I drive in to work at an unusually early time for me: it’s around 7:55am when I arrived at the front gate to the airbase. The security guard smiles his familiar round smile as he waves me through. His cheerfulness belies the fact that, were it not for the identification I present to him, I would go no further than his little box.
It’s cold and dark outside, the Auckland sun only just beginning to shine a few anaemic rays in my direction. I pull up to the car park. The car park straddles the red line which denotes the “operational” part of the airbase to the non-operational part. “Identification to be visible at all times” the sign says something like that. I clip my ID onto my belt and walk to the door to the building I’ve spent most of my waking hours in this past year or so. All of my personal belongings go into a secure lockup just in front of the secure doors. Nothing unauthorised is permitted here. I’ve taken to simply dumping all the contents of my pockets here, just in case.
I walked in past Jane “how are you?” we exchange pleasantries as I make my way through two sets of protected doors. “Hah! I beat Stirlo!” I crow with unusual triumph. The early bird is usually here well before me, the wall of v-cans on his desk a testament to his ability to run high octane on very little sleep. He’s a brilliant man. I work with many brilliant men. I retire to the cold windowless room that houses the developers for my project. Two team members are here already but not Guy and Mark: another internal glow of inward triumph. I sit down at my desk and force myself to focus on the task at hand.
The boys arrive not too late. “So, Steve, how late did you stay last night?”
“Not much later than you” I lie effortlessly.
“I don’t believe him. You been sleeping here, Steve?”
“Naw, he’s wearing a different shirt”
Good thing I made a point of it.
I’m the “lead developer” on the project I’m working on here. It’s an ostentatious title, something that I essentially said I needed to do, wanted to do. It’s probably partly due to ego: I decided, in my arrogance, there was no one better suited to the job than myself. No one else, who could essentially pull it off.
I guess I was half right. The project’s been extremely successful. We’re a month ahead and the customer is already bragging about the system we’ve built for them, a lot of people have come through the doors to see what the team have built and they’ve all been mightily impressed.
Even so, it’s been a hard slog, and there are a lot of things I did very poorly. Software development is as much art as it is science and so you have to roll with the punches each day. I think that’s the thing I’ve done best: adapt. Every day, the list of things I wish I had done better grows, and I try to push it out of my mind so that I can focus on the task at hand: finishing. Something I am not naturally good at.
“So, you haven’t been optimising code in your underwear again then, huh, Steve?”
It’s strange, but the comment is imbued with a hint of respect: a realisation that although I may not be perfect, I’m still good enough to tell them what to do. Something I sometimes question myself. When you’re working with such extremely skilful, intelligent people, you have to be on the very top of your game at all times. I love the challenge of it all. I optimised some of Guy’s code the other night. It’s a significant improvement and quite a good bit of work. I didn’t tell them how late I stayed up to do it though. Suffice to say I’ve become quite friendly with the night time security guards.
Most nights now, I’m the last to lock up. A responsibility I don’t take lightly. “You have the con” someone says in faux military parlance as they wave their way out of the door. They have absolute faith and trust, a trust I committed to live up to. I wonder the dark rooms with nothing but the blue light of the occasional screensaver to show me where I’m going. I shake every door, secure every window, flip every light switch and lock up with every bit of attention to detail only someone with a mild form of OCD will recognise: the “checking” behaviour that took me years of conscious effort to stop.
I deliver the key to the security guard. “Cold enough for you?”
“Oh yes, sign here… 23:59, ok?”
It’s nearing the end of the project and there are far more defects than I’d like, but we are making good progress. Excellent progress. I am relying heavily on the excellence of my team, but it’ll be over soon.
What then? The next project, of course! A tighter deadline, but the next one will be the best one yet.