Thursday, December 15, 2011

Live in Chicago

The final major piece was tested successfully today, software purring like a well-oiled machine, drawing grateful sighs from the team, a major milestone achieved; all is well in the world after all, God listening to the pleas of a tired and bruised team.  Leaving tomorrow, relieved the project has gone well, going home in victory (like those soldiers from Iraq announced today by the president), after all those months of hardships and humiliation, as one struggled to fix all those bugs, emerging months later with a better program, a mature team, ready to conquer the other sites. Seven months later, four sites are converted with about five more warehouses scheduled next year, now a seemingly ordinary task, after the ease of the last two deployment, overcoming major bumps and challenges from different folks, management with limited viewpoints, unaware of the challenges tackled on the ground, clever in their remarks; arm chair experts while the soldier in the front  face the actual problems and pressure, finally making the point that the project succeeds if everyone do their part, realizing that the fault lies in their feeble attention in the early years.

This morning the work area of the staff was re-organized, old equipment removed and the new one brought in, teaching the staff on the final feature, going over the other features again, the staff satisfied, that it wasn’t really difficult, reducing work for everyone, some slight glitches still to be fixed like missing labels and reports; the project leader writing great updates to bosses at head office, strangely no remarks of encouragement or congratulations, perhaps realizing that earlier criticisms where foolish and dead wrong, silence a reward that means acceptance. The local staff eager and intelligent, ready to adapt to the change, enthusiastic and hardworking, unlike the staff in the other warehouses, finally meeting folks focused on the job, grateful that they understood the nuances of the software, confident that the project will go well, feeling like an undefeated army inexorably marching on, bringing progress and newness to obscure places, appreciating  the new warehouse boss, erudite and experienced, thanking the team and showing off the changes in the warehouse since he came, a game of give and take.

Lunch in the ‘Iron Skillet’, a truck stop beside a gas station, a section of the restaurant reserved for drivers only, kind old lady serving us, lunch is a meal of sirloin tips with pepper and onions and rice and chicken noodle soup, the meat soft and cooked well, a great lunch served in iron skillets, avoiding the buffet and watching the truck drivers come in, some fat, some with long hair, some bald with beard, watching the trucks drive by, some stop to fill their tanks with gas, old couples coming in, ordering the usual, finishing with a full stomach; an early lunch so the team could work during the staff’s lunch hour, clearing her desk and de-commissioning old printers, watching her work and pleased with the changes, the warehouse management coming to us to shake our hands, realizing that it’s the last day of two of our team who will leave in the morning while I will remain for a few hours to make sure things are fine, our team leader writing the last report, a job well done, leaving early under the rain, the sky dark as evening comes early in Chicago at about 4:30 pm in the afternoon.

From the warehouse we went to Best Buy to look at the new Kindle Fire, walked through the store looking at all those sleek gadgets, row and rows of modern gizmos, no trace of envy in the body wondering what’s it all for?, going for dinner at Apple Bees, dinner of sirloin steak, chocolate fudge for dessert and Heineken beer, going back to the Hampton Inn and discovering a free dinner of tacos, light beer and wine, an event sponsored by the Inn every Wednesday, going back to the room and meeting the team at the lobby, enjoying 2 bottles of light beer while we talked about the company, the old workers that we met, experiences in the warehouse and factories, sharing stories of long ago, good episodes with good bosses and bad bosses, talking about the turnaround in perception of the project, remarking that a lot of the officers in the company are from the military, graduates from West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy, the father of one of the team members a West Point graduate too; himself avoiding military school and settling in the South having been born in Long Island New York. At dinner he shared his story about an operation that save his life while at lunch I shared my experience with the worker’s union back in the Philippine factory about 10 years ago, long memories that one can still tap to learn the lessons of experience, a good foundation in the project today, meeting and working with different people in the warehouse.

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