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Entries in Thanksgiving in IT (2)


The Downside of Thanksgiving (Without Complaint) in IT

Regular readers know I’m a bit of a nut about Thanksgiving.  I’ve declared it, “my holiday.”  Last week, I discussed how to enjoy Thanksgiving in IT, and my trip to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Thanksgiving morning had me up early, tending to stuffing the bird.    At 7:40AM, the call IT people dread came,

“We’ve lost all power in the data center.”

Such a simple phrase.  Let’s parse it:

  • We’ve – it’s a team effort
  • lost – no longer to be found
  • all power – So all equipment went down hard.  You know, it never all comes back perfectly.
  • in the data center – oh no!

Suddenly the scene from A Christmas Story went through my head.  You know the one…where the dogs eat the turkey?

Thanksgiving was about to be stolen.

What followed was a case study in incident management, with multiple bridges, customer communications, etc.

What did not follow was complaining.  Over hours of bridge calls with dozens of people, not once was there a complaint.  Sure, everyone acknowledged the day, and family gatherings everywhere were impacted.  At my house, the kids had to finish stuffing the turkey and doing all the preparation as I sat (Thanksgiving helpless) in my office.

So around the country, dozens gathered around their virtual work family, and set about the task of restoring a data center.  Power was restored quickly, and then the arduous task of livening the entire data center took place.

My son came into my home office.  When he was in High School he monitored the website for a major online retailer, and as the one without children often covered holidays, so he understood.   “How long will this take?” he asked.  “A recovery like this will take days.”Dessert. There is pie in there somewhere

Everyone kept an upbeat mood as the work progressed.  Most people “took a break,” inhaled some Thanksgiving dinner, and returned.  My (adult) kids brought me some dessert as they settled in to watch some movies.

What is it about IT people letting them drop everything and focus on the task at hand?  What is it about IT people always putting the job before anything else?

You know this event impacted family events everywhere. And yet, without complaint, the work progressed with the majority of systems up before start of business Friday morning.

It’s at a time like this the selfless people of IT deserve a hearty congratulations and recognition of a job well done.

For me and my family, we did a “Make Up” Thanksgiving at a restaurant on Saturday.  In some ways, the event made Thanksgiving last a longer time…with even more family time.

 Make Up Thanksgiving

My family made it easy on me, and I hope other families did the same.  My work family did a great job, and I hope they got to enjoy some of the holiday with their families.

How would your team respond to a unplanned incident like this?


Thanksgiving in IT

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There are no gifts involved, you get together with people you generally like, there’s more food than imaginable, and a little football (either on the television or in the backyard.) It’s also a chance for you to have a warm team event.

You can serve a turkey dinner with the fixings to the entire department.

Say what? It’s a large group.

Being an aficionado of Thanksgiving….here’s a great formula for success:

  • Location – use the office. Find a large meeting room, someplace large enough for everyone to get in.
  • Schedule – try for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Many people will try to “hit the road” by noon time Wednesday to be with family and friends, and the Classic Rock crowd will be listening to Alice’s Restaurant.
  • Plates/utensils – most companies will provide
  • Fixings and dessert – invite the staff to bring in one “batch” of their favorite “native” dish. This is important. This gives everyone a fun task to bring in their specialty, and then talk to others about it. Whether stuffing, vegetables, salad, dessert…. Inevitably someone will forget to bring in their contribution….and they can then get drinks!
  • Turkey – Cooking the turkey can be the most challenging thing. For a small group, you can cook at home. For larger, you’ll need assistance. I’ve discovered pizza ovens can cook a bunch of turkeys at once. It seems every town has a house of pizza. The Westborough House of Pizza has prepared turkeys on more than one occasion for me.

The next key thing is serving. Set the area up buffet style, so everyone can go through and select their favorites. Someone has to carve the turkeys and that someone is you!

You’ll be running the carving station of the buffet line. (If you’re not a pro carver, look online for turkey carving videos. You’ll want to make this happen quickly). As each person comes through the line, take the time to learn a little about them. Ask where they are going for thanksgiving; ask what their favorite thing is about the holiday. In smaller groups, have each person share their favorite holiday traditions.

By having the management team serve the staff, there are important messages exchanged and the staff will really appreciate the effort.

One last thing. I often use an office white board and let people draw “hand” turkeys. While a flashback to second grade, it’s another opportunity to chat informally with people about their holiday and genuinely show interest in each other. It’s also amazed me how some people will simply draw the hand turkey, while others will make it an artistic statement.