All Change, All Change!

A lot has changed over the past few months. Anyone who’s been following my posts on mental health issues knows that I am currently dealing with depression and anxiety. My first major period of this was around 1999-2004. I’ve since been back on medication, and seeing the doctor about it, for about two years now. Although, truthfully, it had been brewing back up slowly for a few years prior to that.

2015’s Changes

This bring me up to the recent changes, as the ride only got rougher this year. Back in January, I ended up signed off work for a couple of weeks as I just wasn’t coping. Winter is always rough for me and this time around the Christmas break wasn’t enough to recharge my batteries. At the time it was discussed that a change in medication would temporarily make things worse, which isn’t what I needed right then, but I was also referred for a therapy course – which I found useful.

Move forward two months, and I was due a followup appointment with the doctor anyway. Things were still rough so I asked about the possibility of changing my medication. It isn’t that it wasn’t doing anything, more that it wasn’t always able to do enough. When I went through a rougher patch, I was already on the highest dose so the doctors had no leeway.

March to May was, therefore, a very rough time. I was stepped down from the high dose to the regular dose of the first med which, inevitably, brought along side effects. Mild withdrawal combined with an increased level of overall anxiety, mixed in with a basic reduction in the effects of the medication.
Coping with work had been tough for a while anyway and it had to get worse before it got better. The end goal was the ability to cope better but the short-term effect was a weakening of all my defenses.

More Change on the Horizon

This is where my timeline gets hazy, as so much was going on (good and bad, work-based and personal) that I can’t recall the exact order of some aspects. And when you mix in things like medication changes, work stress, (multiple) family birthdays and the week-long Easter break at work, my emotions were sort of all over the place. Good, bad, calm, anxious, all at once.

Chaos.

Around April, I was switched to the new medication on its standard dose. I was also put on an as-required beta-blocker to deal with the anxiety spikes that I was dealing with.
It was also around that time that work announced that it was gearing up for a pretty large-scale restructure. In particular, the department I worked for was going to be effectively merged with one of the others. This does have a certain amount of logic behind it, and my particular job role wasn’t at risk from this, but it was another big change on top of everything else.

Trying to juggle mental health issues and work life had been a struggle for a while anyway and I think my brain sort of threw in the towel at that point. Even though the change itself would take “complete” in August, I could forsee our department being somewhat up in the air for a good year before it settled nicely into how things would be.

As with any large-scale restructure, they opened up requests for voluntary redundancy. I’d been there for just short of ten years, and had been looking at a bit of a change of focus for a while anyway, so I figured I’d apply.

It is also around early May that I was put on the next dose up on the new medication and things were starting to settle back down.

The. Big. Change.

My application was accepted. Good settlement. Fast turnaround – end of May. And, to be honest, no complaints from me. I wasn’t expecting to be finished already but I think I needed it to be that way. There was a sense of relief as it means that i didn’t have to go through a large-scale change of something familiar. If I’m going to have some changes, I’d rather go through changes.
Cue a couple of weeks of tying off tasks and writing up notes.

Yes, I am now officially out of work. I’ve got enough of a financial buffer to be able to jobseek without too much pressure for a while. I also intend to use the free time to finish building myself back up.

I need to continue to get my head straight. Getting some regular exercise and working on my physical health will be useful, too. I’ve not been in a good way for a while now, so I am taking this opportunity to work on getting myself “right”. I’ve been off work quite a lot over the past half a year or so, a mix of depression, exhaustion and regular illness. Any one of those would be easy-ish to deal with on their own but they tend to build on each other and pile up on top of me.
I need to get my head straight, improve my overall health (physical and mental health are linked, after all) and work out what direction I want to move my career in.

I intend to stick with IT, although I am planning to move into something less front-line and more project-based. I think that would suit both my temperament and my skills better. But, for now, I’m going to dip my toes into the job market and just keep a general eye on what’s out there.

Designed by Committee, Dictated from Above

Sometimes, at work, I sit through a project planning meeting or hear about one from a colleague and get the impression that project planning groups are a pointless exercise purely designed to tick specific criteria decided from On High and to then convince everyone else that this is the One True Way.

I could put this aside as my naturally cynical nature were it not for the entertainment industry doing its level best to prove me right. In fact, it is my hobbies and not my job that truly set my opinions.

So i go home at the end of a day. I finally get to do what I’ve been waiting to do all day, stick the TV on and wish for a world where dumbass decisions weren’t made…

Only I can’t. The very escapism i yearn is ruined by that very thing I’m attempting to escape. In games, in films, in TV shows. You see it in abandoned plotlines and odd character choices. In odd plot twists, or a contant adherence to the Status Quo without any thought of plot or character progression. Or in websites and services that ignore features that the user base actually wants, instead focussing on stupid social-interaction features that their current users don’t actually need.

It is Executive Meddling at its very best. An absolute conviction by Upper Management that they know exactly what is needed. That they know better than their fanbase or user base. “Thou Shalt Meet These Criteria”, even if the people actually using or watching their product want things to go in the complete opposite direction.

It’s the same sort of thinking that get series discontinued, or entertainment properties not brought over from one country to another. Some Suit thinking they know best.

I guess I was set in my thinking before I ever saw wat went on in planning meetings. Sadly, the reality of sitting through them coupled with games/films/TV still being screwed up form On High make it unlikely my opinions will cange any time soon.

I have nothing against changing my opinions on things for the better. It kind of helps, though, if I get to experience things that prove me wrong.
Not happening so far.

Time to Fix – Choosing Sides

So, what is it? Do things take time, as I keep stating, or do they get sorted straightaway? Both sides are mutually exclusive and it’s really reached a point where I have to fall hard on one side or the other.

Basically, Work and Personal lives are clashing over the whole concept of time-to-fix.

In the case of my home tech, when things don’t work it’s a case of “sit back and be patient”. Nothing can be done to speed things along. Whether it’s getting a phoneline installed or having said phoneline checked on behalf of my ISP owing to broadband failure. Right down to things waaaay outside my control like the PSN Store being down.
I don’t like it when things don’t work and I have to wait, but as I’m a techie by trade I accept that this is how things are. after all, haven’t I blogged to that effect a good few times here?

Problem is, I’m a techie by trade. End-users don’t like the idea of waiting. If it’s broken, it has to be fixed. Right now. Being without working tech is simply not an option. No way. no how.

Now on a personal level, I get where they’re coming from. It pisses me off to no end, as I mentioned above, when my stuff takes “too long” to get fixed. But that doens’t make it any quicker to fix. Or change my basic overview.

So basically, I have to choose one outlook and stick to it. As I can’t be one way at work and another way at home. It’s one of the other. Only, which do I chose?

Do I become an Unholy Terror towards any support-lines I have to contact? Taking noting short of “it’s done” as an answer? Refusing to accept the fact that things might involve an inconvenient level of downtime?
Or do I become totally unswayable at work? Reposing to every “urgent” query with “things take time to sort out” – and potentially getitng a bad reputation of being unhelpful.

I can’t be neither, though. That’s for certain. The idea of not only switching sides on a world-view but always taking the side that is going to cause more hassle for me is really not an option. As it’s doing my head in.

Budget Concerns

The recent UK Budget concerns me. I certainly think it spells major problems for where I work.

It’s not that I don’t see the Big Picture. I know that the economy is messed up, but I can’t see the proposed changes being a good thing at all. Maybe that’s to do with my job.

I work in University IT.

Back in 2007 we had a major restructure at work. So major it took a year from proposal to implementation. It was all in the interests of cutting costs. And, personally, I think we’re almost back on balance three years on. I certainly don’t see anywhere on campus that’s not struggling due to staffing levels. Admin staff were decimated. Or at least, it bloody well felt like it.

I’m sure the long-term big picture effects of it will turn out for the best. But i don’t see the higher-up view. i see things from shop-floor level. And that’s what I see with the budget. Public Sector cuts are going to have a major impact on universities. An impact I’m not sure all of them will survive. We’re not VAT exempt, and the state of technology is moving at a furious pace. And a pace that many students these days keep up with. And if we’re to keep up with them, maintaining the Student Experience, we’re going to be buying pricier kit with less funds. Fantastic.

Add in the inevitable Tuition Fee rises and the students, understandably, feel like customers. They demand a higher level of service. And, to be honest, why shouldn’t they when they’re paying for it? Problem is, we don’t see the money. Not really. They pay more, and expect more, and we get less with which to provide it.

Bollocks!

We’re being asked to perform better with less. It’s obvious that the Chancellor’s not a techie.
And, yes, I know I’m slightly biased here.
Occupational hazard – I never trust financial types with technical decisions.

So yeah. Tough times ahead. I’m pretty sure I do earn just enough to be hit by the pay freeze. And everyone gets hit by the VAT rise. Petrol prices will rocket. Oh, and I’m trying to move house this year. Make my first steps onto the property ladder.

Good job I don’t have a history of depression, (social) anxiety and stress. Oh, wait…

The long-term big picture may indeed improve. But all I can see is no end to the nightmare. The light at the end of the tunnel has been removed for the greater good.

Things still take time

I’ve said it before, I shall say it again.

Just because your work is stalled ‘cos your PC is broken does not mean we have any more time to fix it.

If you can’t afford the downtime, don’t get your machine virus infested in the first place.
Because maybe, just maybe, the time simply isn’t available to fix it yet.

Troubleshooting Woes

Sometimes I hate trying to use the Web to troubleshoot a problem. Whether it’s via a general search engine or a sites own internal search, it’s often impossible to find a decent solution.

Instead, I often find the following:

Try Option X

Which is all well and good, but I’ve usually already long-since tried that. By the time I search, I’ve already discounted this as a viable option.

Please Search Before Asking

Yes, thankyou Mr Forum Policeman. In an effort to reduce people re-asking the same problems, you’ve just diluted the efficiency of the searches you’ve just recommended. Often the true answer is hidden in a sea of hits for “please try searching first”.

Counterproductive, much?

Alternatives to using Y with Z

Congratulations! You’ve made it that much harder to try and find a solution to actually getting Y and Z to work by providing a very detailed webpage detailing exactly what I’m not looking for.

If I’m searching for a certain scenario using a specific product, the last thing I want is a hit for that scenario followed by:

Of course, I could use (insert product here)

That’s just polluting the search-space.

Training Woes

I’ve noticed an interesting aspect of in-house training for computer systems. You end up using a test logon with generic system access. The drawback with this is that it ends up being practical experience that is still largely theoretical.

As somebody who learns by doing, I really learn by doing. Yes, playing around with a test system gives me a damned site more useful information than merely reading a manual. The problem, though, is that it isn’t real experience.
For example, if my department does things a certain way, I really need to see the system set up the way it will be. I cannot get a full picture of how things are going to work if it doesn’t truly reflect how I’m going to actually use the system.

Things take time

OK. Here’s the deal. Things can take time to fix, or to set up. This is unavoidable. If your computer needs fixing, your IT department will need time to fix it. If really busy, it will take longer.

Now this is where people’s understanding of computers tends to break down. Your computer does not care how busy you are, or how inconvenient it is to do without it.
If it’s going to break, it’s going to break. If fixing it will take two days, then it’s going to be two days. It sucks, but it’s the way it is.

Now here is a little secret I’m going to reveal. And it has to be a secret, because it is incredibly clear to me that nobody is aware of this.
Saying how urgently you need something does not make it any faster to fix or implement. No, seriously. This is true.

I often get the distinct impression that people think that saying how urgently they need their computer either makes the problem easier to fix, or that it is a way to get their IT Support Staff on side. Especially after aforementioned staff have patiently explained why something is going to take as long as it will. Or why it needs doing. Or any other such reasoning.
Somehow every computer user thinks that by asking enough times, or stating their case, or going to the next line in management, that things will happen faster.

All that really happens is that they end up being told exactly the same thing, and prolonging the amount of time needed to get it done in the first place.

Oh and, whilst I’m at it, barging past the IT Manager to talk to one of the support team, and making said manager drop things… That really isn’t going to get your query seen to any faster.
And yes, I have known that to happen.

Customer Facing

There’s a reason that I chose IT Support as a career. I like technology. I seem to have some skill in that area. I like solving problems. I’m also, probably like many techies, a little bit stereotypical. I’m comfortable with computers, and not so great with people. At least, I’m not very good with the general public. People I’m used to, I’m fine with. Continue reading