Recently I got an extra responsibility to be an On-call engineer for IIS/ASP.Net support for one week apart from my daily work schedule. And I never realized what toll it can take on me until I took over it.
Basically an On-Call engineer has to be available during the Night hours for the entire week. S/he is just a backup, reserved in case a Critical issue comes in and no one is around to take it. So its like passively working 24×7 for a complete week. Remember it’s an extra add-on after one’s office hours.
We have very limited number of Engineers in support during US night shift hours and weekends, assuming that call/case volume will be very low during this period. And when an incident case is opened during this time and no one is available to take it (assuming all the limited workforce is already occupied with work on other cases) the call goes on to the so-called privileged On-Call engineer. And depending upon the severity of the case s/he may have to work on it either from home or come to office and then take over the mantle. Look how that poor person has to manage if s/he already had a tough day in office. In my case I had no choice but to come to office.
And I was told that we don’t get much calls for an On-call, and believing in the sanctity of the advice I was quite happy. But looks like everyday in my so called night hours (I work in US time zone although based in India) I get a ring for a critical (high severity and visible) case and the person on other line starts gabbling all the technical stuffs he damn cares to know about. And I am, brutally woken up from my deep slumber trying to recover at the earliest to make sense of what other person is speaking….It kind of, makes it amusing to me how fast I need to recover my senses (wherein few seconds back I was dreaming running around the trees in a state of bliss), to understand the technicalities of the phone conversation and get on with a bunch of people on the other line talking about how their server crashed like hell and how they saw their application getting into a hung state, or leaking memory etc. and what not. I understand their state (no one would like to work off hours in night or weekends out of choice after a hectic day unless a lot is on stake) and I try my best to empathize with their state and help them to the best of my abilities, meanwhile also knowing my own state at that point ;-)….well part of my job anyway.
In fact, these days I have started dreaming that my cell is ringing and when I wake up there is an utter silence, and I try to console myself that I will get a peaceful sleep today (I tell myself I won’t get a call today for sure, let peace behold on me), which doesn’t seem to be happening for the last few days.
I am happy that it won’t last long, another few days to go and then I can be a free bird enjoying my after-hours (beyond my shift) and then of course the weekends. You see there are a lot of plans one tend to make for weekends if their weekdays had a perilous impact on them. Just a kind of compensation I feel. One needs to find ways to freshen up. On a brighter note, I feel this stretch is really challenging and puts back hope in one’s abilities (if you have lost one) to handle pressure and situation elsewhere too in other walks of life and shows how far one can stretch his/her own limits if required. I am an optimist at the end and knows ways to soothe myself.
Looking forward to an exciting weekend ahead….guess today is just the start of the week.