punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

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Tech - Career changes

I may have either exalted myself or sealed my doom.

My friend Nate, whom I met and trained years ago when we both worked at a call center, is working for my company now. He's a Senior Systems Admin for a large group that handles massive server issues from incoming requests from our customers who want to access our data. Some machines take 10-15 requests a second, and we have tens of thousands of such machines available for our clients. Over a day, we're talking in the tens of millions of requests that come in. Really high volume. He tapped my shoulder last week because they recently lost some people, and one of the requests he has gotten from his superiors is to hire people who have both technical and people skills.

[bows to "Tah dah" music]

Thank you, thank you. Yes, 9 years of customer service, plus another 8 in the computer field have always been a good combo, because while I deeply respect many of my coworkers, a few of them ... are so talented in the technical aspects of their job that they never have time to work on social graces. One of the drawbacks to wrapping your life around code is that soon, the whole world seems inefficient and illogical, especially people. Many programmers get frustrated by people who take too long to get a point across, and who operate in illogical mood swings. So, when they are paged, and get some clueless tech, they tend to blow up at them, or stop listening. Like here's an example:

Prog: Why did you page me?
Tech: Uh, well, I got a report that some router is flapping on circuit B.
Prog: And you don't know what router?
Tech: Well, no.
Prog: Call me back when you get a fucking clue.

Whereas I would go:

Punk: Hello, I was paged at this number. What can I do for you?
Tech: Uh, well, I got a report that some router is flapping on circuit B.
Punk: What information do you have?
Tech: Not much. Bill, he's our network guy, says they have a flapper on circuit B and to page you.
Punk: Oh, I know Bill. Yeah, have Bill call me. Meanwhile, I'm going to check the usual suspects, and call you back if I find anything.

Some programmers would immediately jump up and go, "Aha, well, that's just going to encourage them to slack, and they will use you, and..." Well, maybe. I once quit a job because the head desk would only page me, even if I wasn't on call, with the explanation, "Look, I can page one of those other clowns in your department, but the guy on call tonight never calls me back, and my ass is under the coals to fix this sooner than immediately. I can page Melvin, who might get back to me, or page you, who will not only call back within minutes, but fix it much quicker. What would you do, if some manager was screaming a you every five minutes with, 'Is it fixed yet?'" Good point. But I quit anyway, because I was losing sleep, couldn't have fun at any social gathering, and I was beginning to hate my pager tone something fierce. To this day, when I hear a Motorola default pager tone, I think, "Aw crap..." But then again, my management did nothing to stop this. And I left, so it's moot now.

I have been in the same job now for about 4 years. In his company, that's a long time. It also makes you a sitting duck for layoffs. So when I got this job offer, I jumped at the chance. The offer is 100% serious, because Nate is currently the acting manager, but he has to get approval from other team members, and they have a stack of resumes to go through. So the job is not certain by any means. But I have a damn good chance. I spruced up my resume, the first time in a while, and thought, "Damn... I have done good!" My references in the company alone are pretty impressive, several Senior positions, a VP, and many, many Technical Managers ... all who gave joyous affirmations to be included on my list.

Does anyone own some good ego deflation equipment?

Oh yeah, not a college grad, don't drive. PPPPBPBpppbbbbthtbthbthbth... [fwup]. There we go. (...you're fat, too) Hey!

I might have also screwed myself because part of the company requirements is that for any serious job shift, I have to notify my manager in advance, and he has to grant me the right to interview. That never looks good. "Hey, can you let me go, I don't want to work here anymore..." The manager can say no for any reason. Years ago, we had a manager in another department who default denied anyone leaving her. She later got fired, but a lot of people's careers never took off because of her. My manager said it was okay with him, he won't stop me, but he didn't say it like, "Whatever, dude..." I got the sense he accepted it as an inevitability.

I doubt they'll offer me money to stay. If they do, I doubt I'll take it. The pay increase we're talking here is so substantial, that if my department matched even the lower numbers, I'd be marked for the next layoff as "too expensive." I have to evolve, anyway. I'll never learn anything without new experiences and challenges. That's why I take on new Linux distros, like the recent and very successful Gentoo experience.

Like some kind of parable, I ended up today with daecabhir and our friend Paul. We were having a victory lunch for daecabhir because he's getting a new job at some MegaBigCorp, who will give him a lot of money and possibly his own pony. We discussed how the IT field can be a Catch-22, and Paul especially had some insightful comments about "If you do the job right, no one notices, and then you get no money or laid off," plus some amusing ideas on how to "stay in the limelight" for the corporate executives. Some ideas included an automatic emergency generator, faked outages, and planned system failures that were neither too horrible, but alarming enough to make IT look like heroic Gods. I told them about my "UUNet Excuse Generator," I used to have at a former job, right after MCI bought UUNet and fired anyone worth sitting behind a monitor and replaced them with drooling nose goblins. I'll have to dig up the code somewhere. But these seemed like a warning of "things to come" in my future. Can I handle this new job, if offered?

Yes. Yes, I believe I can. Deflated ego and all.
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