A Lesson Almost Lost

It’s been a year since that breakup. My feelings haven’t changed. I still love both the company that treated me well and my former network team.  After all, it wasn’t them, it was me, right? Regardless, it’s been a year full of discomfort, introspection and a smattering of guilt.

Because my husband works for the same company, I get regular updates. Sometimes, I feel sad because I want to help. Other times, I cheer their successes (without me). I’ve also left the door wide open for my former teammates to reach out with any questions. They’ve taken me up on this offer multiple times, including this past week.

So, what was the recent reach out about?  My former manager wanted to clarify some of my previous storage-related emails because they are ready to straighten things out. My mind went straight to blame. Blame for the decision makers that failed to right these “dutifully reported” wrongs. Why didn’t they care about the storage?

About five years earlier, there was a multi-day outage when aggregates went offline because there too many failed drives and no vendor support for replacement disks.  Fast forward to the year of my departure; storage vendor support again lapsed (now a different vendor) for everything including the systems that serve the primary data for which customers rely. When I left, the lack of storage vendor support was a deeply personal issue for me. I documented the shit out of it.

After a little more introspection, I see that the “purse string keepers” conversation was never appropriately framed. While the prior outage caused by failed disks was personal for me, it wasn’t for them. They also didn’t care about storage. No argument was going to change that. We weren’t talking what they valued.

What did they value? Data, maybe? The customers that required access to that data? What would a data loss mean in terms of recovery time and recovery points? Those things make up a completely different story. Maybe, the result would have been the same. However, it’s the real story that needed to be told.

“You are in the weeds, girl,” a prior manager admonished me multiple times. These words immediately popped into my head. When he warned me about the weeds, I would sometimes step back and change my messaging… slightly. If I was “all in the weeds” while talking to my technical manager, there is no way that similar messaging would work for the purse string keepers. Any call to action was doomed from the start.

Readers probably think, “Duh, so obvious!”  However, when you are emotionally committed to a job, your feelings (and emotional baggage)  create blinds spots to REALLY obvious things–like this. You also can get caught up in blame and not acknowledging your role.

A year later, I’m grateful for the time, space, and emotional distance to be able to finally be able to receive this lesson on big-picture thinking and tailoring your message. Do you have any similar stories of lessons that you completely missed, but now seem so obvious?

Becky Elliott

After dropping out of a liberal arts college that focused on reading and discussing the “Great Books”, Becky Elliott found her way to a career in IT. For 20+ years, she has held a number of roles in Dev and Ops, and the area in between the two. In working for organizations in which poor security practices can cost lives, she’s an ardent believer in integrating security through the entire design process. Becky holds a number of industry certifications including the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).
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