Accidental IT Pro #1: Please Don’t Sit On The Server

I barely know how to wear a tie, let alone handle the intricacies of IT infrastructure. How have I ended up in this job?

Harrassed business dude picture from Shutterstock

A couple of weeks ago I started my very first real job, fresh out of graduating from university in May last year. I was ready to have some real responsibility, contribute to society, and become another cog in the corporate machine.

The role was in Sales/Account Management for a small IT company and I was assured that I needed only the simplest understanding of IT systems to do the job. Having taken an IT class in my last year of high school, I was supremely confident that my “simple understanding” would be more than enough.

“Wow!” they would say, as I blew them away with my approximate knowledge of what an IP address was. Sadly, this was not to be.

I can only imagine the confusion and regret that my employer must have felt when I arrived at the office on my first day, ready to launch my Steve Jobsian career into the stratosphere, and sat myself down on top of a server that had been left out for repairs.

My boss came out of his office and saw me sitting there, sipping my latte (you know, like a businessman). He let out a long, audible sigh, and asked me not to sit on the server as it was “quite expensive”.

I was assigned a desk and a laptop, and then went into a meeting room to begin my training. For the next two hours I was bombarded with acronyms. I’m sure there was more going on, but my memory is a blur of WANs and PTSNs and VPNs and UCs and just typing this is literally giving me a headache. It was at about this moment that I realised how deep an end I had been thrown into.

“WTF was with all those acronyms?” I said to my new co-workers when they asked how my training went. My obviously hilarious joke did not go over as well as I’d hoped and I quietly retreated to my desk to work on my one-liners and check out my fancy new laptop.

Before too long, I was given my first task. Apparently a hardware shipment hadn’t been delivered to a customer when it should have, and my job was to track it down. How hard could that be? Call the number, find out what happened to the order, email everyone my findings, and then clamber out from beneath the mountain of praise that will no doubt be heaped upon me.

“Hi there! Can I please track an order?” I asked.

“Sure, what’s the TPM number?” replied the grumpy voice.

“I don’t know what that is. I’ll call you back.” I mumbled, after fighting off acronym flashbacks from earlier in the day.

I asked the engineer whose server I had almost crushed and, despite his superior knowledge of acronyms, he couldn’t help me. I tried my boss’s office, but he was out (or watching me from the shadows). I began calling my interstate co-workers on the fancy desk phone, pretending to be introducing myself but really just trying to figure out what on earth a TPM number was. This continued for several hours until, finally, I reached Bikram. Sweet, precious Bikram, who helpfully informed me that a TPM was an order number specific to the supplier in question and he would send me the email with the TPM number I was looking for. Once again, I braced myself for the mountains of praise headed my way, and picked up the phone.

“Hi there! It’s me again, and I have a TPM number for you!”

“Sure. What’s your dealer code?”

. . .

“I’ll call you back.”

My plan was foiled once again by the grumpy disembodied voice. Surely another call to sweet, precious Bikram would get me back on track. It was almost 5pm by now and my heart sank when I reached nothing but Bikram’s voicemail. I left a message and within minutes, an email from Bikram arrived in my inbox.

“Hi! I have a TPM and a dealer code, let’s track some orders!”

. . .

“The order arrived at 4:22 this afternoon, it was signed for by a Mr. Zhang.”

I was torn. On the one hand, I was angry at this villain Mr. Zhang, snatching victory from my grasp, and on the other I was genuinely pleased at myself for fighting through the bureaucracy and solving the problem. Either way, the hardware had arrived in one piece, and my boss seemed pleased.

Looking back on my first day, I couldn’t imagine a better way to learn the ins and outs of an unfamiliar industry than by getting thrown in the deep end. I had learned that servers are not for sitting on, that the cloud is not an actual cloud (it’s some sort of… internet?), and that asking for help is the best way to solve problems. The IT industry is an intimidating one, but the people I spoke to were more than willing to take time out of their day to set a struggling newcomer like myself on the right path.

Surely it would be smooth sailing from here.

Accidental IT Pro is a new occasional series where Jason Dean (not his real name) shares his misadventures as he tries to climb the IT career ladder.

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