I know that I have not updated this in a while, so putting “Final Update” might seem a bit out of place since I really havent updated gradually along the way. Isn’t that how it always is…start out with good intentions, do it strong for a short while, then fade away and try to reclaim some sort of dignity too late in the game to make a difference. Ah, story of my life, the procrastinator, however, I have a legitimate reason for this trip. The roadblocks we ran into daily in Kuwait were not just annoying at first, like them restricting access to servers and access panels that they hired me to come and fix, so I couldn’t even do the work I was there to do. Ok, well, let me back up and explain what I was sent to do, in a nutshell.
The company I work for makes security software; and I don’t mean antivirus or spyware protection. I am talking about access control software, facility controls software. Our software can work with a variety of hardware, like intercom systems, entry detection and access card systems, perimeter detection systems, cctv audio/video systems, OPC/BMS management systems. That last one is for building management, knowing what irrigation pipe just exploded or which UPS battery is ab0ut to fail, etc…So our software is the front-end that integrates all these things into one Workstation screen for the end user. If they want to ope/control doors from this computer, they can. they can also send alarms to certain phones through the intercom system, or change card access and who can get into which parts of the building, monitor cctv IP cameras; and do all of this through one piece of software, our software.
That is the shortest nutshell explanation I can think of for what we do. So, in order for our software to work, we must have functioning hardware. Well the panels that control each door were mostly functioning but there were 5 or 6 that were offline and needed to be reset or worked on. Well, the people at the building, who hired our client to bring me over and fix this stuff, did not allow me to work on it until 2:30pm (that is when all the employees leave). Well, great, ok, so we will work on them from 2:30 to 6pm or 7pm right? Nope. They would kick us out each day at 5pm, and even if we had that 2.5hours to work, the people we needed keys from to GET to the actual panels in the first place had already left. Also, the most simple of request had a chain of command, had to be in writing, and required 14 signatures. I needed the IT contractor to come out and check cabling in the garage, where they use RFID readers. I requested this on Friday, and they came out Thursday the NEXT week (6 days later). Hmm, when you hire someone to come over for only 2 and a half weeks, don’t you think you would want a faster response time that that? It’s like they thought I had all year to wait for action, and that I lived there, rather than being on a business trip. So, this “2:30pm” business got in the way quit a bit, as well as the delay in the response time for simple requests. A good example of the unnecessary chain of command was seen when I asked for a key to a certain room that had a panel in it that I needed to inspect. I requested the jey in the morning around 9am, and we got it around 2:10. The guy brought the key to the room, fiddled around a little with it, then realized it was the wrong key. Instead of going back to get the right key, he turns to me and says, “Ah, I guess this will have to wait until tomorrow,” to which I immediately replied, “It’s ok, I will wait if you want to go back and get the right one.” He then looked at me like I didn’t understand the first thing about security protocol, then said, “I have to request it again.” So to me, the word “request” means, “Hey can I have the key…thanks” and that’s it. Not in Kuwait. He had to draft up more paperwork, and get more signatures from the president of the building as well as the security commander before he could remove a key from a room 10 feet away from where we were standing to come and open a door.
This was the mentality the entire time. The word “driven” was definitely not part of their work ethic. If 2:30 came around or something required multiple signatures, they would basically just give up or say “We will try later.” *Sigh* This is now just a venting blog post rather than an informative one. I apologize, but when you know exactly what you need to do, and paperwork is standing in the way along with multiple signatures, you just sit there wondering why you are even talking to this person. To make it worse, the majority of the people that had to sign the paperwork had no idea what I was even doing or how to use the system, etc…Why are they necessary to approve this request if they don’t even know what it is for?
Ok, done venting. Even with all that, it was a sucessful trip. I got our software up and running, enabled redundancy for the server and the drivers for all the hardware. In plain engligh that means if one server or one computer running the hardware goes down, then another one immediately takes over so there is no downtime in the system more than 30-45 seconds.
I was happy with the work, the direct team of engineers I was working with was also happy. The politicians in the mix who want to feel important just hearing themselves talk, are fine, and will learn the system, but if you happen to be one of this business men who overlooks technical projects, but you yourself are not technical…please, give the techies some credit, trust them initially right off the bat, and I prokmise you will get much more solid and consistent work out of them on projects. Going into a project in a standoff-ish mode and mentality makes your engineers feel completely unmotivated to make your facility work. Sure, be precautionary at first, and lay down the rules, and demand progress reports daily or weekly, but constant questioning everyday as to their skill and ridiculing them in front of the end client…not going to get you anywhere. Take a “wait and see” mentality when working with new engineers, at least for a couple weeks. I guarantee if you treat your engineers and on-site help good right off the bat, they will not just do a good job with the hardware/software, but they will be proud of their work. I know this sounds cheesy and really geeky, but each connection made to/from the hardware and the server is seen as an accomplishment, and a success, and this is what engineers live for. Yes, that definitely sounds cheesy, but seeing the fruits of their labor in action in a working system is all the congratulations they will need, so again, if you are a business man, or the end client funding a project; please do go ahead and keep tabs and check up, but let the techies be the techies, and for crying out loud…if they are there for a limited time from another country on a expense paid business trip, please bypass the normal security rules. They obviously did not get paid to fly 24 hours across the globe to come and mess up the system. They are already there because the system is messed up, so open the doors for them. Literally and Figuratively. I’m talking to you Fluor! (British division), and all you Kuwaitis.