation and an opportunity to hit the pause button …

The biggest question we all have is whether business returns to normal. The global pandemic has seen change and with change a rethink in the way we work. So, what's next?

The view through the window can be distracting …

Are you happy to be working from home? Are you enjoying social distancing and the opportunity to work flexible hours? Realizing that it’s not all that bad to be in an environment where you can simply get up, wander between rooms and look out the window at neighbors all while casually attired? It’s a new world and even as we read more stories about whether or not we will see a return to practices of the past we wonder whether this will be the new norm for most of us.

The global pandemic isn’t something abstract. It’s not a story line to be read in a far-off newspaper. It’s not even a movie or television program. It’s real and because of the imminent danger to all of us, fortress home has become not just our hiding place but our new center of the universe. Boxes arrive at our doorstep almost daily even as our expertise in navigating e-commerce sites has improved. We change our passwords regularly even as we make sure our presence on social media isn’t ignored.

As for our IT industry, where we work has always been the subject of discussion among company founders, investors and HR managers. After all, take out the expense of an office and you have a lot more available cash for investing in what you really want to pursue – new products. And yet, what about our culture? What about our sense of belonging? What too of our desire to network even as we look for a possible change of career? Are we truly happy to be working from home?

I am writing this post not to be viewed as being knowledgeable in all things related to working from home. I am writing this post to encourage all those who are looking at what might come next. Not everyone has a passion for coding just as not everyone has a passion for writing. For almost all of our professional lives, there never has been an opportunity to hit the pause button and yet, here we are, looking into the screen and wondering is there something new to be explored?

As summer comes to an end it will see me completing 13 years of posting to this blog. At the request of the then ITUG board, I transitioned from writing a column for a traditional magazine to where I would be posting to a blog of the same name – Real Time View. You may have noted that the URL is itug-connection and this is a further reminder that it all started with ITUG and its then Connection magazine. However, that was a simple toe-in-the-water test that set the stage for what followed.

In an update for a client and as an exercise for my own education, I tallied up some 2,000 posts, articles and features. Most of them for digital publications but occasionally for traditional publications as well. These have appeared under my own name even as there have been numerous occasions where I have ghost written for others. There have been pictures, graphs and charts included in the posts as have PowerPoint slides all done to help develop the story line of the day.

I started this endeavor with the support of my colleagues at GoldenGate who were initially more than amused to see me putting it all out there for everyone to read. Amusing that is in the sense that well, having to come up with a story line every couple of days meant I had to draw on recent experiences and that led to some offbeat topics. But eventually, it came together and now, with three or four posts a month, there is an audience ready and willing to read each post.

GoldenGate may have been at the start of this endeavor but shortly after starting to blog GoldenGate was bought by Oracle that saw me at home, in an alcove, staring at my home office computer. It was a simple laptop with a keyboard and a screen. Even so, I felt obliged to keep on posting and as I did so, my changed circumstances let me explore new career opportunities I had never previously contemplated pursuing. Call it a transition to being an independent blogger who was joining the “gig economy.”

It was early fall, 2009, and a plan formed that I fine-tuned for the remainder of 2009. It involved finding sponsors to pay for my attendance at RUG events and to get support for speaking engagements. This came about and it led to my participation at the Darmstadt, Germany, GTUG event. Participation saw my plans put into action and, to this day, I consider that event as the start to my new rather different career. As I look back at what transpired it was still touch and go as to whether I could deliver value.

At the time I was working out of my wife, Margo, and my part-time Simi Valley, CA, condo but a short time later, we moved back to our permanent home in Niwot, CO. The office was more substantial, with a lot more space to wander around plus the view out the windows was so much better. Inspiration for more stories? I like to think so, but I also have to admit they were often times as much a distraction as they were inspirational. But then again, we call it a home office for a reason and it was nice to be home.

The most important aspect of working out of a home office is developing a routine. There are obvious distractions, naturally enough, and no matter where we reside, there will always be the unexpected. Yet it is important to set aside time to work whether it’s developing a new application, fleshing out important infrastructure or simply writing a post to a blog site you support. Routines may not define us but they sure do help us follow the plan. Routines help clear the mind for what task is at hand.

Having written 2,000 plus stories has meant that on average, two stories a day needed work. The NonStop community has never been averse to work and a quick look around the NonStop vendor community that even now focuses on NonStop and you can tell that a lot of heavy lifting has been done to bring products to market. You can also tell that this involves a global presence and contributions come from offices everywhere on the planet. Vendors tap skill sets wherever they can be found.

The global pandemic will be winding down sometime soon. Social distancing may be less important in the months ahead. The impetus to leave our homes and head to the office will be strong. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear that many of you didn’t return to a traditional way of working. No more cubes and shared spaces and no more water-cooler conversations. Do we even still do that? I can’t tell as I don’t have a water cooler.  

The Sydney Morning Herald carried a story, A city of homebodies? How coronavirus will change Sydney and it has implications for us all. According to Kerry London, Dean of the School of Built Environment at Western Sydney University:

 “People have got back time in their lives through ‘commuting upstairs to their home office …  It has shown us a whole new way of working that allows us a greater measure of control if we are smart about it.”

David Sanderson, the Judith Neilson chair in Architecture at the University of NSW, went further:

 “I don’t think people will forget how awful commuting is … It would be astonishing if it doesn’t have some impact on middle-class people who can afford to work from home.”

Whether we stop commuting or not, what will remain as important as ever is to find our niche. Find what you like to do and before you hit the play button, we do need to be sure of where our passions lie. While I have pursued a career in social media for over a decade, NonStop has been doing well for more than four decades and that isn’t anything to be scoffed at. No vendor does fault tolerance better than HPE with NonStop. So, as you hit that play button, is what you will face yet again what you truly want to do?    

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