Accidental IT Pro #3: Strategic (Laptop) Positioning

Our accidental IT pro columnist returns. In today's episode: how to position your work computer away from your boss (and lie about the reasons) and the Cthulian horror of server installations.

Laptop picture from Shutterstock

Things have been going well -- almost too well. Suspiciously well for someone like me, considering I still feel like I have only the faintest idea what's going on around me. I'm keeping my head down and working hard to figure it all out though, which seems to be going over well with the people that care about that sort of thing.

The personnel turnover in our office was surprising at first, but from what I've heard it's just a part of life in the IT industry. People come and go and that's sort of just how it is. There are no hard feelings, people come in, do a few jobs, and move on.

We do business with IT managers; industry stalwarts that have worked with the same company for 25 years, but the engineering peons we use for support and project implementations never seem to last very long. It was during one of these transitional periods that I seized the opportunity to relocate my desk to some prime real estate in the corner. I now have a wonderful view of the grey concrete wall on the other side of the road, but the real reason for the move is that now my boss can't see my laptop screen from his office.

I don't plan on doing anything particularly distasteful -- it's just nice to be able to read an article or watch a video every now and then without worrying about someone important thinking I was slacking off.

When my boss questioned my tactical desk relocation, I told him that it made me very uncomfortable having my back to the door. What if an axe-wielding maniac comes in and I don't notice? A reasonable fear, I thought. My boss looked at me suspiciously and slowly backed away into his office.

Nailed it.

Later that week, I was sitting back there in my desk fortress and noticed that I was literally the only person in the office. I double checked my calendar to make sure I hadn't come in on a Sunday or something. Nope, it was a Wednesday afternoon, and there wasn't another soul in sight.

Just as I was settling back into my chair and preparing for some serious procrastination for the rest of the afternoon, one of our project managers and Bhaneet the engineer burst through the front door.

"I need another engineer to help Bhaneet install some servers!" he cried out before taking stock of the room. "Where is everybody?"

He looked at me accusingly, as if I was somehow responsible for everyone being out of the office. I shrugged, and pretended to be working away at something very important. I felt a tap on my shoulder.

"Looks like you're an engineer today, big guy."

I am no engineer, sir. I don't even look like an engineer. If anything, I am an anti-engineer, actively destroying the good work of real engineers. Is this even legal?

But the next thing I knew, I was in Bhaneet's car and we were on our way to the customer's site. He assured me that my job would be to hold servers up in their racks while he tinkered around with the important stuff around the back. I didn't believe him, of course. Not because Bhaneet is a particularly untrustworthy sort, he's actually a great guy, but nothing I had done in my time at the company had ever been as simple as "hold this up".

Bhaneet was no liar -- my job really was to just hold up servers while he did his thing -- and after a solid twenty minutes of physical labour we were finished. I thought I would be able to go home, job well done, but Bhaneet was quick to inform me that we had finished only one of fifteen server racks. I rolled up my sleeves, took off my tie, and followed Bhaneet into the elevator.

"Once more unto the breach, dear Bhaneet, once more."

More strange looks. I'm getting used to those.

I followed my trusty companion into the strangest places to find these server racks. One was in a laundry room nestled between the dryer and a fridge, one was in the choir stalls of a chapel, and one was even underground in what looked like an abandoned bomb shelter. It was several hours of contorting my body into awkward positions to protect the servers, but Bhaneet and I emerged victorious. Sweaty, but victorious.

Looking back on that day, it really gave me some perspective on what actually happens to the projects we kick off. There is far more to this business than me sitting at my desk typing product codes into a spreadsheet. I got a hands-on look at the sort of things we sell, as well as getting to see the kind of things our hard-working engineers go through.

I have no aspirations towards being an engineer, I've seen how poorly treated some of them can be, but secretly I am very much looking forward to the next time I get to tag along with Bhaneet and get my hands dirty. Maybe, just maybe, I can add my two bits to the respect they deserve.

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

    Someone give this guy a staff writer position. He's probably better as a writer than as an IT guy anyway.

    Well written and hilarious as always.

    Can't deal with my back to the door. Regardless of what you plan on doing, it just doesn't feel right.

      When I first started here, my back was to the door. It was fine when I had a second person in the office, because they would greet people at the door and I knew they were there, but when they shifted sites, I'd get the uncanny feeling that someone was watching me. I'd turn around to find someone at the door, waiting for me to notice them before greeting me and asking for help.

      Also meant I couldn't hide. At least now if I see them coming, I can dive towards my workbench and pretend I'm too busy to take care of their problem :P

      Neither can I.
      I hate it when I'm on a roll writing awesome code or whatever and don't notice the person who has walked in and is standing right behind you. Then when they say something and I just about jump through the ceiling!
      A small mirror fixed my "easily startled" issue.
      Eventually, like Jason, I scored a prized "you can't see my screen" spot.
      I can now pursue my ultimate goal of becoming like Wally.

    No mention of cage nuts - you have much to learn, young padwan :-)

    Any session of racking feels incomplete without a few of those suckers vanishing into a dark abyss, spilling some blood and a little profanity.

    But seriously - nice writing; articulate without being pretentious and the internal narrative doesn't hurt. Keep up the good work.

    Here's mine: There's too much glare on my monitor from (THAT) (pointing strategically) light, so I had to re-orient them to avoid it so that I could see the screen.

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