The origins of 24x7 hours date back to the 1950s when diners across America felt it would be wise to keep their doors open and serve those who were late night drinkers craving munchies or college kids staying up ‘til odd hours of the evening for finals. This plan quickly backfired as they realized that those were not two separate target markets, but by then, it was too late. The munchie-craving college kids who stayed up ‘til odd hours of the evening drinking before finals were so hooked to the idea of staggering over to Denny’s for 3am “Duuuude, they have bacon,” that round-the-clock service was just impossible to lose.
Ok…perhaps I don’t know the real story of how 24 hour service started, but I have experienced its many blessings with the exception of the now famous “Great Denny’s Syrup Incident of 2004,” an epic tale that must be left for another day…or until I’m allowed back in that building.
On that note, you may not have heard this, but GearHost has recently adopted this amazingly convenient schedule for support. That’s right, 7 days a week, 24 cups of coffee a day we are here for you. As long as the sun doesn’t explode (as well as up to 15 seconds after it does), you’ll be able to reach us by phone, chat, or e-mail. Though I can evaluate this sudden transition as arduous and a bit exhausting (don’t feel too bad, we get long weekends!), there are some positives, including one amazing one that I can’t ignore.
It’s funny to think about ramping up your support to be 24x7. From a company perspective, it’s an amazing thing to tell people, so much so that we shouted from the rooftops (by which I mean Facebook) on day 1 of the endeavor. The workload is spread out over longer periods of time and because we have so many customers who reach out to us from Europe, Asia, and Africa, they don’t have to work on their issues at such odd hours of their night. If something happens during “Duuude, they have bacon” time, someone is going to be around and readily available to support you. The customer benefits for 24x7 are amazing no matter where you are.
But spin that on its head for a sec. From a support engineer perspective…it’s a bit different. We’re a pretty small crew right now, so the shifts are long, scheduling options are not as varied as if we were a company of, say, 300 people switching to 24x7, and the camaraderie is a bit harder to achieve. For you entrepreneurs out there, or freelancers, or anyone serving as “on call,” it’s a feeling that you are probably familiar with. Sometimes it feels more like a sacrifice than part of the job, and I’m sure you’ve all felt it. Mondays feel like “Monday: A New Hope,” Tuesdays feel like “The Monday Strikes Back,” Wednesdays feel like “Return of the Monday” and once Thursday hits, it’s just depressing and the saga feels a bit like a sell-out.
There are positives to this as well: long weekends are amazing, having a lot more time in a day to budget the workload where there’s usually a slow point to get some side projects finished, and long weekends are amazing (yes, I said it twice. You would too.) But the biggest thing, and it took a little time to hit me, the one benefit that I can’t ignore is that I will someday get to tell “the tale.”
When I started my last job, it was with a company that was expanding at the kind of rate that made you excited even filling out an application. For my first day, we had executives come in and give us newbies “the tale” about the “days of old,” where it was a group of guys huddled up in an “attic” waiting for the phone to ring, putting in long hours and working harder than they ever had in their life (in a blizzard, uphill both ways, blah, blah, blah…), but knowing with absolute certainty that it was going to pay off big. I found it hard to imagine what that was like and struggled to put myself in their shoes.
But here I am and “the tale” is suddenly familiar. Not that we operate in an attic (or any other single room with ancient creaky wooden floors, an unused, dusty ping-pong table that carries whatever we can fit on it, and a thin, haunting staircase that…ok, it’s kind of like an attic), but I can say the feeling of working incredibly hard with absolute certainty it is going to pay off big is near impossible to shake.
It’s an interesting trade-off. One that the entreprenuers, freelancers, on-callers are probably familiar with, and one that I am learning to respect. One day, I’ll be out with new recruits, a hot shot in the company (pipe dreams, but humor me), telling “the tale” of how it was to rock out amazing support with as small of a staff as you can have to pull off 24x7 support, pulling the long hours, sacrificing the camaraderie, dreaming of clearing off the ping-pong table, in a blizzard (it’s Colorado. I can say that), all the while wearing my “and look at me now shoes” for my audience to imagine themselves in.
And when that gathering happens, I anticipate, with the same amount of care and excitement that I had while hearing my former executives reminisce, a new recruit will stare at me for a moment, then look at his Denny’s menu and say “Duuude, they have bacon.”
Yep, I was that kid once. Not anymore. Good times, good times indeed.