We all know it happens in North America; once the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday hits, things start to slow down in IT—from vendor salespeople busy with family to coworkers out of the office in larger numbers. Since all regions and most religions have holidays clustered around the new year, the worldwide slowdown goes on for a good month and a half, sometimes—and in some locales—even longer.
And how we experience that slow time varies pretty widely. For some, it’s time to be completely off, like those coworkers. For others, it is time to finish those tasks that have been simmering on the back burner. For still more, it is a time of frustration as the things they’ve been working on grind to a halt. Back in the network computing days, we would do large, complex technical evaluations of the gear the vendors sold to enterprises. I covered mostly storage and servers with some security at the end, but my lab had more security, some software and some networking. We needed vendors to participate, and participation mostly meant traveling to our labs for any physical product, to set it up and let us test it. Needless to say, this slowed to a (sometimes frustrating) crawl as people reduced travel closer to the new year. I’ve felt that same frustration as an architect—when we couldn’t get vendors to respond and you really can’t blame them for doing the best they can in a time of seriously reduced staffing.
So, what can we do that doesn’t tie us to others who may or may not be available?
You know the list specific to you far better than I do, but here are some general suggestions to ponder. Most of these I have done during slowdowns.
- Learn that new language or framework. We all have one that the org is interested in, but in which we are weaker. Pick it up in those quiet hours; you can slap on headphones and focus with fewer interruptions.
- Same with new tools like test generators, DLP, GitOps or whatever your org is considering implementing. Heads down; figure it out in a test bed, and become at least versed and, at best, an SME.
- Clean up all that cruft you know you left behind over the past year. We’ve all got dead-end branches, stray text files, outdated bash scripts … Dynamic environments spew extraneous artifacts more than historically was the case. Take that time to go clean it up. I had a large script a couple of years ago that spun up a bunch of containers and ran tests. When I went to clean up, there were three different versions of the script and several orphaned containers still running. Good to get taken care of.
- Research, research, research. Whether it is something like reading a product’s site, checking crowdsourcing tools like G2 or looking at what some of the better/smarter analysts out there have to say, pick the tool you think would benefit the org, validate that it will and maybe even start documenting the use case and ROI justification (if you use ROI for consideration of new products; benefit analysis if not).
- Catch up. While generally the least fun use of this extra time on the job, it is often the most practical. We all have a ton of work, and sometimes the peace of mind that cranking out backlog offers is worth not doing the other things on this list.
- Take the time off. Seriously. Most of us (though no longer all of us) got into IT because we loved the technology and the promise. Walk away, take a breath and don’t even think about it for a week or two. Then, come back; I bet a bit of that wonder will return, making the job more fun and you more adaptable. It works if you can manage it. As others have said for many years, walking away and rediscovering a hobby can be invigorating, too.
Don’t sweat it, and don’t totally waste it. Figure out the best use of that time and move on it. There are a few spaces that simply do not slow down for holidays, and for those people, this blog is unlikely to be useful now, but at some point, slowdowns will arrive. I was a team lead at a tax software company. We slammed the holidays prepping for tax season, then got short weeks all summer. The mental checkout of teammates was similar to the end of year but delayed until early May. So we did all of this then.
But no matter what or when slowdowns happen, you’ve knocked out another year of keeping the org running. So, celebrate in some way; you deserve it.