Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Breaking Stuff for a Living...

This week is going by quickly and I didn't even mean for that to happen. Work is still just work but it's less sinister than it has been in the past. Today, we lost our network for a good portion of the morning. Since it was an unpredictable outage- out for a minute, back for about five and then out for ten minutes- I didn't get to make a sweater vest for my bobblehead. I did, however, get to play catch with my little stress ball, grumble to my coworker across the way and do a little surfing on my phone.

While having a network outage means some fun, unproductive time at work, tomorrow might be a bad time for it. I have my first product demo in quite a while. While it might sound overly optimistic, I'm taking it as a sign that my boss doesn't feel like I'm a complete idiot. A few months ago, he would have found a way to avoid letting me do the demo. This week, he actually asked me to do it.

I admit, I'm still shocked about that. More than anything, I'm shocked at how happy I am that my boss DID ask me to do it.

Of course, now I have to deal with the fact that I now have to do a product demo to an invisible audience on the other side of the phone line who probably will have no idea what I'm talking about as I talk in terms that are familiar to me but foreign to them.

Yet, I'll find a way to get them to understand. One of the skills I'd like to think I've cultivated over time is the ability to speak both 'techie' and 'user'. This translates as being able to listen to software developers and technicians, comprehend what they're saying and then be able to translate it to someone who gets nervous when you say the word 'software'.

Of course, it doesn't always work that way. Tomorrow, for example, my purpose is primarily to demonstrate our product and what it does. It's a product built for users. My audience is going to be very technical. Thus, I'm going to have to go backwards and find a way to make it sound like a) I know what I'm talking about and b) to get them to understand what the software is supposed to do.

That's an interesting juxtaposition. I've learned that while software developers are usually extremely intelligent, they often forget that the end result of all their programming is that some user, some day is going to sit down at a computer, use the mouse and try to use their software. When it doesn't work the way they want or, at least, expect, that's not good.

Thus, it's my job to pretend I'm one of those users, to user our software in the most creative ways possible and try to break it so that if it does break, we can fix it before anyone who matters finds out it was ever broken to begin with.

I'm becoming the 'go to' Monkeypants for breaking software. Yesterday, one of my coworkers came to me, her face perplexed, convinced things were misaligned with the universe because the software she'd worked on for months was working the way it was supposed to when she'd been convinced it was broken.

You have to understand with some of our 'newer' software products, when it works the way it's supposed to, we treat that as a bug and do everything we can to prove that it is, in fact, broken because it IS working the way it's supposed to work.

You can laugh but, sadly, it's all true, my friends. When something is supposed to be broken but works anyway, that's when the developers come to me and say, "I need you to try and break this."

And, it is for this purpose, I recieve a paycheck. I'm really good at breaking software. I'm really good at hitting the wrong button at the wrong time and making software explode. It's a gift, trust me.

I'm not being arrogant, even though it seems like it. It's just one of those quirks in life I seem to have been born with. If it's going to break, give it to Captain Monkeypants. She'll find a way. Earlier in life, it was more literal: vases, bowls, plates, mortar and name it, I could break it.

Nowadays, it's also virtual, hence the fact that I've found a livelihood in software. Just set me free on it, and I'll find a way to break it, if it can be broken.

Of course, I won't pretend I receive a parade in my honour if I do manage to break the software. More often or not, I get a loud, slightly inappropriate-for-the-workplace response. Often, I get silence and then a long, slowly-drawn out serious of fixes that require testing at every turn. If I break it again, the silences get louder.

Usually, I try not to break it again. If I do, it's more job security. If I don't, I grumble but give the thumbs up and they move on to the next bug. And then they ask me to break it...which I often do.

It's a strange job I have but....sometimes, it's fun. Sometimes.

Happy Wednesday.

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