Responsibility and Authority

At my last job I was the default MongoDB administrator. I lived in the Mongo shell all day for almost a solid year and I definitely used it more than any other developer, so that meant all things Mongo came to my inbox. Someone needs a document (or series of documents) updated? Send it to Ryan. Someone needs a new collection, needs data migrated from one server to another, needs to test connectivity, needs data exported? Send it to Ryan.

As our platform became more stable and more websites were deployed on top of it, Mongo began to wince a bit with the added activity. We started having odd issues with our production replica set and of course part of the investigation landed on my lap.

The point of this post is that even though the responsibility for Mongo was obviously mine, the authority to do real work was not. I could work with production data, but not SSH to the production machines.

How was I supposed to successfully see what might be causing issues in production if I couldn’t get on the box and look at the logs? How could I watch a process or look at the network activity? I couldn’t. I wasn’t given the authority to connect and do my work.

I’ve seen this happen several times in my career. I end up responsible for things, but have no power to do what I need to do in order to fix problems.

I’m happy to say that I’m getting better at identifying situations where I’m stuck being responsible without any authority to affect change.

Responsibility and Authority

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