Category Archives: IT

The Network Engineers

Me and my lads in the office
We like to chat and to call
Laugh at how shiny Nicks head is
And tell Andy he’s not very tall

It’s a big open plan sort of office
With desks jammed in several rows
We laugh and we joke and we banter
And everyone shares what they know

The boss really don’t like to come here
Looks down his nose on our fun
Says our chat is inappropriate
But without us his Network won’t run

We configure, programme and monitor
Run a network no one will believe
Complex, fast and enormous
We are proud of what we achieve

Whilst fingers dance over keyboards
And engineers cable in floors
I manage them and also I love them
For the jokes they put up on the doors

So my lads and I sit in that office
If we aren’t out mending the kit
Share pictures of Katy’s new baby
And tell David he’s not very fit.

Copyright © 2020 Kim Whysall-Hammond

 

This poem is a hymn to the team of Network Engineers that I had the pleasure to manage several years ago.  It was written in response to Jim Feeney’s Lads Poetry Project. His poems are a lot better than this one, here’s an excellent example :

https://stopdraggingthepanda.com/2020/07/08/rob-the-lads-poetry-project-3/

This poem is also part of the dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night:  https://dversepoets.com/

 

Present Future

The machine just doesn’t stop
but clambers across and smothers real life

capturing privacies, swapping
small unregarded freedoms

for Dopamine flash rewards
and  a watered down electronic

recognition of sorts.
The screen’s constant siren call

replacing small intimacies
for others not yet evaluated.

Interconnected yet further apart,
we stumble on into the present future.

Copyright © 2018 Kim Whysall-Hammond

This poem was first published by the Sunlight Press: https://www.thesunlightpress.com/…/20…/10/30/present-future/

Flint

Flint

Clinking flint on flint
They sat, cross legged
Sculpting the desired form
From the larger rock
Before going on the hunt.
Children clambered in cramped tunnels
Hewing the flints from the solid chalk
In the lonely dark
To allow these few to craft killing tools
And to eat.

 

Clicking screen to screen
We sit, hunched
Sifting the information stream
Shaping the data
To draw our salaries.
Children spend their lives in cramped factories
Working on small assemblies
In the lonely light
To allow us few to play
In the western world

 

Copyright © 2016 Kim Whysall-Hammond

An insecure heart? Broken controls

I love poems that use scientific or science fictional imagery. And I’ve shared some with you, whether by other poets (The Migration of Darkness, Wrecks) or by me (Nebula, Broken Cable, Sun Queen, Royal Edinburgh Observatory).

 Well here’s one that uses imagery from my profession – IT and Data Networking. And it’s a fantastic love poem!

Broken Controls

existing firewall rules
are ineffective to prevent
intrusion

distributed denial-of-service attack
is launched,
flooding the heart –
causing malfunction,
disconnecting communication channel
with the brain

the heart left open,
love virus gets to work
spreading new sensations
which take deep roots,
taking over controls
in a matter of minutes

by the time
incident report is lodged
and root cause analysis
completed,
the heart’s assets
have been sieged, and the brain
no longer
rules

In computing, a firewall is a network security system that monitors and controls the incoming and ongoing network traffic based on pre-detemined access security rules.
Distributed denial-of-service attack is an attempt to make a machine unavailable to its intended users, e.g. by “flooding” the bandwidth or resources of a targeted system, eventually causing the system to crash. 

Poem by Anna at https://whatthewomanwrote.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/broken-controls/

Picture by By William Viker – My Opera devblog, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1351332

Broken cable

Broken Cable

In the middle of the bright Atlantic
Floating on the swell between island volcanoes
Beneath reflective surface tension
Silvered gas bubbles catch the light
And, across the issuing rift,
A long snake of data cable
Broken sheared twisted.

As the gas breaks the surface
We hear voices
Blogs bubbling to the top
Instructions to buy or sell
A thousand tiny voices
Sparkling in the sunshine
Several parrot fish swim by
Next day when snorkeling
I fancy I hear fish blogging

 

Copyright © 2016 Kim Whysall-Hammond

A not entirely serious Glossary of Project Management terms:

Activity List

You need one of these. It will define the tasks (activities) needed to finish the project. Think of a shopping list. A BIG shopping list.

Budget

Not only money, but all your resources. Count yourself in it and the office cat. There is never enough budget, of course.

Constraints

Constraints are factors that will limit the project manager’s options. For example, a predefined budget is a constraint that is highly likely to limit your options regarding scope, staffing, and schedule. When a project is performed under contract, contractual provisions will generally be constraints.

Customer

The individual or organization who will use the project product. There may be multiple layers of customers. For example, the customers for a new pharmaceutical product may include the doctors who prescribe it, the patients who take it, and (in the USA) the insurers who pay for it.

Key success criteria

What your success is measured by. IF you are very lucky (and I have been) you get to write these. Marketing hate writing these, so here’s your opportunity!

Project sponsor

The big-wig who wants this all done. Theory has it, this person will sort out any problems you have with higher management, and will ‘sponsor’ the project through the organisation. Ha! They go to ground pretty-damn-quick, usually.
Formal Definition: the individual or group within the performing organization who provides the financial resources, in cash or in kind, for the project.

Project stakeholders

The individuals and organizations who are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be affected as a result of the project. You’ve got to identify the stakeholders, their needs and expectations, and then manage and influence those expectations to ensure a successful project. Easy peasy, really. So, tell me, is a call centre worker whose future employment depends on the outcome of a new product design project a stakeholder?

Key stakeholders on every project include:

  • Project manager –aha! Guess who?
  • Customer (see elsewhere)
  • Performing organization –the enterprise whose employees are most directly involved in doing the work of the project.
  • Sponsor (see elsewhere)

Project risks

Everything that can go wrong. Start listing them now. Why didn’t you start yesterday? And, yes, I meant everything.

Project Scope

What the project covers, what it doesn’t cover. The limits of your responsibility. Be careful in drawing this up. A definition of Project scope (i.e. a written scope statement) is essential to your future health, wealth and well-being.
For example, an engineering firm contracted to design a petroleum processing plant must have a scope statement defining the boundaries of its work on the design subproject. The scope statement forms a basis for identifying project objectives and project deliverables.

Scope Planning

The process of developing a written scope statement as the basis for future project decisions including, crucially, the criteria used to determine if the project or project phase has been completed successfully.

Scope statement

The scope statement should include, either directly or by reference to other documents:

  • Project justification–the business need that the project was undertaken to ad-dress. The project justification provides the basis for evaluating future trade-offs.
  • Project product–a brief summary of the product description
  • Project deliverables–a list of the summary level sub-products whose full and satisfactory delivery marks completion of the project. For example, the major deliverables for a software development project will include the working computer code, a user manual, and full documentation.
  • Project objectives–the quantifiable criteria that must be met for the project to be considered successful. Project objectives should include: cost, schedule, and quality measures. Unquantified objectives (e.g., customer satisfaction) entail high risk as you can never prove you met them.

Work Breakdown Structure

Essentially a structured Activity List. It defines the tasks (activities) needed to finish the project.

A primer for Project Management

Plan, plan and plan again

If I say that once each day, I must say it several times.. .. ..

Well, no I don’t, actually. My favourite sayings tend to vary between,

“WHAT? How Much?!?”
WHY cant you do it on time?”
..and..
“Calm Down. Lets look at the plan again..”

Aha! We did get back to planning. Trust me on this. It is no use relying on the planning software. Like all software, it is only as good as the ideas you put into it. I used to use MS Project a lot. BUT, I would only fire it up when I had just about completed the main work of my planning!

So what is the main work of my planning? A piece of paper covered with lists. More and more I am using a mind map. These are simple ways of interlinking information, developed  long ago when HTML and the web were merely  sparkles in Tim Berners-Lee ‘s eye.

But I digress. What you really need to do at the start of a project (any project) is collate certain information. The success of the project will depend entirely upon how well you do this. What you need to assess/list is:

  • Aims -What are we to achieve?
  • Resources -What do we have to do it with? i.e. people, tools etc.
  • Deliverables -What do we need to end up delivering? This would include software documentation for example
  • Dependencies -What does this project, or the major tasks depend on? Is any other group or persons coming along to help?
  • Risks -Start listing what can go wrong. Put in even the trivial. They are all risks

If you think about this a while, you will see that these are interlinked (hence the mind maps!). Dependencies can create risks. The potential unavailability of a resource (e.g. When is Sues Holiday to Florida?)will be a risk. A deliverable is bound to be one of the aims, surely. And so on.

This series of lists or mind-map will now be the basis of you formal project plan. This is usually NOT the chart beloved of MS Project devotees (formally a Gantt Chart), but a written document with a task list, and perhaps (more often that not) a Gantt chart attached.

You can dispense with the formal plan if you want. You don’t need the Gantt Chart. But ALWAYS do the original listings /mind-maps.Its always served me well.

Chase that Rabbit!

Once a project is underway, you need to make sure it stays that way. So chase! Phone the suppliers for an update. Loom over your programmers. Do whatever is necessary to put the fear of God into all your human ‘risks’ and ‘dependencies’ (but with oodles of charm, of course).

A colleague who shall remain nameless believes that all that is necessary for a successful project is a plan (he only ever does a Gantt chart by the way and so fails to capture any dependencies) and then delegation of the tasks. He moves onto the next project and wonders sometime later why no-one has done anything on his first project!!

Review

This is the elder sister of Chasing. Please review your project(s) and their plans on a regular basis. During a large batch of software testing, my team and I had a weekly Review Meeting (OK, yes, Friday afternoon in the Pub, I admit it). As Project Manager, I placed the plan of that weeks work under their little noses and then forced them to admit to whether they’d actually done any of it, did it work, what remained to be done etc. The beer helped loosen their tongues, yes, but I have an informal style. At my previous employer, it would have all happened via written reports to the IT Director. Yuk. Honesty tends to go out of the window when we talk to higher management.

By the way, the minute you issue a plan, it is out of date.

Is Software Necessary?

This all depends on

  • The size of the project
  • The procedures required by your employer

……in other words, I believe you can manage a small project (say, 10 tasks or less) without software.

……yes yes, I did use MS Project to plan the decoration of our hallway at home. There were over 30 separate tasks, OK?

Hello world

Granddad used to tell me bedtime stories about the Moloch. He’d met H G Wells at a Fabian Society meeting.

Dad & I used to spend hours out in the garden trying to find Jupiter with a poor telescope.

What else could I do but read Astronomy at University, get hooked on Science Fiction and end up working in IT?

Otherwise, there’s a family to run and chickens to feed and to talk to (who are far more communicative that teenage boys, believe me).  And yes, my husband sells cheese.

When asked at parties, I say that I’m a Project Manager. We are a much-maligned breed. When the project fails, we get the blame, when it simply succeeds, they all wonder why they needed us, well, look it all worked didn’t it??? All the Project manager did was produce some spiffy reports and sit on the phone all day. We didn’t need her/him, did we? It only takes a little thought to realise that we are ALL Project managers, just some of us have it in our job titles and are paid for it. My toughest assignment is being a parent, but then you’ve all heard all that sort of stuff before so I’ll shut up about it.

So, this site will probably include stuff on SF, Conventions, Astronomy, chickens, Project Management and absolutely anything else that comes to mind……

……..maybe cheese too.