It is with no excess of grace that my Big Computer Project has come galumphing to the end of its first phase. I had planned it to flow as smoothly as a professional ballet dancer performing the waltz of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Instead, it staggered to its painful conclusion like a sloppy drunk. However, with a few scrapes and bruises, we got somewhere. We're using the new software, albeit clumsily. I'll have to do a lot of polishing up before I can say this project is a success.
The trainer who was with us all week, (I'll call her Jill), is my hero. She really did come through hell and high water to help us, and then continued to go above and beyond the call of duty every day.
I wouldn't say that everything that could go wrong did go wrong, as that would be overstating the case. However, sometimes it felt like it was true. For example, Monday morning started out with a series of technical glitches as Jill struggled to get access to our test database on the laptop computer which was hooked up to her overhead projector. Nevertheless, we found a (clumsy) workaround and got the first training session up and running.
At lunchtime, she asked where she could find the closest available restaurant for lunch. I directed her to a café in our building. I had eaten there once and it was fine. So off she went. They served her undercooked chicken. She had already swallowed a bit when she noticed it was raw inside. We both prayed that she wouldn't get food poisoning.
Of course she got food poisoning.
Jill, being an absolute trooper, dosed herself up with Pepto and Immodium, and showed up after an awful night of technicolour yawns to teach a full day. God only knows how she did it. My hat is off to her. She is one tough cookie. (That was Tuesday.)
On Wednesday, halfway through the day of training, users' security privileges started disappearing. It turns out that a configuration questionnaire which I filled in almost a year ago, which no one had explained to me, was being used to set up security access profiles. On the questionnaire I had been asked to list everyone's "roles". So, for example, I put myself down as an "administrator", because that's what I do in the organization: I administrate. Turns out that in the software, "administrator" means "lowest level clerk who has access to nothing". I had to call the software head office to get my Power User privileges restored so that I could go in and fix all the other profiles.
On Thursday Jill had to leave early on a personal matter. She revealed to me that her mother has terminal cancer and she had to meet with a doctor to discuss palliative care. "It's a terrible disease," she told me. I said something sympathetic. She continued: "When my son was diagnosed it was only months until he died." Turns out her son, who was only 31, passed away a mere 6 months ago. Frankly I'm amazed that she's able to function at all under the circumstances, let alone deal with all the b.s. that was going on with our project.
Friday you wouldn't even believe. Jill was at the office at 6:45 am, to support my earliest staffer on our first day live with the new software. She ran around all day, troubleshooting a staggering kaleidoscope of problems, amongst 10 panicked employees all clamouring for her attention.
As with any change, everyone was stressed out and fussing. One of my ladies was literally panting with anxiety because she couldn't figure out the details of the software. Jill would turn to me and say "So-and-so is feeling very upset because she can't print labels." Off I would go to troubleshoot another label printer. (I must have spent at least two hours on the phone with remote tech support fiddling with the stupid label printers.) I could read between the lines of what Jill was saying, which was "I'm here despite grieving my son, in the process of losing my mother, and still nauseous and exhausted from food poisoning, and this twit is leaning on me for emotional support because of a printer glitch." Indeed. Despite this she stayed calm and professional throughout her 10-hour day. I was the only one she talked to about any of the things she was going through.
At the end of Friday I presented her with a thank-you card signed by all the staff. (I had been circulating it since Wednesday, after the food-poisoning incident.) I had also picked out a scented candle in a glass holder for her. She hugged me, thanked me profusely, and then hugged me again. She said she wouldn't read the card until later because it would probably make her cry.
I'm not sure if I'll ever see Jill again, but she made a big impression on me. I'll never forget her steadfastness and inner strength. You want a strong female role model? Or just an amazingly inspiring person, full stop? I've got one right here with a heart of gold and a will of steel. Anytime I'm going through several varieties of crap all at once, I'm going to think of her, and smile.