When people ask me what I do for a living I generally give them the stock line “I’m one of the people who looks after the UCC website.” It’s kind of a catch all answer that doesn’t really cover everything I do but it’s a start and people usually recognise the word website so that helps.
A lot of what I do involves talking to other people, be that discussing what a particular department in the university wants from their website or supporting people as they grapple with the Content Management System* or helping people get to grips with their facebook pages and other social media thingies. Meetings and phone calls take up a good portion of my week, but they can often hinder progress in other things. Like, for instance, if I’m trying to get the code for a new design into the CMS, it takes a lot of concentration and needs a good chunk of thinking time. A phone call in the middle of this thinking can throw my brain off track and it can take ages to get back into the coding mindset. Similarly, a half hour spent at a meeting can completely discombobulate my thinking, making it very difficult to get the coding neurons firing on all cylinders again.
To help with this I set myself a to do list every day. That way I have specific time set aside for the various projects I’m working on at any given time and I can devote a solid chunk of time to any one thing. It also means that if I’m not making progress with one thing, I know that I have other things on which I can be productive, or I can schedule myself some simpler tasks between the big guns. But sometimes there are days when nothing goes right and it gets hard to see the wood for the trees so to speak. Yesterday was one of those days. Hours spent digging around in code seemed to come to naught; things just weren’t working and I couldn’t figure out why. It’s like I’m banging my head against the computer screen for all the good I’m doing. It genuinely feels like I’m a waste of taxpayers money.
But then there are the good days, like today, when things start to pop into place. Those coding neurons are blazing away and things start to work that had me stumped for days. Those days are the days were I feel like the government are getting a bit of bang for their public sector pay buck. There’s still a mountain of work on my overall task list – the website needs serious improvement, we need to be doing more with our social media, and people still need to know how to wrangle the at-times unwieldy content management system – but a solid productive day makes it all seem very surmountable. I want our website to be the best. I know we’re a long way off it yet, but today made that goal that little bit more achievable.
*The content management system is the software we use to implement our website. There are tens of thousands of pages on the UCC website so it’s handy to have some sort of programme to help us keep track of it all, control the appearance of pages, store the content of each page and a whole bunch of other fancy technical stuff.