Forward Progress and How Faith Makes Me a Better Engineer

First of all, for those who follow my blog, I have a tiny seed of hope I’ve begun carefully nurturing that our long conversion journey may have a end in sight.  Not now, not soon, but that there is a clearer path forward for us.  I go between being very excited about it and not wanting to be too happy, in case it’s a false start, but we’ve had some very positive news recently that may have us studying much harder soon!

In the meantime, after getting such good news over Shabbos, I had to get up really early to go to work.  With the summer solstice, it was hard to sleep all night in the Shabbat RV 2.0.  The air was stifling, at least for Alaska, and nothing was moving and the sky never seemed to darken all night.  I tossed and turned and didn’t find much rest, then I needed to get up in time to be at work by 6am while the rest of the family slept in a bit.  Happily, my work is actually really close to our Chabad house.  I rubbed my eyes and headed in.

I won’t bore you with the details of what I needed to do or why I had to do it at 6am on a Sunday morning, but it was important work that needed done.  Half of it went just as planned, smoothly.  Then…the other half happened.

Have you ever had just one of those days, a day where everything seems to go sideways?  Well, that was work for me today.  As a result, it’s now 4pm and I’m still at work.  The techs I’m working with at the company that manufactures the equipment that went sideways are changing shifts, but I am still here and will be until there’s some progress.  This situation can be very stressful.  What is broken is important and I’m the only one to fix it and in the meantime, things that should be working are not.

In the midst of it all, though, my mind and my words turn to Hashem.  He created the minds that created the equipment, He created my mind, and He even has the power to make this equipment work right…or not.  I’m going to do my part by trying everything I can think of to fix it and I’m going to bring in everyone I can think of to help me, but, ultimately, if it’s better for this equipment to stay down…it will.  There is a comfort in that, actually, knowing that all I need to worry about is my small piece here.  I’ve actually done my daily prayers while the techs have had me on hold.  I’ve uttered prayers to Hashem while driving back and forth from the datacenter.

One thing I haven’t done is let this take away my peace and that actually is not a small thing when you’re working on complicated problems and equipment.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned from doing what I do for a living is that nothing is fixed by stressing out and hurrying.  Rushing through anything only leads to more problems.  It’s sometimes frustrating for my non-technical managers, but the bigger and more critical a problem is, the more important it is for me to calm down and move slowly, clearing my mind so that I can think through all the consequences of whatever it is I’m doing and clearly sort through the problem.  A good engineer is one that becomes more focused when there is an emergency, not the one that is frantic.

Faith helps a lot.

Believing that I’m not on my own and that there is more to each situation in my life than I can see helps me let go of needing to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I can just focus on the small piece in front of me and my part in it.  For now, that part is sorting through configurations, looking for some small needle in this haystack that has this equipment misbehaving.  It’s telling that even the experts I turn to can’t seem to find it, either.  So…as painful as it might be tomorrow morning when things aren’t working and people need them, there is some peace in believing that if that’s the case, then it must be for some reason I can’t see that this must be.

In the meantime, I’m going to eat some food, then dive right back into doing my part to try to fix the world, trusting that if it’s Hashem’s will that this little piece of His world be fixed, I’ll find the problem and solve it and, if not, somehow that will be ok, too.

Without faith, I’d definitely be a much more stressed engineer!

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