I know – I’ve already lost you. What the heck is a Sous Vide Supreme? If you are an aficionado of Top Chef, several of the contestants swore by this device which allows you to vacuum pack food and cook it at constant temperature, thus delivering such perfection as a steak that is exactly the right color all the way through. If you are a food lover, you know the difficulty of getting proteins cooked exactly the way you want consistently. Sous vide is a way to do that, as well as to experiment with new textures, cook flavors in more intensely, etc. After seeing what you could do, I had to try it… but at the time, the units cost $1500. That’s fine for a real chef, but home chefs don’t spend that kind of money.
So I jury-rigged it, using a candy thermometer, my Dutch oven and a lot of attention and patience. I found it is extremely difficult to hold a temperature over time, ensuring the same results. I also was not able to get a real vacuum, but boil-in bags worked reasonably well. But this method was nit-picky and time-consuming.
On my last birthday, my kind sister gave me not only the Sous Vide Supreme, but the vacuum sealer, so everything would be perfect (and yes, the price came down). Now, I can literally toss together my seasonings, vacuum up a protein and dump it into the machine and let it cook as long as 4 (or more) hours, without a care in the world. The results will be perfect!
I get SO much more done because the cooking is on auto-pilot. And it’s better than just an automated Denise. The results are better than you can ensure by doing it yourself. This made me think about automation. As a long-time capacity and performance geek, automation always seemed to be a way of saying that my employer could replace me with software. I knew this wasn’t the case, but there was that lingering fear that ceding control to software would leave me without a purpose.
But you have to start somewhere. And with fewer people to do the work, you have to work smarter. It began with moving over to do UNIX performance. I started with shell scripts, which were a pain to write, didn’t really give me the data the way I wanted to see it, but at least were something. Then, we found a few freeware tools that were a bit better. This was good as my Korn shell programming was not my strong suit. Finally, I caved in and we got what is now known as BMC Capacity Optimization. I discovered that what it did were things it could do much better than I could, leaving me free to do the job no tool really can do, which is interpret the data adding the politics and culture – data the software cannot obtain.
Once I let go of those day-to-day manual processes, I found that not only was life less challenging, but it was also less boring. Software automation does the things that you only found interesting the first time you did them. It also lowers your risk. Software rarely makes mistakes; people don’t have a perfect track record, particularly when on call. Finally (and best of all), automation elevated my status. When I was no longer down in the weeds, fussing over the “perfect steak,” I had time to create a “feast” of value and understand more clearly what the business needed from IT. Automation is freedom! Automation means career success, if you let it.
I’ll confess – none of what I was able to do tasted as great as those sous vide steaks or salmon. But where would I have had the time or the mental cycles to experiment with food without automation? Get out there and get some – you never know what interesting things you can do with the time you recover until you begin.