How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Automate

My wife and I had a daughter, almost two months ago now. Going into it, I completely underestimated how single-tasking kids are. My grand plans of blogging (at all) and writing and doing all sorts of big cool things while I had time off were suborned by a lot of seemingly simple tasks. Feed her. Feed myself. Change her diaper. Rock her. Clean up the house. Try to get some sleep. As a result, the only big thing I’ve been able to do is read a couple of novels, a few pages at a time. Well, that and keep a kid and a wife healthy and relatively happy.

I see a lot of parallels between my last two months and “the cloud.” The one thing I have been able to do is some writing about what exactly “the cloud” means, and I’ve tried to stress in those writings that clouds aren’t really about technology. They are about people & process, time & money, and the technology is just a means to an end. One of the things that is always stressed with clouds is automation, and, in particular, automating routine tasks to save staff time. But automation is one of those areas that’s fought against, partly because automation tools stink, and partly because it seems easy enough to just keep doing all the little things yourself.

But before you know it two months will have gone by and you won’t have done anything of note, because you’ve been so busy doing all the little stuff. Seth Godin, in his post yesterday, called it “little work,” and implored his readers to “carve out time for the big work.” It hits home for me as I look back on the last two months and all the little things I did, and all the big things I didn’t do.

So that’s what I’m doing for the next two months: automating all my small work so I have uninterrupted time for all the big stuff. Of course, I just need to figure out exactly how I’m going to automate things. Anybody who follows me on Twitter probably saw some of my frustration last week with VMware Orchestrator. What a mess. But that’s a whole other blog post in the making…

I’m also accepting suggestions for how to automate the small work at home, like cleaning the house and feeding my daughter. 🙂 Though this might be the excuse I needed for a Roomba…

11 thoughts on “How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Automate”

  1. I absolutely sympathise with the frustrations of not getting ‘big stuff’ done, both at home, where I have a one year old and at work, where I am attempting to wrestle a department into submission on a three day week without enough resource. Carving out time for the big things is the only way they’ll get done. I know this, yet I still struggle with it. At home however, though this is also true, I would venture that attempting to automate the ‘little stuff’ beyond hiring a cleaner is to risk missing the point of parenting. It’s in the little, ordinary moments that you bond with your child. Yes, much of it is tedious and back-breaking, and you long for a physical and mental break, but it’s the meeting of the eyes over a nappy (diaper) change or the constantness of daddy’s warmth/smell from that long cuddle while feeding that makes the difference. Some things are not meant for automating. It’s a time for letting go of the other stuff for a while, to do basic, simple bonding things. Re: all the other stuff, it sharpens one’s focus in the time that is left.

    • Well, I was mostly joking about that. Someone asked me a few weeks back what I was up to that day, and I replied that I’d just spent three hours staring at my daughter. 🙂 I don’t regret “losing” time to her. Except at 3 AM, then it’s different. 🙂

  2. My wife got a roomba – since I got to go to Vegas for EMCworld without her. IT works pretty well. But it does then make you realize that the corners are still dirty (as the roomba can’t get corners 100%), and then the baseboards are dirty… so there is still always something else… I’ve got a 6y/o daughter, and an 9 mo old son. I’ve come to realize that work and technology – as much as I need to stay current and support the family – needs to come second. I don’t want to “automate” my time with them – though figuring out how to learn through osmosis by putting a tech book under my pillow at night would help.

    I know its a change for a ‘technical’ person to have to put the breaks on for any reason – but trust me – kids are worth it. besides, you need to be nice to them now since they’re the ones who will pick the retirement home to go to.

    /soylent green anyone?

    • Nah, I was joking. I enjoy hanging around with my daughter. And I’ve found that slowing down a bit actually makes me more useful at work, too. Gives me time to think about things more thoroughly.

      Good to know about Roomba & corners, hadn’t thought of that. Samsung also has a Roomba clone that seems to have bigger & more side brushes.

  3. I would be very interested to read about what you automate and what you use (powercli, vCO etc)

    Just getting into vCO as well – daunting prospect first up and not a lot of others on the web documenting their struggles

  4. I would not call taking care of your house and especially your baby a small thing. They are big, hairy important things!!!

    I love the parallels you draw in this post – but sometimes what we think is one little thing is actually a bundle of small things that are very important. So feeding a baby is important, and if you automated it with a robot bottle or something the baby wouldn’t get physical contact, which will damage them later in life. They don’t bond with you as parents, which will damage her later in life.

    I remember when mine were brand new, when I nursed them it was the only time I could sit down and relax. And just bask in the love and happiness that babies can bring their parents. And looking back I think that was important to my mental health.

    So if you could automate the task of getting necessary nutrients to your daughter, what else would you lose?

    I think lots of IT tasks are like this too…some task is automated without a real understanding of what other more important outcomes rely on that task.

    Interesting post!

    • I’m sort of glad I chose to compare my daughter to IT operations, because it is an opportunity for such great analogies and great observations. You’re absolutely right, it’s really hard sometimes to say what the effects will be of a change in process. We were actually talking this through this morning, where a proposal to automate several routine tasks would have almost no positive time savings due to other limitations that end up requiring a human in the middle.

      At any rate, my wife jokes sometimes that I have the emotional range of a robot, so I figure that’ll scar my kid enough. 🙂

  5. Agreed Bob, re: 3am! And any time anyone automates a picker-upper-of-stuff-dropped-in-amusement robot, I’d pay good money…

  6. I recall a few tweets about whether there would be more or less time for blogging etc and now we know!

    I’m currently planning budgets and clearing the decks at work in readiness for a multi-year project that kicks off around the end of July. My wife is expecting our first baby on the 6th August. Analogies did you say? 😉

  7. You’ll notice more similarities as you go. When you look away from them for a short while, they’ll make fantastic messes, but they’ll also learn to do cool new things.

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