Seperis (seperis) wrote,

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a dissertation on the functionality of the civil servant in their natural habitat

Things that are both weird and true: three quarters of my skillsets and knowledge base are quite literally pleasant side effects. There is quite literally nothing--and I do mean nothing--I learned by saying "I'd like to learn x, it sounds cool." I start with "I really need this; how do I make it happen?"

At work, people are generally wondering what the hell, because three quarters of the time I'm just the vaguely there employee who hates mornings and generally doesn't make extra work for anyone. In other words, functional, forgettable, and whatever. I don't mind, trust me; it helps, lets put it that way.

Then there's the other one quarter.

The thing is, none of my side projects at work I mentioned in my last post were actual intent projects; they were I was bored at work so fucking much or hated what I was doing and needed to look legit doing anything else. Nothing--and I do mean nothing--had any motivation other than "I'm bored" and "I could really use something that does x."

The massive SSP reference guide is possibly my biggest achievement--people send that thing around to other people on the down-low since it's not official and therefore 'unofficial'--but dev wanting a copy was actually both surreal (what?) and a moment of profound revelation and hilarity because when people ask me about it, my answer is altruistic-selfish "for testing and my coworkers and useful" and it's all of those things and also a huge fucking lie.

The SSP reference guide is upwards of twelve sheets of pure unadulterated data powered by macro enabled custom functions and subs set in eight to ten modules with an entire module devoted to so much fucking math for income limits set to the FPIL in multiple super ridic formulas inside multiple if/else statements that account for family size, the presence of children, and age up to a household of 99 people (but technically can handle any number that exists, because why not?). It contains everything that appears in SSP (, all the pages, all the possible questions, with cross-references, lists of all potential variables, and color coordinated by program type and multiple column driver flows and digression. It's workbook one of a three book reference set, the second covering electronic reminders and the third the newly creating Mobile app. It distills ten years of development into the here and now and the error rate is under 5%.

I call it God's spreadsheet, and that is what it was supposed to be. All that data--ten years of data if not more--was meticulously documented and recorded so I could create with my own fingers a spreadsheet of such breathtaking complexity and design that others would envy and I used all the borders, all the background colors, and all the font colors and weights. It could have very easily documented the history and existence of cows, is what I'm saying. I just wasn't working on bovines at the time.

It's origin was a way to speed up writing my tests when I was testing this program and I needed to do the same x number of steps and pages with different variables in about ten or twelve tests. The tests would each be forty steps, and almost identical for twenty of those steps, except for changes in variables (number of kids, client income, programs) and then have the different screens that come up when X happens.

I was bored out of my mind after two tests. Like bored to the point where I read CNN end to end, including celebrity and rich people shit. Almost daily.

I was--at the time--copy-pasting those steps each time, but each time I started a new test, I'd adhoc from the start to get the new screens for each variable change and I hated even knowing the program existed. However, my back hit the wall when I surfaced from CNN Lifestyle and realized I had less than two days to write ten more forty+ step tests and I was so very fucked and I still could not make myself write those goddamn tests and had started to hate computers.

So--just to appear to do something (as I was getting eyed by bosses)--I adhoced the scenarios without writing the test steps and screenshotted every page to look productive and like there was a goal here (there wasn't). Then (about a day and a half left, got really desperate) I copied the first two tests and pasted six copies of it down the test template (so twelve tests) and erased the non-relevant steps from memory and used the screenshots to write the new steps. This was indeed faster (and panic helped inspire me despite monotony) but when I was done with twelve tests, I looked at them hatefully and figured the horror would happen next build, so I pulled everything, put it in driver flow order in a new spreadsheet called Script Template or something, wrote a fast and dirty driver flow and called this shit over. And then--because my lead didn't work on this program on this release--I prettified it with borders, made some notes on which variables get which screen, and sent her the spreadsheet so next build, she could just copy-paste those first twenty identical steps herself and if she ran into the new screens, she could use my steps for those. And so--and this is depressingly true--she would kind of forget my tests went up with minutes to spare because I'm sooo helpful and awesome (bribery).

And that's when I realized this was a spreadsheet--that had the rough beginnings of organization, even--and I love spreadsheets like fish love water.

Like this:
OtherMe: We could organize this with background colors and more borders thin, thick, superthick, and dotted.
Me: Holy shit, that would be amazing, and colors: we need font colors and bolding and how about macros? All the macros. We'll invent new macros, and things for macros to do! And functions! I can learn custom functions!
OtherMe: Then we need more data so advanced organization design can be enacted and with eight kind of borders and eight modules of custom functions.
Me: Fuck. Yeah. Data is good.
OtherMe: Technically, you are at work however, and someone obviously evil is going to tell you that the creation of God's spreadsheet isn't in your job description. This is a long term project, you get this?
Me: But if I make this look like work....
OtherMe: The sleeper has awakened. Release the goddamn hounds.

Like I said, could have been cows for all I cared.

Sure, it was a useful tool and everything, and I knew that, but the attraction was very much making the most amazing Excel workbook such as the gods would envy as well as avoiding everything I hated until the last minute. And on the way, three workbooks appear documenting all the things, because hey, that worked really well.

It's only recently I've realized my bosses knew what I was doing (that I was bored, I hated what I was working on, and procrastination) because for six months, that thing was open constantly while I experimented with fonts (calibri final choice, btw) or when testing (motivation to do my actual work: God's spreadsheet) so I could update it (and justify adding new font colors because MEPD questions are different from FS) and when I go into spreadsheets, I don't notice lunch or end of workday or murder one happening in the next cubicle, much less anyone checking what I was doing so intently that I had to be poked to get my attention.

I suspect at that point, however, a.) I always eventually got my work done on time, even if I was doing it at midnight, so they were willing to give me slack there, b.) my earlier projects had set a precedent (I wasn't gaming, reading facebook, or documenting how often my coworkers went to the bathroom or were on leave and reporting it to the managers monthly in self-righteous satisfaction), and c.) a weird fascination with what the hell I thought I was doing and where it was going (because hell yes I was not subtle about minimizing my spreadsheet if I saw a boss like it was freaking D/s goat porn and I was starring in it).

In retrospect, when I threw an eight sheet macro-enabled workbook complete with detailed instructions on use into a mass unit email (no one saw that coming first thing in the morning, trust me, especially with a perky message implying I did all this grueling work to help humanity and achieve world peace because again, this was God's spreadsheet and being super useful was a side effect, so I really did feel the need to explicitly justify it) and that updates would be from now on in the shared folder (Everyone: "WTF?"), there general feeling was "she literally procrastinated by inventing new, much harder, and much more time-intensive work for herself to do while still stressing the fuck out of herself on deadlines."

This wasn't without precedent.

My first "holy shit, what?" project: I wrote a searchable username spreadsheet as well that tracked all our usernames passwords in four environments and all the Medicaid TOAs, but that was more me learning how to code and didn't take that long. However, it did require a tiny bit of research, because the Medicaid TOA list we had was incomplete and nothing but the best for God's Prototype Spreadsheet. This was the same period of time I requested and got access to PLSQL and learned basic SQL overnight and stealing statements from people so I could get the full code list from the database myself. Incidentally this became part of my job as well when one day my boss needed someone to do some SQL queries and the people whose only job is to do database work were out and I said (unthinkingly), "Those are easy, I can do it, what environment and which ones?"

Boss: *eyebrows raised* You don't say.

Yes, there was a connection between how I went from having 30 Days to Learning SQL and ww3 open on my computer to suddenly writing join statements from memory and that username spreadsheet going out over email to everyone with a cheery "hope you find this superuseful, it was all for you my beloved coworkers". And that really strange time where I sent out an email to state our SQL folder had a script that has all the ssp tables on it, because at one point I queried for every table in the database, eliminated all the ones that didn't start with sp_ and select * from sp_xxxxx on every. Fucking. Table. One by one. To find where the fuck my validation code was and wrote a notes like (--this is all hex) (--this hadn't been updated ever) (--this looks like a list of fish) (--this has case numbers) (--this is cats?).

(Databases are weird sometimes with keys.)

So one of the things that happened a week before my interview was I asked submanager to my desk to show her I'd written a windows bat file that when clicked by a user would run adb at command line to enable screen recording on our phones when we test the mobile app and store the results on our drives in a file with an appropriate name. It required nothing but the installation of Android Studio (and nothing else; just get someone to install it), putting the script in a folder, and double clicking it of a tester and go to town.

My submanager before was interface and tech, so unlike most people (and I didn't think of this or I would have asked my manager over instead) she didn't go 'very cool' in the 'what a neat function and seriously, really?' way and leave it at that. She read the actual script because by the way, she wrote all the bat scripts for her job when she was just a lead. It was recognizably generic, yeah, I googled until I found something appropriate and altered it so it would work for anyone (not well, no, I don't know what I'm doing, my window was what I could learn in fifteen minutes so I just kept testing things until they worked) on our work machines and I'm guessing had a really bad feeling because precedent.

The problem is Android Studio was minimized but not closed (I was doing this on my personal laptop because I didn't have all the tools on my work computer and some weren't cleared for use), she saw it, maxxed it with a morbid look, and unfortunately my latest project was right there and that looked disturbingly like someone writing their second app after 'hello'.

At the same time--disaster--I was on deadline for six tests that no, I hadn't even started yet, and there was no way to legit believe my "almost done", but at that moment, her expression indicated she was somewhere else (thank God, except no, not so much).

In that moment, looking at Android Studio on my laptop, my work desktop open to the Mobile Testing Reference Guide (fuck my life, Visual Basic was open to show some really complicated subs), a simple yet so very user friendly bat file to screen record Android phones for mobile testing and a recent email that announced updates to all my custom testing tools (and a preview of a new and improved python stopwatch), there might have been a revelation. I hope not, but this could actually happen, since she has had me come up, brightly and with sincerity, asking for this x thing for this reason.

If she were to review my entire work history (she was there for all of it), the following would appear suddenly uncannily significant:

  1. several how-to guides, a folder labeled Programs that I'd both discovered and written and sometimes requested specifically for all of us because testers need them for reasons and my email about it was so convincing and sometimes had video attached.

  2. Three entire workbooks of meticulously organized documentation for a program.

  3. My perfectly legit (if somewhat out of the ordinary) requests for Access (all versions), the full versions of Office 2007, Office 2010, Visio, SQL access, database access, QPASA webservice access (all followed interestingly by a detailed spreadsheet, a how-to guide, or a folder of specialized but very useful SQL scripts filled with so many useful (and possibly there's a pattern here) statements in the team folder), and finally, quite recently, my suggestion that one of the newer guys in interface testing be assigned all mobile webservice tests. We're very good friends, not a surprise, and I said I'd work with him to work out how our tests would interact and it was suggested I sit in on his learning all about the SOAP and REST UIs, and the guy teaching us cc'ed me in the email to my buddy with web addresses, usernames, passwords for accessing the testing UIs. I am just that kind of awesome friend and coworker.

  4. Remembering my latest meeting where I said I was starting a class on Android development to make me a better tester for mobile and my bosses (and bosses's boss) all looked like "God, what a fucking team player in her weird way. If we can just get her better at not stressing deadlines (or us with them), wow."

  5. Four years ago, while searching the shared folders by going to windows, entering map drive and hitting browse, I found one I could access without password (I found a lot and mapped them all, but this one was special). It was a little known but open to anyone who knew about it repository for all the common programs used by dev and licensed with verification codes. I asked our tech support if I could download from there, and the response was "knock yourself out". Awesome.

  6. A note of interest: the last time we all got new computers, there were a few that were pre-installed for dev but turned out unneeded. They came with all the dev tools (Christ), multiple IDEs, putty, several ssh variants, and a very sweet PLSQL upgrade, a full and beautifully detailed and documented ora file for Oracle of fifteen years worth of all the environments with usernames and passwords, none of which were in that shared folder but were--for purely practical reasons--on a different server that I didn't know to look for (thanks for that). When they were going to wipe them for us and install our testing tools for us, I nobly said "Don't bother. I'll install our testing tools on it myself, it's fine" and everyone asked no questions because me, and I like making everyone's life easier and tech was fine with it, since I had been doing that for coworkers already and lowering their workload. I asked if I should uninstall the dev tools, of course, but everyone said eh, these are already licensed to the state forever, don't worry about it unless they get in your way. They won't, thanks.

  7. About forty-five seconds before this moment, I said very casually, "I can run this and do all the screen recordings off my laptop for now, not a problem. But any chance we could request Android Studio be installed for all the testers? All they would have to do is run this script once its installed." She nodded distractedly before her eyes went to Android Studio, it was maxxed, she blinked slowly at my lines of code and detailed notes and I realized, this is why I politely go to their desks when I want to ask questions like this.

Fuck my life indeed.

Fortunately, she's sane and would not make the leap to asking "Are you learning Android development from scratch to build a screenrecording app for Android after requesting that all the testing mobile phones get a screenrecording app installed, complete with full list of potential apps, their individual price and the total cost is in review, because the deadline for your tests is still more than two days, you're procrastinating, and this is technically work related?"

…that would be it, yeah.

(Honestly, it might be faster than requisitions.)

See, the thing is, no one sane is going to look at 1 -7, hear that answer, and come to a really outlandishly weird conclusion like, say, "Are you using your job to get paid for improving your skillsets for your hobbies? And we benefit because basically, this is where you are while doing it and why not?"

Answer: yes.

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Tags: crosspost, work
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