Nerd Journey 047: You, Your Health, and the Datacenter With Keiran Shelden Pt. 2

Welcome to episode 47 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two VMware Solution Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss Keiran Shelden’s article, "You, Your Health, and the Datacenter".

Original Recording Date: 07-05-2019

This discussion is partly a follow up to Keiran’s blog on You, Your Health, and the Datacenter.

Topic – Keiran Shelden’s Blog Post on Experiencing Burnout

01:46 – Context of the Blog post

  • The article was a brain dump from the day after he finished a massive project.
  • The business needed to downsize its infrastructure by the end of the month to save money, and Keiran was in charge of the decommissioning.
    • He managed the list of customers affected and communicating the maintenance window to them, how the servers were wired and configured, and took on the role of actually doing the decommissioning (required he visit the datacenter).
    • In the last week of the project he had to go out to the datacenter every night (60 hours in 4 days).
      • The entire process was extremely draining physically and mentally.
      • He still tried to carry his normal workload during all of this, would not take breaks, and just kept going.
      • Keiran finally realized "I can’t do that. I have stretched myself to my limits."
      • On the final night, he asked someone to come and help instead of carrying the burden alone, and he has not forgotten the lesson that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

08:58 Project Failure vs. Personal Health Failure

  • The project was not a disaster but just very fragile (i.e. caused Keiran to push himself to the limits).
    • Keiran got sick after the project was finished and considers this a failure.
    • We as employees want to go beyond at times and do our very best, but putting yourself at risk is never a good idea.

11:56 Personal Risk Factors for Burnout

  • Keiran’s story resonates with a number of us in the technology space.
    • In a previous role, Keiran’s technical mistakes began to haunt him.
    • When presented with this particular project, Keiran felt the need to prove to himself and others that he could see it through successfully.
    • Experiences in our past have the potential to haunt us later in life.
      • Keiran cites a book by Osher Gunsberg, which you can find here, that resonated with him on this topic.
    • In the real world, having the realization of a problem is the first step to solving it (unlike in the movies).
    • Keiran mentions the fears and nervousness that come in regard to public speaking (as well as being on this podcast). It’s something many of us can understand.
      • John cites two modes of thought…storytelling mode and experiential mode…and the inability to be in both simultaneously. Can you relate? Source:Pragmatic Thinking and Learning – Refactor Your Wetware by Andy Hunt Section 3.1 – Your Dual-CPU Modes
      • After Keiran put the blog post on Twitter, he felt it may be helpful to deliver his experience as a presentation but has not yet done it.
        • Send Keiran a Tweet, and encourage him to submit this presentation for a user group talk!

26:45 Reflections and Learning

  • We peel back the onion further on Keiran’s experience
    • Working all night or all day can be a strain on your family. Keiran (just like many of us) continues to focus on work / life balance.
    • "Why keep food on my table if I don’t have a family?"
    • In the month before this project, 3 people in different departments had left the company. Keiran did not effectively communicate his increase in workload to management.
      • Nick shares a similar experience and emphasizes management may not understand just how much work you’re doing.
    • Keiran shares a more recent experience in which he applied lessons learned from the 4-day project mentioned in his blog.
      • It was another case of being under resourced but was managed very differently despite a tight timeline.
    • Companies of all sizes have teams where there is a lack of redundancy in people and skills.
      • It’s all about a compromise when it comes to resources, people, and budget.
  • Additional lessons learned
    • For Keiran, ego was a problem. He discovered this issue while at his current employer.
      • He referenced failing some certification exams because of ego.
    • Look at yourself…reflect…know what you want to be able to achieve…know what the business is asking for…understand what other people are doing…get exposure to a number of technologies.
    • Keiran is discovering how software development works and how automation works.
      • He saw these areas as challenging and intimidating at first but has started to push past these perceptions by getting started.
      • Start small when it comes to automation.
      • John gives Keiran a homework assignment.
    • It’s not about the number of followers on social media but that you produce good content.

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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