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Rachel Soderberg
Rachel Soderberg

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When the Manager Goes Out of Town...

For this week's post I wanted to share a new experience I had last week. This is going to be more of a journal or blog style post, so it's going to be more informal, but hopefully many of you will enjoy the more casual style of writing! Last week was the first real stretch of time that I've been left completely alone and without my manager as a resource and as worried as I was that I'd blow up every piece Production code and server we have... it actually went by just fine and nothing caught on fire!

I feel like everyone can or once related to this experience in some way - the manager goes out of town for an extended period of time with limited to no ability to contact them if things go sideways. Perhaps they went to a foreign country or deserted island, or just to the local beach, but the last thing we want to do is steal away their leisure time asking questions or in a panic because we blew up the database server. Your worst fears come to life and suddenly you're certain you will blow up that database server when they leave, even though you've never come close before.

That fear was stuck in the back of my mind too, so my first step was to simply agree with myself not to make any major changes to the production systems during the week. I did make some minor on-the-fly updates to our order processing system in response to a sales person's issues, but otherwise stuck to my goal and kept the changes minimal and out of critical areas of the system.

I also learned a great deal last week because I was left to my own devices without answers being only an email away. When the Support team was having issues getting all RMA orders through, I had to figure out a solution - fast. On a normal day I would have asked my manager for assistance and we'd have walked through a lot of the troubleshooting together, but because he was out of office I had to figure out these steps myself so I could get the SOAP request, walk through the listening application locally, and nail down the location of the bug. Not only did this refine the process in my own mind, I was able to improve our documentation so whoever comes after me (or just future me) will be able to have a guide to hooking everything up locally for "production" testing.

Some people who are normally fielded by my manager decided to drive me a little crazy. I assume that because my manager was away, some coworkers figured I took on his title and responsibilities because I am his direct report. This meant they came to me asking me to take care of administrative reporting issues (decimal placement they didn't like) and updating product pricing on the website. Unfortunately I had to disappoint them with bad news - I don't do those things.

But other people were totally amazing! They understood if I was a little foggy on something and needed some extra time, and a couple people even made sure to thank me for going out of my way to step in and make sure they were taken care of in his absence.

Overall, it was a pretty good week. I didn't get as much work done as a normal week because I was fielding the extra "people" workload, but I do enjoy the soft-skills aspect and communicating with everyone at my company - especially those I don't see very often. I had fun taking on some new responsibilities and learned that I'm actually really self-sufficient when my back's against the wall. This has helped me realize that I could extend my time-boxing out a bit if I'm trying to figure out a new task or technology, stretching myself further before I resort to asking my manager for assistance.

If you'd like to catch up with me on social media, come find me over on Twitter or LinkedIn and say hello!

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