I Married an On-Call Engineer
This is a guest blog post from Katie Newland. It’s a reaction to her spouse receiving PagerDuty notifications at inopportune times and how her spouse’s on-call responsibilities impact their relationship. Do you have a story about how your relationship has been impacted by your on-call responsibilities? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we might feature you or your significant others perspective in the next edition of this series.
I eye him across the room. Brow furrowed, face shrouded by the hood of his octocat hoodie, completely entranced by that big black screen with white text – what a stud. How did I get so lucky? He’s always been the smartest guy in the room. He’s logical, responsible and cool under pressure in a way that always makes me feel like I never have to worry about anything. One would think I hit the spousal jackpot. And yet, he’s not perfect – he has another lover. And I must constantly compete for his attention – making sure I wear the cutest outfit, have the wittiest comment, come up with the best ideas and still – this other lover – she gets more attention than me. He drops everything at her beck and call, even in the middle of the night and on holidays. She is the center of his whole world. The moment she calls, I cease to exist: we shift priorities, cancel our plans and all of her needs are tended to first. Who is this captivating consort? PagerDuty.
I was first introduced to this two-timing man in college. But in those days, I was his one and only true love. Our romance bloomed over competitive games of flip cup, late-night pizzas and PBRs – all without a second thought about uptime. After graduation, he got his first real job. That’s when things changed.
Upon first introduction, I viewed Pagerduty as my arch nemesis. At this job, Jesse was the only one on call, lugging his laptop everywhere he went: weddings, bars and even the grocery store. Sleeping four consecutive hours became a luxury. After missing a page while scuba diving, he became even more reluctant to partake in activities that prevented him from being within arm’s reach of his computer.
But, over the years (and with a much improved on-call shift), I’ve accepted this other lover into our marriage and have even fostered their affair. It’s me who frantically shakes him awake during midnight pages. It’s me who presses 4 to acknowledge an alert while simultaneously tossing him a towel during mid-shower pages. And it’s me who apologizes profusely to our friends while he resolves outages during their party.
Though Pagerduty always seems to surface at the most inopportune times, I have to admit she’s not all bad. A loyal sidekick, PagerDuty allows him to be the first to know if problems arise and gives him a head start on getting things back up and running. PagerDuty is reliable. When an alert comes in, it’s legit. And other teammates can easily escalate to him in case everything is burning down.
Ops spouses have it rough. Over romantic candle-lit dinners, discussion turns to databases, dns servers, NTP reflection attacks, and SSDs. He can quickly sink into what I call the “code zone” in which whatever he’s hacking on is so intriguing he can’t see or hear me. I’ve even stooped so low as to text him “pagerduty alert” in hopes of snapping his attention. Sadly, my faux pages do not garner the same immediate response. Though I often play second fiddle to PagerDuty, I’m immensely proud of the work he does and what he’s accomplished. And you wouldn’t know it by his programmer-toned arms, but my Jesse is a badass – rescuing the world one DDoS at a time.