Ruminations on Separating Work and Work

It’s been a long, hectic quarter this time around – I’m not complaining when I say that, though I admit that there are some aspects of this class that make me wonder why I’m bothering with it. The bulk of my work is being focused upon our yearlong project, which, for me, consists of creating a new appointment system for the Writing Center.

Creating an application for a place that you yourself work is an interesting experience because it requires two hats. The first is the hat of the know-it-all business user: the one who knows how things are typically run, knows that certain procedures are executed in order A and not order B, that certain business rules are never enforced properly, that certain parts of our work are highly dependent upon the smooth operation of one part of the Center, and so on and so forth. The second is the hat of the non-expert applications developer: the one who questions every business rule and tests for its validity, the one that, when faced with a choice between efficiency and practicality, is forced to consult with the client to get their opinions properly registered, the one who needs to maintain some distance in order to keep an objective view of the work involved.

The whole “two hats” thing is both beneficial and a curse. It means that I can quickly answer business questions posed by my project partner (who is in no way connected to the Center and is the blissfully oblivious, inquisitive half of this team), but it also means that I always must be certain that the answers I give are framed in such a way that they are reflective of the operations of the Center rather than my opinion, whether that is an opinion of how the Center does or should operate. It means that clarifying logistics with our project sponsor is much easier because I work for her and can translate into her language, but it denies me the objectivity that my project partner has.

Frankly, it also means that I must be extremely careful not to let the wires cross, for fear that it will compromise my ability to effectively work in either environment; yet, for whatever reason, that has been unavoidable. Even if I’m not working on the system, I’m working on the system – in my head, I’m processing what goes on in terms of appointment scheduling and considering logistics. But here again, I must be careful: my visualization of what goes on and the snippets that I catch are not necessarily reflective of reality. I sit on the periphery of the appointment scheduling process that goes on daily because I am unable to participate in it – my hearing impairment bars me from effectively fulfilling a vital part of that duty.

So, in our process of peppering people with questions, convening focus groups, meeting weekly with both project sponsors and program faculty, I find myself now listless. It’s as if I have all the information in front of me, but because of the sheer concentration of the last several weeks, that information has transformed itself into a language I can no longer understand. I have not lost momentum; instead, I have lost my ability to sequentially address issues as they arise. It is not that I will simply stop. We are at the point where we cannot stop – we are close to a first-cut implementation of this program, and stopping now would mean severe delays further along.

How do you navigate with a foreign map in familiar territory? Intuition and memory. That’s what I must now rely on.

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