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.


Comments

    here here. my 2 years at TAFE doing cert 3 and 4 in it did little to prepare me for my first office job and my first job in IT. learn as you go and ask lots of questions pretty much sums it up. reading this doesnt make me feel so inadequate any more, ha ha ha.

    I had a very close personal interest in IT for almost 12 years before starting an IT career. Now, I consider myself fairly switch on and a fast learner, though it took me more than 14 months to really grasp beyond the initial concept of cloud computing to how it was brought about and how it actually works.

    IT people have jobs for a reason...

    Been working in IT for years. The last 7 for the same company. It doesn't matter which company you work for they have their own list of acronyms in daily use and they change between businesses and over time. Some companies are helpful and give them to you in a nice list but others aren't so nice - and if anyone dumps on you for not knowing an acronym's meaning then they're showing their own ignorance of the rest of the business world.

    I wish IT employees were paid more, some of the stuff they have to put up with is just unfair.

    When you put things into perspective makes you think a little.

    For example a ditzy young receptionist at a large mining company needs help to find a important email that she Accidently moved which needed to be forwarded to the company CEO, she calls up IT helpdesk and provides the most cryptic description ever, after 45 minutes of deductive questioning and proper guidance you end up finding the email in the "Funny dogs pics" email folder - RESOLVED!

    - ditzy receptionist will forward that email, answer a few calls and probably download the latest COOL-PARTY-SWAG-EMOTICON V.1 IE browser Toolbar, which will end up being another task for the IT fellow to fix in a few weeks.

    - IT support guy will move onto his next task until the day ends, possibly work over time because something always has to go wrong at the end of the day.

    Receptionist would most likely earn twice as much as the IT support fellow (level 1 support)

      It's the dream of everybody working level 1 support to leave, either via promotion or career change. You have a couple of years before you start to burn out. I think you've hit that point.

      I hear receptionists get paid well for emailing pics of dogs around, sounds like it could be a positive career move?

    Errr I'm unsure from the sound of that job how you are an IT professional...

    I look forward to tracking your progression!

    What, if I may ask, degree did you come out of University with? Was it IT related?

    This was me when I first started 6 years ago. I was 21 at the time and an introverted IT whiz. Took me 6 years to get to a point where I'm making progress and not having people scream at me for not following procedures.

    My advice is to ask LOTS of questions. Stupid questions are better than unasked questions. Also, take lots of notes. As in, stick post-it notes on everything and maintain documentation. I got in deep shit for losing a client's replacement battery and having to order a new one at our cost. Keeping a post-it on the battery would have avoided that.

    And keep everyone in the loop (I hate that term). If you get hit by a bus tomorrow, how will they continue on if they don't know the status of a task?

    You suck... THe phone conversation should have gone like this:
    “Hi there! Can I please track an order?”
    “Sure, what’s the TPM number?”
    "I'm sorry, I don't have that on me, it's my first day and all. But I work for "
    Blah blah blah
    Some back and forward while the phone person finds your order.
    "Gee thanks for that you've been a big help!"

    Done. Again you suck.

      No, you suck!
      Before the conversation I would of asked for an invoice or tracking manifest so I knew what I was tracking and for who!
      What if they placed multiple orders and had multiple TPM's, what then genius?

      Burned! Again you suck.

    My mouse has reached the edge of my desk, but I need the pointer thing on the screen to go further - what do I do!?

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