Career Day

It was already April. Despite graduating in two months, I still didn't have a job lined up for after college. I brushed off concerns from my friends and family about my employability, citing the coming job fair as the way I'd find post-undergrad employment.

I showed up that rainy morning with an older copy of my resume - actually, thirty copies of that resume. It had an ambiguous overview statement so I could repurpose the piece for as many job openings as I could. I had circled the businesses to which I wanted to apply in advance; there were thirty of them.

"Hey, what are you most passionate about?"

The question from the police officer caught me off guard. I didn't really know what I was passionate about. He was trying to coax me into joining the Portland Police, using their off-hours community reinvestment program as incentive. He personally coached a boys basketball team, for pay, and was paid to travel to Florida for the national championships. I could turn any of my passions into a side gig if I became a cop.

But I didn't have an answer to his question. Actually, I didn't have an answer to any questions recruiters asked me that day.

I wasn't prepared for the job fair at all.

Deer Hunting

"They've taken three bucks out at the triangle this season already. There's always one or two going through there; they like the apples. It's been raining pretty hard, so they might be out early. Get a move on. You might catch one."

We loaded back into the car to take the short ride up the hill to "the triangle," an intersection of 3 roads near the corner of the property. It was only a scouting trip, but if we managed to find an opportunity, we'd take it and save a second real hunting trip on Saturday.

Cresting the hill I saw him. A huge buck with forked horns standing just off the road, staring dead at us. We stopped the car and stared back, hoping he hadn't been spooked. A second buck just as large joined from the left - both just in range of the bow. It was a perfect setup; the deer were right where they were supposed to be and we had a clear shot.

Except the bow was in the trunk. By the time we'd snuck out of the car and around the vehicle to grab our gear, both bucks had wandered off into the trees.

We weren't prepared for the hunt at all.

The Launch

We had our feature list set and had taken everything through several rounds of QA both on local machines and our remote staging environment. The engineering team all signed off on the project and we were confident things would ship without a hitch.

We queued up an "under maintenance" page and started switching things over to the new systems. One dev team started running the batch migration scripts while another started uploading new assets and page layouts.

Then suddenly, the server crashed. Our migration scripts were expecting certain code to be in place already and triggered a fatal error while parsing data. We pushed the right code to the right spot, and re-started the scripts. Another crash. The data was colliding with partially-migrated fields and causing further errors.

The client got antsy and asked us to pull back and put the site back up. We'd promised a 15-minute maintenance outage, and the site had already been down for an hour. We started moving back to the backup right away only to discover it, too, had timed out part way through and we'd corrupted data.

Five painful hours with the dev team later, and we'd managed to restart our migrations, recover missing data, and completely launch the new CMS as originally expected. The client breathed a sigh of relief, and the rest of us steeled ourselves for the inevitably painful postmortem meeting.

We hadn't really been prepared for the launch.

Are You Ready?

There are times each of us says we're ready for something without really having thought it through. We apply for jobs without prepping for an interview. We go on a hunt but leave our rifle/bow/equipment locked out of reach and miss an opportune shot. We migrate websites without sufficient migration plans or verified backup routes.

Before you say you're "ready," take some time to write down what that really means. If you're ready to find a job, you better know what kind of job and why you're qualified for or interested in it. If you're ready to hunt, you better have your gear within arms reach in case your quarry presents itself.

If you're ready for a launch, you better know what's involved with that launch and have a proven strategy for rolling things back in case of failure.