Patience isn’t often a virtue in the tech industry, but here’s why it should be

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Let’s take the old patience adage and apply it to us techies. Allow me to use a recent personal example.

The other day, I was writing a PowerShell script that was automating the creation of a Windows Cluster. I don’t know a ton about Windows Clusters, so this required learning both the technology and how to automate it. It was extremely frustrating, to say the least. It was the end of the day and—I swear—there was an indentation in my desk where my forehead was repeatedly being placed. I was sick of it and just wanted it done. I was impatient to the point that I began throwing in code wherever it seemed like it might work.

I would write some code, and then watch it fail miserably. Admittedly, I would think as little as possible, change some stuff, and try it again only to see all that red error text on my screen. Really, I just wanted the thing to work – and to work quickly. The more I toiled with it the longer it took, and the angrier I’d get. It wasn’t until I finally gave up in frustration and came back to it the next day that the solution would suddenly manifest itself in my head, and the problem was solved. Sound familiar?

It’s the infamous case of another solution gained from a good night’s sleep. For system administrators, have you ever been in the middle of a downtime window at 3 a.m., performing a database migration only to have 100GB database fail halfway in? You’ve only got three more hours to either decide to roll back the change or press on. What are you going to do? Unfortunately, the problem is extremely difficult to pinpoint, and you’d be more than capable...if it weren’t 3 a.m. You troubleshoot, troubleshoot more and troubleshoot even more -- and you’re coming up empty handed. Nothing seems to work.

Suddenly, the metaphorical roosters are crowing and you’re still trying to get the migration done. You’re now past the point of no return. It’s going to be a long morning of fielding calls about why the database isn’t available (all while you’re still trying to bring over the data). If you’ve been in IT for more than a few years, I’m guessing that you know this story all too well. After a long day, your brain is fried. You have no capacity to troubleshoot your way out of a wet paper bag, let alone some complicated Oracle database schema that decided to start corrupting rows 54.89GB into the migration.

You realize later that you should have just rolled it back and lived to fight another day.

Tech pros seem to think that a solution is only minutes away when, in reality, it’s probably anything but. We all seem to believe that we’re more capable of more than we actually are, especially during the times we’re burned out. “It’s just this function needs tweaking, it won’t take that long at all,” or “I found this KB article which looks exactly like the problem I’m seeing. This should fix it.” These are just a couple mental conversations I’ve had before. We’re good problem solvers but we’re also human, which is to say that we’re good problem solvers when we’ve had enough sleep and we’re able to focus on the task at hand.

It’s easy to overlook the complexities you deal with every day. You’ve been neck-deep in code for years or have been managing Microsoft Exchange for over a decade and you think it’s no big deal. At some point, you think that you can fix just about anything. What you don’t realize is that you just might be able to fix anything….if you’ve got the time and the mental cycles. You’re not going to come to any sane conclusions after being up all night high on pizza and energy drinks. Your brain and your body need rest. Allow yourself to truly rejuvenate and you might even be surprised at your own problem-solving skills.

Bottom line? Put it down. It’ll be there tomorrow.

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Adam Bertram

is an independent consultant, technical writer, trainer and presenter. Adam specializes in consulting and evangelizing all things IT automation mainly focused around Windows PowerShell. Adam is a Microsoft Windows PowerShell MVP, 2015 PowerShell hero and has numerous Microsoft IT pro certifications. He is a writer, trainer and presenter and authors IT pro course content for Pluralsight. He is also a regular contributor to numerous print and online publications and presents at various user groups and conferences. You can find Adam at his site listed below or on Twitter at @adbertram.