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Hi. I'm a Unix Administrator, mathematics enthusiast, and amateur philosopher. This is where I rant about that which upsets me, laugh about that which amuses me, and jabber about that which holds my interest most: Unix.
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Atypical Friday

Posted 03-06-2015 at 10:17 PM by rocket357
Updated 03-06-2015 at 10:37 PM by rocket357

Ok, so it wasn't like vmccord's Friday, more like a "light my hair on fire and run around like a madman" kind of Friday.

Started off like any other, then I got pulled in to a new candidate interview loop. First one, shadowing a guy who is much more experienced in interviewing (at Amazon, at least). So far so good. Interview, even though it was short notice, went ok. Not that I have much to compare to (except for my interview process, perhaps), but it happened, and it seemed pretty normal. On a side note, when I interviewed at Google many years ago, they told me Amazon interviews were absolutely brutal by comparison. I can't say either way, honestly, as my interview at Amazon was successful (though rough), whereas my interview with Google failed spectacularly.

Post-interview is when it all went strangely south.

I had an hour to give my feedback on the candidate, basically writing up a full report of how the interview went, my thoughts, observations, etc... to be weighed in with other feedback. It was just before lunch time, and I had a surprise meeting at noon, so I grabbed my lunch and started stuffing my face while I wrote the report. Finished up just before it was time to head out to the meeting. Oh, the report was due *at* the meeting.

The guy I shadowed (I'll call him "Shadow Tech"...sounds cool) during the interview had mentioned the building name and floor/room number for the post-interview meeting (the noon meeting), and I swear I wrote it down correctly on my notepad that I used to take notes during the interview. I *swear* I wrote it down correctly. Finished up my report, realized I'd best hurry to get to the right building (Amazon's "campus" is basically a huge chunk of downtown Seattle). Raced down to the street and headed out to the other building. Left my laptop at my desk, because afterall, I wrote the floor and room number down, right?

When I arrived at the correct floor/room, I noticed a meeting already in session. I didn't want to interrupt, so I looked for Shadow Tech...couldn't find him through the glass door. Crap. According to my phone, I'm three minutes early...so perhaps this meeting will adjourn and my team will meet here.

Three minutes passes. Wrong meeting shows no sign of stopping. Worse, my team is nowhere to be found.

I realize the room number is incorrect. I race back down to the street, head back to my office building, grab my laptop (should have done that the first time around), check for messages. Shadow Tech hasn't messaged me...ok, they're probably waiting for me.

I race back to the other building, finally get to the correct room, and burst in the door apologizing for being late. Shadow Tech looks at me strange.

"I sent you a message...the meeting has..."

Beep!

I look down at my laptop (which for some reason just finished reconnecting) and see a message from shadow tech. "Meeting has been postponed until Monday." Crap. That could have saved me a lot of running if only it had arrived just a few minutes earlier.

I look up to the room of startled faces and smile. Apologies come pouring out of my mouth and I get back out in the hall as quickly as possible. Ugh. Embarrassment isn't something I tend to feel, it isn't something that bothers me. How my co-workers perceive me, though, is important to me...and their current perception of me isn't what I'd prefer they think of me. Chalk that up to "lack of preparation" and move on. I still have a case queue to watch while my fellow case queue watcher goes for *his* first round of new candidate interviews...

Speaking of which, when I got back to the office the case queue was on fire. Fellow queue watcher is panic'd and nods to the contacts monitor, then says something about Shadow Tech called for me a bit ago. Stuff is waiting. I mumble a line about no rest for the weary, dock my laptop, and start handling customer contacts. After the initial jump in contacts was under control, fellow queue watcher has to leave to make it on time to his interview loop. At this point, I realize that I will have to pull people off of other queues if I get overwhelmed...seems entirely unfair, but that's the name of the game.

Hours go by of another contact rolling in just as I finish up the previous contact. I never get behind, but I never get even a 30 second break to take a breath. Before I know it, fellow queue watcher is back, and handling cases with me, and I get a quick break to go grab a coffee from the kitchen.

It's office coffee...in Seattle. It's a dichotomy of the pinnacle and the pits. I still haven't wrapped my head around this stuff...but I drink it regardless.

Back at my desk with hot coffee in hand, another call rolls in. It's a customer I've dealt with before, and in fact he's calling about a case I happened to have worked with him on before. Long story short, they have a VPN that isn't doing exactly what they expect. For the past few weeks it has been giving them headaches. Routing is a bit..."micromanaged" on their network. He seems a bit relieved and irritated that I answered the call. They're doing things in a very non-standard way, and I'm patient enough to assist him with this bizarre setup, but we've worked on it before and it's still broken. I can't tell if he wants to cry or not.

I ask him to do a screen sharing session and have him sketch out the network on their side so I can have all of the information I need. He does so, explaining each subnet and router, every bit that needs to reach AWS. It's not *quite* as complex as I expected, but it's enough that I'm taking notes.

Then, while we're reviewing his configuration, I notice a very minor detail that I managed to overlook before. So simple, so silly. I mention it in passing, and even predict which subnet the misconfiguration resides in. He pauses for a bit, then exclaims "if this fixes it, I'm throwing you a parade, Jonathon."

I step him through the reconfigure, and hold my breath as he logs into an instance in the broken subnet. All of his network reachability tests pass. In disbelief, he logs into another instance, which passes network reachability checks...so he logs into another, which passes network reachability checks (note, these are custom monitoring checks that his company has put in place, not the AWS instance reachability checks). Customer is in disbelief, but it dawns on him. The problem that has plagued them for weeks now...it's *gone*.

These are the moments that make my job awesome. It's Friday afternoon, I have a customer leaping for joy on the phone (so much so that I can hear his office mates hooping and hollering about not having to work this weekend), and my boss happens to be sitting at the desk across from me.

"Jonathon!" the customer yells, "You rock, man! I tell you what, instead of that parade, I'm ordering you to take the rest of the day off! You earned it!"

I laugh and tell him that I doubt my boss would agree. My boss cocks his head to the side with an inquisitive look.

I congratulate the customer on a working config, and end the call. My boss is still looking at me intently.

"So," I say to my boss, "we here at Amazon take customer obsession very seriously, right?"

"Indeed we do." he replies.

"So, if a customer *orders* me to take the rest of the day off for helping them fix a problem that has plagued their business for weeks..."

My boss laughs. I laugh. He laughs harder. I laugh harder. He says no.

Well, I tried. =)

A few more calls later it's nearing the end of the day, so I wrap up my cases and head to the bus station. While I'm waiting, reflecting on what a long strange day it's been, someone runs up and starts screaming at me. He's an older guy. He's pointing at a couple that walked past and he's screaming something about Communists and the end of the world. My eyebrows are as high up as they can go, and I'm nodding even though my brain is screaming "RUUUUUUUUUUUUN!!"

I don't normally hug my family quite as hard as I did tonight when I got home, but really, I needed that.
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