2005-02-16

Work is Interesting

Today was an interesting day. Yesterday, the boss told us that starting today, we were going to split the support. This means that the morning person does support until 11:30, and does development type work in the afternoon. And the afternoon person had time in the morning, and would do support from 11:30 on.

I also had a big piece of programming to get done by this afternoon. I had come up with this idea for putting a wrapper around a 3rd party download program. This would allow us to automatically send emails after we do a file transfer. The big reason for the pressure is that we have over 900 jobs that do the type of file transfer we want to add emails. And we don't really have a budget to get it done. And my boss' boss really wants it done very quickly. So my boss promised his boss I would have a demo ready by this afternoon.

This would have been pretty tough in normal situations. But I had a number of things working against me. I had to do support for 5-1/2 hours. I had to come up with some brand new techniques. I had to make the solution that could be supported by others in the group. This was a tall order.

Yesterday I had successfully tested one solution. It wasn't the best for the group, but I think it was the best on short notice. To make sure we didn't have to make changes to 900 jobs, my wrapper program had to be able access files that were not pre-defined. This is not really possible in straight Cobol on the mainframe. I knew in theory it could be done with a relatively small assembler program, but I was not keen on that solution. It would mean coding in assembler, which I've done very little of on the mainframe. It would mean convincing others to accept my assembler code to move to production. It would mean selling the group on supporting the assembler code.

I wound up trying some C code. It seems there is a nice dynamic allocation function in C. It took a little searching to find the compiler. It took a few tries to get the code to work. But I managed to get a stand alone version working yesterday afternoon. So I was hopeful about being able to get a demo of some sort working today.

But I still had to test running the C sub-program from Cobol, calling the file-transfer program from Cobol and sending the email from Cobol. Not a short order in only part of a day. I managed to squeeze in getting the call of the C program to work correctly under Cobol during my morning work. And I managed to turn over a rather clean support slate. I think there was one ticket that came in about shift turnover - and no real emails.

Getting the C to work from Cobol turned out to be a little more challenging than I expected. I had some odd failures at first. I was afraid it wouldn't work for a little while. But I found the problem was related to passing parameters. Even though I wasn't passing any parameters, I had to code for parameters to keep it from blowing up. I had to code the standard C accept parameters instead of getting away with telling it to ignore them with void. And I had to pass an empty parameter list from Cobol to make it happy.

Calling the file-transfer program turned out to be pretty easy. I was hoping to call it by it's full path name, but I couldn't solve that in a short enough time. So instead I made a copy with a different name - and that worked fine!

Then I had to solve the email situation. I tried a few things, but wound up using a similar solution to what is already in place for a number of other jobs. It may not be very elegant, but it make it more supportable!

So I finally got it all to work. But I didn't feel like I could show it to my boss with some many things hard-coded and the Cobol program not looking very Cobol-ish with procedures. So I spent about 15 minutes making it nicer. Then I ran it through its paces. I printed it out. I hand-wrote some notes on the printouts to make it more understandable.

During this time, I overhear my boss a couple of cubes away talking about me. He is holding off his boss. You know you have a good boss when he takes the heat for you so you can get things done. About 5 minutes later I take my printout over to him to show off. But it seems he is leaving early. So he says we can look at it tomorrow. But then he asks me to write something up for his boss on it. But he immediately decided that writing isn;t good enough. It should be in flowcharts.

He asks me if I know Visio. I say that I do, as I've done a few things with Visio. He assumes I don't have it on my PC, and I agree that it isn't likely that it is on there [what with licensing costs]. So he brings up Visio on his PC and trusts me to work on his machine while he is gone. That makes me feel kinda good too!

So I draw up a chart of the process. I try to remember it is going to a manager ;-) So I make nice boxes of the flow. Not quite a flow chart - more of a process diagram - with boxes in boxes - comparing the current set to my solution. I also include a bunch of bullet points around the diagrams. I hope this goes over well. This might be my first big buy in to becoming an employee.

I certainly felt well skilled today. I was writing in different languages - I managed to handle my work load and even get a little project work done during the normal work. I was able to help out with our Unix and FTP issues. And all the shortcuts I have and have added for myself help a bunch.

But I still have a bunch to learn about the system. I am picking things up rather quickly, but still there is a lot of complexities. And on support, we can get some really deep questions regularly. And we are expected to be able to answer the questions - or know when we can't. And sometimes it can take a long time just to try to find out if you can figure it out quickly or not.

I'm afraid the afternoon guy was not doing as well as I. It was pretty much a given thing, but I guess it had to be tried. He is picking things up, but he can easily spend way too much time on any one problem.

I wound up spending a few extra hours trying to work on my next critical project. And I helped the other guy a little with the support. My boss logged on remotely and actually helped take some workload off my plate by putting it back on the users. I was a bit surprised - but pleased.

I still come home all hyped up - but I'm not having as much trouble sleeping anymore. So I guess I'm starting to fall into the routine a bit. Still a stressful job - but at least I feel like I'm getting a handle on it.

5 comments:

Lisa said...

Yay for things falling into place at work and you getting some more interesting stuff to do.

Anonymous said...

Wow - what a great boss. You don't come along those very often. Sounds like you've got your hands full! Nice job!
(Even though I was lost most of that post - file transfer, huh?)

Anna Banana

Trinity said...

I'm so pleased they're noticing your many talents at last ;) Hugs and kisses for you xxx

Trinity said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stef said...

Things are looking up at work it appears by this post. Your boss sounds like he's pleased with you, and that's always a good sign. At least, you're staying busy, right?