It is always exhilarating to begin a new job. It is also scary, headache-producing and exhausting, but I still enjoy it. It is fun to pit your wits against a new conceptual structure and wrestle it into a matrix of comprehension. It is also fun to display your intellect, character and skills to a new group of people who have not already formed fixed ideas of who you are. Mistakes and soured relationships from prior employment can be left behind, to be replaced by new errors and embarrassments.
I’ve never been a tester before. The formal term is “Quality Assurance” (QA) — the basic idea is to have a group of people who review new and updated systems to ensure that (a) all the new features work as planned, and (b) nothing else has been broken or disabled by the new code. Most people agree that a developer who creates the new functionality is ill-suited to test his own work — and so have been created Quality Assurance groups in nearly every Information Technology organization.
My job is two-fold — to ensure the quality of new systems produced by the groups that I support, and to increase the level of testing automation so that future QA efforts will be more exhaustive and less dependent on manual oversight. Long-term, I hope to build a set of automated testing tools that can be used for regression testing or daily validation.
I was hired as a contractor, for a 90-day term. Implicit in this arrangement is the suggestion that, after the 90 days has elapsed, I may be eligible for conversion to full-time employee. This depends, of course, on my performance and the needs of the company at that time. Ninety days is a good length of time for evaluating someone in my line of work — few people can (or will) conceal or misrepresent their work habits, ability and character for such a sustained period.
The worst part about this job is the commute. It takes me about two hours and 45 minutes to get to work in the morning, and right around three hours to get home — not much time left to enjoy my family, at least on weekdays. I only have to drive for about an hour of each way; I spend the rest of the time riding the bus, ferry, and shuttle van. On the ferry I have about 35 minutes to write on my laptop, as I am doing now.
I’ve been very much blessed over the past four years, working from home and enjoying my family. It was a tremendous gift from God to be allowed that daily, casual presence with my wife and children, even during my working hours. Last night when I got home, my little David and Sarah clung to me and sat on my lap for the first hour or so — even Joshua gave me a long (more than 30 seconds) hug. Kathy says that Joshua misses me the most, which surprises me — I keep expecting him to pull away from us, as he enters pre-adolescence.
It is hard to enjoy a gift for a long time and not feel as though it is an entitlement. I’m sure that many friends and family envied and even resented the privilege that I enjoyed, working from home for so long. Kathy tells me that most of the people, with whom she discusses my new commute, are singularly lacking in sympathy. Perhaps there is a sense in their minds that I had more than my fair share of privilege and it is proper and appropriate for me to experience the way the rest of the working world lives. It is unfortunate, because it cuts Kathy off from being able to receive support in this new (and rather unpleasant) lifestyle.
It must be very hard for Kathy to suddenly bear the full weight of parenting in addition to home-schooling — some nights the kids are already in bed by the time I get home. She is a very strong, cheerful and resilient person, but I’m sure that she feels the strain of suddenly being a “single mom” of five children.
I’m thinking seriously of moving to the city (maybe renting, at first) and making our home in the Duckabush available for lodging use by the Refuge. It would be sad to leave the beauty and comfort of our home in the valley, but I think it is more important for my children to have a Daddy underfoot, than for them to live in the country — cutting my commute down to an hour each way would free up almost four hours a day to be a family. Spending time together as a family is one of the highest values that I have — it seems foolish to allow this commuting situation to continue indefinitely.
It is a strange feeling, to depend on God for my future plans. I am more accustomed to a worldly perspective in which I make plans and try to include God where possible. I feel that at this point in my life, I want God to make the plans and to show me how I am involved. Now I just need to discover what God’s plan is for our family …