The Transparent Engineer

A few days ago I saw a post on social media - it amused. It read rather simply "Describe your job badly".

What a simplistic yet joyous offering that was. The boiling down of the essence of what you do into something random, vague, or worded to mislead.

Today through a number of events, and then a focal one - I had one of those moments of clarity that underlines what it is to be a modern IT engineer.

This afternoon my eyes were drawn from my screen over to my phone, as the display announced that it was Discovering.

Which, for sure, sounds innocuous enough - but in reality this means it is on it's own and looking around for it's friends. Either the phone server is poorly sick - or - more likely it is unable to reach it.

Calls dropped, phones rebooted, and we all looked up like so many desk'd Meerkats. "What the?"

So - we all check the Internet - our go to of preference - call that the BBC, Amazon, or Dilbert... and sure enough all was good. Calls returned, Internet appeared when asking from, and most importantly held breath let go as a lack of red warnings and alerts on monitoring. We are good.

Pulling up the internal chat client I notified networks - "its all cool, but we just saw this at time X".

.. and I expected no more of it ...



It transpires that a 5m stretch of the the 68 mile fibre run that connects us to the second largest transit hub in the UK was now dangling from the outstretched jaw of an excavator. This was more than "oh the Internet is off". This was phones, offices, and around 300 servers on this site.

The deal is here - that things carried on working. That is not a small undertaking.

They carried on working because it is meant to do that. Plans had been made and things built to survive such an event - having twice the infrastructure we need.



In short that blip was a huge success - something we should have been dancing in the streets about and cheering. But no.

I pulled that chat window back up - and thanked the network guy who had both confirmed the issue as a fibre break on the providers network, and implemented the system that autonomously failed over between the two circuits.

The reality of the engineer is that you are either handed a continual pile of broken things and asked to make good - OR - take the working things and make sure they are harder to break.

The minor miracles end up as the everyday the "can we not get this cheaper and faster" - and anything other than the every day is a million different shades of pain and failure.

So - "Describe what you do badly" ... how about "Why does it feel a bit uphill sometimes"

To the network guys and what they do - the infrastructure engineers, systems engineers, and those unsung, unseen, and taken for granted.

"I am one of the many unknown and unseen. If we are less than transparent, we have failed. We are one type of has-to-work-every-time or the-backup-plan-stepped-in or a untold shades of failure and pain between. We are legion. You will miss us."

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