Saturday, January 14, 2017

My New Normal

I've been in Dallas all week.  My mom half-joked that airplanes are like taxi's for people who work for the airlines and that's almost true.  My commute is either 30 minutes between where I live and the data center where I work, or 2 hrs between Phoenix and Dallas where the balance of my team is located.

I realize I've complained about my commutes before but this is different.  I've got no complaints.  It's a balance and I actually enjoy both worlds.  I Phoenix I get, well..."home".  In Dallas I've got mom.

When I was hired last January I was a project manager for a large effort to replace out-of-date network gear at our two largest data centers...routers, switches, and such.  It was a big effort...well over a million dollars....and very visible.  The routers we were replacing affect every aspect our our business.

Part of the fun of this last year is learning about how airlines work, and all the behind-the-scenes stuff most people will never see or ever even consider.  The thing that connects it all is the network.  From our website, to ticketing, to the kiosks at every airport we service around the world, to the routing of the baggage, to the tools the gate agents use...it's all connected by the network.  But there's so much more.

There's an app that has pictures of each pilot and a gate agent needs to verify the pilot's identify before they are allowed in the cockpit.  All our maintenance records, manuals, fueling, scheduling, crew management, catering....I could go on and on.  It's all connected by a network.  And the devices we were replacing are the devices that connect it all.  So, when we touch one it requires quite a bit of communication, planning, coordination.  And guts.  Managing these replacements is not for the timid.

That was my job for the first 10 months at AA.  I had a team of engineers, a boatload of new equipment, and an aggressive schedule.  My weeks were comprised of days full of planning, long long nights of actually doing these changes, and lots of other stuff stuck in between.  I've never been part of anything like it before and at the outset the fact I'd be working late night hours in addition to the daytime requirements was a concern.  But once I got into the rhythm it was just the way it was.  It all clicked.

I managed these change calls where we'd have a dozen or more people involved.  As the engineers were unplugging the devices and moving the configs to the new devices the Help Desk could chime in at any minute indicating that Athens was reporting printing problems, or Tokyo couldn't print boarding passes and was doing them by hand, or that some other issue somewhere in the world was affecting our service.  It's really amazing to realize what even one of those cables among rows and rows of them can impact.

Once I got comfortable in it I could handle the change, manage the impacts, coordinate the various teams that would take part in the call, and then communicate the outcomes effectively. I like "different" - that's one of the things I enjoyed about consulting - and this was unlike anything I've ever done.  In some ways, it was a perfect job for me.

American Airlines as it exists today is the result of many airlines getting combined over the years.  Airlines from the past - Piedmont, Allegheny, US West, and dozens of others - are now part of AA.  The reason that's important in my world is that 3 or 4 years ago American Airlines (based out of DFW) bought US Airways (based here in PHX) to form what we proudly claim as "The World's Largest Airline".  As part of that merger several parts of US Airways based here stayed here - including the data center.

Most of the people here are here to support that in one way or another.  But our management hub is in Dallas.  That was another good thing....I was  PM hired to work with an engineering team based in PHX but my management was in DFW.  I didn't have anyone breathing down my throat, and I had the flexibility I needed to do what needed to be done.  As I say - in some ways it was perfect for me.

I was 8 months into it when I was approached by an engineering manager about my interest in becoming a full-time employee for AA.  I had expressed that interest to my own manager early in our relationship but he was non-committal, saying that it would be easier to do if I lived in Dallas.  But I didn't live in Dallas and wasn't planning to move again.  So, when I got the call to gauge my interest I was open to the conversation.

The role I was approached to do was different than anything I had done before, too.  The title is "Manager of Remote Network Engagements".  What it means is that our IT networking is divided in two ways: (1) Data Centers - there are 4 of them and (2) anything NOT a data center.  That includes every airport, maintenance facility, Admiral's Club, reservation center, and all sorts of other miscellaneous locations around the world.  There are well over 400 of them.

In this current role any time any of these groups needs anything done that involves a networking component they need to go through my group.  The things we're asked to do range from bringing up service in a new airport we haven't served before (for example, Havana Cuba) to moving/adding gates in an airport to expanding an Admiral's Club to expanding capacity...the list of things we do is a long one. I am responsible for all of them - from the intake, to assigning an engineer, to managing the engagement.  I'm responsible for maintaining our relationships with our biggest internal customers as well as external ones, I'm responsible for status reporting from a portfolio perspective.  I'm part of the management team that includes a Sr. Manager, a Team Lead, and a Sr. Architect.  And, perhaps most importantly, I thing I'm perfect for it.

They "officially" hired me in late September and it took a few weeks to transition my old role and into my new one.  This is the first job-job I've had since I left Dell in 2004, and I'm planning to spend the rest of my career here.

One day is rarely like another.  There's lots going on.  I get to use a variety of skills I've built over the years. The travel benefits are great.  The people are great.  And that's not to say there aren't some frustrations in there, too, but I'm in this for the long haul.  I'm committed, and this has become my new "normal".

More later.

1 comment:

Cassidy said...

Congratulations on the new job! Sounds like a great fit!

== Cass