A steaming cup of coffee next to a spilled burlap sack of coffee beans.

Real Life Interlude, And Hardware Repair Tips

“It’s been a helluva week today.”

That’s probably something I would have said on Monday this week. My full-time job is as a software engineering lead, which basically means I have to try to manage people and projects while still writing code. I’ve learned I’m not bad at focusing on something deeply, I’m okay at flitting from one thing to the next without having to think too deeply, and I’m terrible at trying to do both at the same time. That only makes sense since human beings in general are terrible at this.

Anyway, I bring all of this up to give context for my week. Before this year, I was managing two people and overseeing modest work in terms of ambition. With a team of three, you can only work on so much at once. Since the beginning of this year, I’ve added two net engineers for a grand total of 4 direct reports. Now that I’ve got a bigger team, that means we can do more work at once, which means, you can see where this is going, having to manage multiple projects.

Okay, generally, it’s only two at a time, and it’s not too bad. However, we schedule our work into quarters, and September is the end of the quarter. Two of the big projects I’ve been working on are both supposed to be delivered by the end of the quarter and they’re not finished yet. Then, Apple decides to make a bunch of privacy changes that really tips the apple cart for my employer, so there are changes we have to make in response to that. A job that had a moderate amount of pressure turned into an InstantPot over the last three weeks.

This week started out with me feeling like I needed to quit my job or take a demotion. But, it ended with me being elated that the reference checks for a new hire went so well. In the middle of that, I spilled coffee on my desk, which shorted out my laptop and caused my external keyboard to go haywire. So here are some tips for dealing with this sort of thing…

Laptop Coffee Spill Tips

Note: If you have no idea what you’re doing, I don’t recommend doing anything I did. If you only think you know what you’re doing, like me, then you should definitely not do anything I did. I got lucky. If you know what you’re doing, you probably won’t find yourself in this situation anyway.

Tip #1: Put a lid on your damn coffee mug. I know not all mugs come with lids, but mine does. It even locks in place to prevent stupid mistakes like this. For whatever reason, I was too lazy to look for and put on the lid. Lesson learned.

Tip #2: Don’t try to play a game on your tablet, with a topless coffee mug near the hand you’re whisking around the desk nearby, while also half paying attention to email and Slack. This is the bad kind of multi-tasking. I mean, in theory, you shouldn’t be playing games while working, unless you work for a game company, but it’s a way I use for “self-medicating” when dealing with stress. It also tends to get in the way of family and writing time. I’m a horrible human being, but aren’t we all sometimes?

Tip #3: Learn how to turn a screwdriver. This seems basic, but being comfortable with a screwdriver is essential for a lot of things in life. Electronics troubleshooting/repair/assembly is no different.

Tip #4: Learn how to search for information on the Internet. I’m not a hardware expert. Even after 15 years as a software engineer, I have to constantly search for information on the correct way to do my job pretty much every day. There’s too much to know and learn these days, which means you have to find the information somewhere. While there are a lot of different ways to attack this skill, my basic strategy is to be as specific as possible the first time and then get less specific if you can’t find what you’re looking for. It sometimes takes a while, but stick with it. I can assure you that someone else somewhere has spilled coffee on their laptop or just has had it not turn on anymore.

Tip #5: Read all of the instructions first. You don’t want to be in the middle of trying to mess with your laptop only to realize you need something while your hands are full with your computer’s guts.

Here are the instructions I found, which worked like a charm, though it required me to take the back of my laptop off to detach the battery for the model I have. I wasn’t 100% comfortable doing this, I’ll admit, but I have a warranty that would cover anything I did wrong or broke if necessary. I just didn’t want to lose a day’s worth of work if it was an easy fix.

Catharsis

This was a hectic week at the beginning that settled down after Wednesday (we had a release). We have another release for early next week, so we’ll see how that goes. I’ve still managed to write here and there through all of this, and I think that’s helped. I think my big takeaway from this experience has been to not get lost in your emotions. How you’re feeling right now or even the whole day is not necessarily how you’re going to feel tomorrow or a month from now. Just let it come and try not to let it dictate your words or your actions. It’s definitely hard to do in the moment, and it takes practice and a few mistakes before you start getting a feel for your triggers and levels of emotion as they progress. I know it’s something I’m always working on.

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