And Now, For Something Completely Different (well, not completely)

by Christopher Paul on August 23, 2006

So I mentioned in the last post that I had lost my job – or will lose it soon – and that I am actively looking for the start of the next chapter in my professional career.  If you recall, I also said I would do things a little differently.

I don’t plan on taking a lower paying job with less responsibility.  To the contrary, I hope to find something with more responsibility (more pay would be great but I am comfortable with my lifestyle now and don’t think I have to increase my compensation just to be happy).  Anyway, I hope to find another small to medium sized financial or law firm in need to growing their respective businesses.  I guess I’m looking for companies who need someone to bring their IT to the next level – something I know how to do well and enjoy very much; I called my current gig a masterpiece but even an artist needs to grow and create again.  But I want something else from my new position – something not unreasonable but because I am targeting small to medium sized organizations, I run the risk of falling into the traps, if you will, of a one or two man department.

One of the things that made my current job harder than I expected was this I-fix-everything-personal concept that everyone – from the partners to the administrative assistants – and really made me feel like I wasn’t valued for what I was hired to do; the net effect was it made me feel like a whipping boy who was expected to drop what I was doing to fix problems with personal computers (even outside of the office).  I can’t recall if I ever mentioned some of the things I’ve been asked to do but its pretty strange.  I can’t say its as bad as that woman from The Devil Wears Prada book (yes, it was a book before the movie… but don’t ask me how I know that) but for me, it was probably a close second.

I’ve gone to people’s homes, worked on their personal (and children’s) computers, their home entertainment centers, blackberries, cell phones, and even their cordless phones.  I’ve been asked to erase viruses, porn, spam, and old software from computers that belonged to other companies.  I’ve installed all types of software ranging from photo editors (for the digital cameras I set up) to audio software; I was even asked to move iTunes files to some type of media server that didn’t support FairPlay; and if you know what DRM is, you know that it means iTunes files only work with iTunes).  So, I’ve spent hours of my personal time working for people who expected me to address their personal computer problems and I’d rather not do that again.

Another thing I’d like to avoid in my next job is being on call 24/7.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my Blackberry.  I like the size, form factor, PDA features, wireless Internet, and ease of use that everyone with a Blackberry knows so well.  But a problem presents itself when you give someone a tool to connect them to work at all times.  They are expected to be connected at all times and, therefore, available at all times.  Personal time is reduced if not eliminated.  Because the Blackberry is also a phone, the calls come at all times too.  I’ve ben called on the weekends, during my vacations, and even after I’ve gone to bed.  Because I take my job seriously – and can’t seem to say no to the bosses – I usually have to drop what I’m doing to deal with their problem.  Many times its just a simple answer to their questions but more often that I’d like to admit, I’m needed at their house or in the office (even if its through VPN).  I don’t want to be on call like that anymore and whatever I do in the future will be done without a Blackberry or with some simple understandings about my availability after hours.

Yet a third thing I’d like to change is this idea that IT guys (or me specifically) can do anything tech related.  Now I consider myself a hacker in the sense that I can figure out how things work and sometimes how to fix them and I also feel that I grasp concepts of technology better than others.  But I am no expert – I don’t want to be, really.  I’m a IT generalist, a strategist.  I’m the guy to comes in sees where things are wrong with the way technology is used or how technology can make things better but I don’t always know how to install all the technology I use.  For example, I know that you need to have redundant networking hardware to better handle device or service failures.  But I can’t program a RIP statement into a Cisco router or auto-failover statements in the firewalls.

Where I’m at, it was believed that I was some super tech who could do anything even if I didn’t know how to because I’d find a way.  So there was intense pressure to deliver something I couldn’t.  Talk about a demotivator!  Its not easy to be told to do something you can’t.  It was almost impossible to feel like I was doing my job.  Of course, there wasn’t enough money to hire the right people to do the job and I often felt that if I suggested we do so they couldn’t justify paying two technology people to do what they wanted; you can see what that would lead to.

So now, I am – for better or for worse – in a position of finding a new job.  With a clean slate and a chance to change things in my life for the better, I can find or create a job that doesn’t have those problems.  If I am fortunate, I can work for a company or person who considers me a team member to rely on and use as an advisor with trust that no matter what, I will do what I am supposed to do.  I guess I’m looking for something that will let me use my knowledge and experience to grow something – like I did before – but more in tune with my values.

But changing my work life is not the only thing that is going to change around here…

Previous post:

Next post: