Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Training, and Results in the Real World

So, I had an interesting experience this weekend. For the first time since I began training in Tang Soo Do, I found myself unexpectedly engaged in an altercation, and I was able to call upon my training in order to defend myself.

Now, this is not quite as dramatic and action-film-esque as it might sound, but hear me out. It's pretty cool all the same.

Among my many duties at my small startup company is responsibility for designing and maintaining our corporate website. I've done a fairly substantial amount of work on it, using my content management system or choice, Joomla, and some fairly nice templates and extensions. However, I am in marketing and not in IT -- this is significant, in that while my work lives and functions on our corporate servers I am not responsible for maintaining the servers -- or the data stored on them. That's the IT guy's job.


Late Friday/early Saturday, some joker hacked into the website. Messed with the templates, locked out portions of the administrative console. Big pain in the ass, really. And of course, this occurs on a holiday weekend, when the very last place I want to be is the office. Alas, you do what you gotta do. So, I talk with some folks, we quickly realize the best thing to do is restore the website from a backup ASAP, and then upgrade Joomla to close the security hole that allowed this jerk in in the first place.

However once we got ahold of our IT guy, it quickly became clear that despite the most basic assumptions we all were making -- that the web site, which is the single most accessible server in any corporation, simply because it is DESIGNED to be accessed by the public -- was in fact not being backed up. At all. And the most recent clean image of the website we appeard to have available was from nearly 5 months ago.

So, I was a bit upset. And when I questioned him about the lack of updates he game me a nonsense answer, claiming that due to the way the server was placed on our network it was impossible to back it up. Which, is, well, absurd. Easy to backup? Perhaps not. But impossible? That's ridiculous.

And I called him on it. Didn't get nasty, just said "There's NO WAY to do it? I find that hard to believe." And then I headed to work to try to recreate 5 months of work without any notes whatsoever.

Half an hour later, our IT guy shows up, and he is smokin' at the ears. Slams his bag on the floor by his desk, shouts over the wall to me that he can get me a version of the website from the end of last month, and "Would that be better?" (emphasis for the sneering tone). I say, "Well, yeah. A lot better."

And then he starts shouting at me. Literally shouting at the top of his lungs "I don't like being called a f-in' liar. Are you calling me a liar?"

I was a bit surprised, and said -- loudly, as I had to shout over him -- "No, I didn't call you a liar. I think you made an excuse and we have to fix this problem so it can't happen again and I really can't believe there's no way to do it. Other companies seem to have a way -- so should we." Well, then he gets really nasty -- "OK, OK, let me explain the basics of networking 101 to you so you can understand OK? I'll take it slow"

And when I tell you this guy is literally screaming this at me, I am not exaggerating. At this point, I'm just sort of looking at him. I haven't left my chair. He's literally screaming at me from about 10 feet away. And he's shouting and fuming and fulminating and bloviating.

And I sat and waited for him to finish.

Then, a co-worker who was in the building interceded, basically sent IT man back to his desk to cool the hell down. And I just turned my chair around and went back to work. A few minutes later IT dude came over, calmer, and apologized. "I really crossed the line there." "Yes, yes you did." "I should never have yelled at you like that." "No, no you shouldn't have." "I was just really upset about the site being hacked." "I am, too. I don't want to be here on a weekend any more than you do. Please get the more recent version of the website restored so we can both try to salvage what's left of the day."

He came back and apologized about 5 more times. Got the webiste online, and left.

So, where was the training in this story? Well, 3 years ago, the story would have involved me screaming back, standing up, slamming my fists into tables, and then literally shaking and almost crying for several minutes when things settled down because I had lsot control of myself. I might have punched a wall, or thrown something. I probably wouldn't have punched the IT guy -- I've always been good at directing my anger at inanimate objects instead of people, no matter how much they may seem to deserve it at the time -- but if I'd gotten physical it might have prompted him to throw a punch, and then things would have gotten really ugly. I'm twice his size, and I'm strong as an ox when I'm mad.

Instead, I sat and thought about him as he yelled at me. I realized he was backed into a corner, angry and embarrassed at being exposed for failing to keep the servers adequately backed up and he was blowing smoke, trying to push the blame away from himself. And he felt that I had put him in the position -- when obviously, he did it himself. I was just paying part of the price for his error. And when he was done yelling, and walked away, I sat and thought about how upset he was, and how he's probably worried about his job, and how silly he's going to feel when he settles down, and how I hope it's soon, because I want to get this work done already and go home.

And after he apologized, we shook hands, and I got to work. 3 hours later I went home. I don't think my heart rate ever went above 80 during the entire confrontation.

So, I think I've seen my first true glimpse of pyang ahn. Of peaceful confidence. I never felt threatened, simply because I knew that for all his anger and rage he was simply not a real threat to me. I was prepared for him to attack, relaxed and certain that if he did try to come at me I was in control of the situation and could bring it to a swift conclusion without getting all that hurt in the process. Instead, I took a more placid and passive approach, allowed him to vent the rage he felt, and when he was done he could see clearly, could see his error, and we could progress forward.

Sa Bom Nim often says that the best self defense is no self defense, the best Tang Soo Do is the Tang Soo Do you don't have to use. And I saw the wisdom of this firsthand for the first time that afternoon.

And man, it was a good day.

Mood: Very tired
Now Playing: The Mavericks, "The Mavericks"


Anonymous said...

Maybe you could just go to the source code and copy it, say once a week.

b redfield

Gregg P. said...

Hey SBN Redfield,

It's a bit trickier than that, because the content management system we're using stores all of the content is a MySQL database, which also has to be backed up -- and that's not a simple directory copy. But really, it's just a matter of writing up some scripts that trigger an database and do a directory structure copy every now and again. Really not a huge challenge, if our guy just puts his mind to it and does it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Gregg,

Been away from the internet for a while. I figure I had better catch up on your blog; and lo, you've gone ahead and laid a peace vibration anchored with backbone over this troubled world, advancing your enlightenment and by extension, mine. Good for you! Good for us!

Thanks for being!


T (of the Republic of Brooklyn)