Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Africa: Day -1 (Memoirs of a Techno-Cowboy) (posted later)

Today is the first official day of my trip. I write to you from the bar at Raleigh Durham International Airport, sitting at the bar with my last American coffee and American Marlboro for the last two months. It’s going to be an interesting trip. I’ve been really anxious to finally reach Tripoli and begin the long process of trying to repair all the issues that my team has had to cope with for the last 5 weeks. The independent issues are both too numerous and too confidential to detail here, but suffice it to say that the logistics, transportation, implementation schedule, and project timeline are all in the toilet at this point. I’ve been racking my brain here to figure out a way to plan the my actions once I land, but the sheer amount of screwed-up-ed-ness at that site make it impossible to forecast how we’re going to get things done. So with that in mind, I plan to land 24 hours from now in Africa, find my guys (and girl) and go to dinner, fully prepared to hear the longest, largest, most detailed, incongruous “bitch” session of my adult life. Post freakout stage, my first objective is to rebuild my team. I tend to disagree with the management style of some of the others I’ve worked under in the past who believe that driving your men to death in order to get the job done faster will actually achieve that end result. What usually happens is that they get upset, tired, feel under-appreciated, overworked, and are ready to throw their hands up and quit. And all this is BEFORE I even get there. The project itself is of course supremely important, but in the end I’d rather be a day late and a dollar short than to come home with the prospect of having to build a new team from scratch when I’m 95% through the first phase of the project. The relationships, both professional and social, are the hard part of acquiring a good team and I can’t think of another group of guys I’d like to have at my back. The worst headache involved in this whole process is that my primary objective is to get there, motivate my men, and then ask them to stay another month when they are SO looking forward to coming home in a week. I’m good.. I’m very good.. but I’m not at all sure that I’m THAT good. So, worse come to worse, it might be the good ol’ Gruesome Twosome who complete phase one alone. (Tim and Me) Thankfully, we have Tom Hadry who’s volunteered to help us with our part of the job too, so with his help and the cooperation of the client, MAYBE we stand a chance to complete this project in the 30 days I have been allotted to do it. On the personal side, it’s been a good month at home. I’ve severely missed being with April these last 4 weeks. For a couple that spends so much time together happily, it’s been very tough being removed from her for 4 of the 6 months of this year. I have had the time, however, to get to know Bridget as my friend, as opposed to as April’s best friend and that has been cool. I spent lots of “down” time at the pool prior to leaving, both to soak in North Carolina and to soak in some sun before taking off to the desert. Melissa and Bridget have been my compatriots in the sun these last two weeks while I’ve been sitting on my butt waiting to leave. I also got some minimal time with Marion, Marisa, Nicole, Doc, and my Mom before I left, so I guess I’m as “prepped” as I can get for this. As always, I will miss my friends, my family, and the creature comforts to which I have become so accustomed living in the US, but overall I still would not trade this experience for anything in the world. I’m a 29 year old Project Manager, overseeing millions of dollars of technical hardware, with some of the brightest brains I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet working with me on it, and I get to see foreign soil more than most people do in their whole lives. As of this moment, I find that I must draw this to a close. I have about 45 minutes left before I board my plane and I have just received my last coke, chicken sandwich, and ranch dressing that I will see for a long time. When next I write, it will be from North Africa. So, Ma’Salem and goodbye for now! Tommy

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