The cold slap of IT operational work

After most of two years spent at home pottering with Web enterprises, it comes as a shock to spend three months of high-stress 50-hour weeks back at the coal face.

Quitting my corporate job was a lifestyle decision. There were times in the past two years when I wondered if I had gained anything in lifestyle, but that was because the change had crept up on me gradually. It is only now, stepping back into the maelstrom of IT operations, that I realise just how pleasant working from home really is.

Sure there are days working at home when worry grips me: will I ever make a decent living, let alone find the two million bucks I'm looking for?

And days when the coding bug consumes me and I hack PHP until long after midnight and rise bleary eyed to do it again.

And days when fear of the unknown keeps me awake: have I offended my reader-base for ever? Have I provoked some nutter to cyber-stalk me? Have I goaded a mighty corporate once too often so they turn their super-hackers against me? The internet is a vast unexplored territory for me: what lurks there, what will I find? And we fly blind most of the time. We get so little information about what is around us, what is touching our site, even what is happening within the site. Spooky.

But these are rare days. Most days working at home are relaxed, independent, self-paced, fulfilling. Pick up Jack after school and go to cricket practice. Go to the shops at 10am on a Wednseday and have the mall almost to myself. Lunch with my wife. Sleep until my body says "wake". Work when it suits me, don't when it doesn't. Close enough to freedom to keep me happy for a while.

Now I'm a ball of stress again. Production outages, failed SANs, clinical risk, incident reviews, root cause, staff crises, voicemails, midnight calls, meetings, committees, budgets and plans...

Not as stressed as I was in fulltime employment though. The stress is mitigated by the knowledge that it ends at Christmas, that come January Jack and I get the tent out and go somewhere green for a month (my wife doesn't go where the toilets don't flush).

Nevertheless it is a cold hard reminder of what I left behind. And never want to go back to ... fulltime. I'll do it again I know, for these reasons:

1) I need the money. Right now my web income doesn't cover hosting.

2) The experience is great fodder for my articles.

3) It keeps me grounded, keeps my perspective aligned with the real world.

4) It keeps me motivated to succeed, it reminds me what I escaped.

I'm two years into a five year plan (actually "plan" might be too strong a word; "exploration" would be more like it). In three more years I'll be 51 and running of runway before retirement: if I can't find serious money on the internet by then I'll be back to driving a desk madly piling a few bucks before I'm too old to do it any more.