Scariest OSS Roles

True courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing your job anyhow, that’s what courage is.”
Norman Schwarzkopf.

What is the scariest role in OSS?

On one project I was in a position of leadership on a major OSS implementation. Working on the customer site, under great duress from the customer’s representatives, we were developing and configuring significant functionality enhancements on an almost daily basis. We were achieving great outcomes, but still not as quickly as what our sales team had promised, which required diplomacy when responding to heated situations with the customer. It was only a couple of years after finishing the assignment that I found out that the customer’s representatives that we had regular conflict with were actually members of the local mafia embedded within the CSP. In retrospect, perhaps we should’ve been even more diplomatic. 🙂

That story makes for a regularly told anecdote, but it still isn’t really the scariest role in OSS.

Vendor selection can be a significant task and a decision often has to be made for the expenditure of many millions of dollars from a position of incomplete knowledge. As such, vendor selection is a task where risk minimisation and mitigation are keys, but risk elimination is all but impossible. But I’m still not sure that this is the scariest role in OSS.

Script loading or script cleansing of swathes of data into a production database must be right up there as one of the scariest roles in OSS because one false keystroke or line of code can potentially bring the organisation to a grinding halt if appropriate backout mechanisms can’t be engineered. I once worked with a release manager whose modus operandi was to prepare thoroughly, establish contingency plans, review the release, run the script, then cower in fear. I still have memories of his hands hovering above the keyboard shaking uncontrollably before and after hitting the Enter key. It still brings a smile to my face. The quote above by Norman Schwarzkopf definitely holds true for the fear that he obviously felt, yet somehow overcame.

What do you believe is the scariest role in OSS, or the most intimidating situations you’ve endured?

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