So, a little while ago, the program that I’m working for had a HUGE and VERY IMPORTANT deadline. We were kind of rushing to get everything ready by then, so we wanted someone working on the hardware 24/7. However, because there were only really two people that could do that (myself and my supervisor), that meant that I was put on a 12-hour night shift (10pm to 10am) for about a week .
So, I thought I’d share some of the pros and cons of that experience.
- You never quite know what day it is. When you work over the transition between one day and the next, your internal calendar kind of quits on you. “So, I was working on fixing that error last night . . . yesterday, I mean. Oh, wait. I guess it was technically this morning, but I’ve gotten eight hours of sleep since then, so . . .”
- Finding food is difficult. Either you’ve packed a lunch, or you hope that there is a Denny’s or something close by. I couldn’t even go out to the local IHOP, though, since I couldn’t leave the hardware alone for any length of time, so I kind of lived off of frozen meals. Even now, I keep an emergency can of soup at my desk in case I get pulled on to a weird shift unexpectedly.
- If you get stuck on a problem, there is no one to ask for help. You either have to hit your head against a wall trying to solve it, or you find a way to work around it until the morning when everyone else shows up.
- It gets rather lonely when you have to spend 10+ hours not talking to anyone. You can’t go out to lunch with people, because no one else is having lunch at midnight, and you can’t call up one of your friends to chat. Also, the next day, you have to turn down invitations to lunch because that’s when you go home to sleep.
- When everyone else comes in the next morning all fresh-faced and rested and in their nice clothes, you feel horrible in comparison, because you’ve come off your huge shift and are tired, rumpled, and starting to get cranky.
- There is no one else there to watch you or make you behave. I did a lot of singing/humming/talking to myself. And, since the lab floor is nice and smooth, I would occasionally break out into dancing. It was amusing, especially at 3am when I was really feeling the boredom. I also got to wear whatever I wanted. This means that, instead of business casual, I was just plain casual (and more comfortable because of it).
- When I made mistakes (and, trust me, I made a lot of them), I got to fix them/cover them up before anyone else saw them. It can be kind of embarrassing when you compile and find that, ooops, you forgot a semicolon at the end of one line of code and now you’ve got fifty error messages. On night shift, you can take the ten minutes to find and fix the error so that your supervisor only gets to see the nice pretty finished product when he walks in in the morning.
- Since you’re working a shift directly opposite of everyone else, traffic is never an issue. Rush hour traffic never affects you. And, when you get to work, you can park as close to the building as you want, since everyone else has already left for home. Also, since you’re already in the office come morning, you’re never late for the 9am meeting.
- Once, my supervisor took pity on me, and brought in coffee and pastries when he came in for work in the morning. We sat through the morning phone conference munching on croissants.
All that being said, it was an interesting and informative experience. I encourage everyone to try it at least once, if they can.
Until next week.
So, you may have gathered this from the About Me page, but I have actually graduated and have now moved on to the exciting life of full-time employment.
I only started a month or so ago, so it’s still relatively new to me, even though I had interned for this company previously. Part of the culture shock is just getting used to the 8-to-5 days. I’m so used to college, where I found myself asking people “Wait, do you mean am or pm?”. Now, I have to be in bed by 10 pm (or, more likely, by midnight) or else I end up coming into work late, which would mean that I have to stay late.
That sounds bad, like I’m neglecting my work. And, yes, it sort of is. But my hours are pretty flexible, and as long as I put in at least 40 a week, then it doesn’t matter as much when they are. That being said, I want to make a good impression by showing up early and getting done as much work as possible. What gets complicated, however, is when my supervisor is staying at the office late and I end up helping him until 8 pm.
I think the latest I’ve stayed was 9 pm. Then again, I’ve managed to sneak in at 11 am without anyone caring that much. It’s a weird balance of being flexible and being reliable. Sometimes, I’m there before my supervisor so that I can help people and answer questions before he gets there. I’ve come to enjoy that, because it makes me feel like I’m knowledgeable and contributing. And while those times are getting more common, they’re still rare enough that I treasure them.
You’ll hear more about my job in later posts, I’m sure. But for now I just wanted to let you know that I am, in fact, a practicing and employed engineer.
Best wishes on the upcoming work week.