Tech musings and other things...

Systems Administration, Part I

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Ever get a new gig?

Get a new gig when you were really in need? (i.e. laid off) Only to find out the organization was hopelessly broken in more ways than you can count?

Welcome to my daily life right now. I can’t guarantee I won’t be somewere else in a few months (or weeks)

The company I work for right now (just started on 12/27) is a huge company. (read, Fortune 20) The workflow is somewhat broken. I don’t have a permanent desk, phone, or computer. The management seems smitten with me, but I haven’t done anything yet to deserve the sentiment. In fact, I can’t see where my personal work ethic is going to fit in here at all. Lemme explain.

I love to work. Actually, I like to work hard. I’m not happy unless I’m busting my ass, in fact. [1]

Herein lies the rub.

Statement that needs supporting arguments #1:Corporate America doesn’t lend itself well to highly-motivated individuals in the technical field.

Now, find me a marketing or high-power sales guy, and they are always moving, always pushing. They’re reading all the sucess and sales tomes from the local Border’s, and doing something new nearly daily to get better and eek out one more sale or another busniess relationship. They’re usually on some commission basis, so the more they push and shove, the more money they make. It requires a continual personal reinvention.

Warning: Strong personal opinion aheadf this reinvention, however, is not one of substance, yet of appearance.

Let me elaborate.

It’s been said that perception is 99% of the truth. In that vein, many marketing and management types are driven to present the appropriate visage to their customer base. In fact, you’ll find “7 habits”, “Fish”, and “How to Win Friends…” on many managers desks. Alongside these perennial tomes (did I really use “tome* twice today?) of corporate enlightenment, you’ll see reports about nothing, statistics that inaccurately reference false figures deemed important, and employee records filled with inaccuracies and untruths.

(Wow. Is that cynical or what? The ideas are coming so terribly fast that I can’t keep up. Bear with the schizo post for a minute, will ya?)

For instance, In a recent contract I went to a site that did printing. Large-scale printing. The site seemed very well laid out. Apples on the desktops, big computer room. Heavy internet presence, and a freakin' sweet Xserve implementation. (don’t kill me, John. I know it isn’t your fault, but your predecessor’s)

This computer room is in the most horrid shape one could imagine. The network area has been cleaned up a bit, but could still use about 192 hours of straight attention, re-racking, mapping, etc. And that’s just the physical side. One can only imagine the networking disarray. (If their admin is as good as he seems, the networking part is in much better shape, to be sure). (this doesn’t even begin to touch the computers…)

This machine room has a window into it, and a very nicely racked series of Dell servers and disk arrays are properly lined up right in front of the window. It really looks beautiful, but it obscures the evil disarray immediately behind it. Such is the corporate world.

My meaning here, to synthesze the opinion + anecdote, is not that you actually learn the precepts presented in these books and such, but to have enough familiarity to convnce your customer that you have it all together. (or your boss, or your friends, or your parents, etc.)

I firmly believe that there is enough of a disconnect that the country spends all its time doing its best to try and fool their target into not hassling them instead of actually putting in the man-hours and completing the job in the first place. Similarly, the managment of this country has found a way to think damned near everything is more important than actual productivity. (weekly three-hour productivity meeting to discuss why you’re not productive, anyone?)

Technical folks find themselves dragged into this world of deceit in varying degrees. The disconnect between actual, technical, measurable work and having to give the semblance of actual, tecnical, measurable work is humorous at best. In fact, I’ve found in my personal experience that management has been so sold their new set of ideals that when you enumerate your workload, their incredulity is almost comical…their numbers don’t reflect that you’re busy during that time.

I think that the key to the futre of corporate America (and the technical world in particular) will be to eliminate the ridiculous amounts of middle management, while increasing actual technical bodies. Next, those people need to be assured 80 hours of direct classroom training yearly. (there’s more of them now, remember? they can handle one guy being out for a week at a time) Finally, machine-produced statistics and reports should be acceptable to those managers that reman and they need to have the skill to read them, or they don’t need to be tecnical managers.

Statement that needs supporting arguments #2: The high number of bad techies in high-paying jobs is a crime

If the people I’ve come into contact with thus far are any indication, I have a bit of reason to be VERY upset.

I’ve spent a lot of years trying to learn to be better at what I do. I have spent THOUSANDS of my own money to have the latest books and documentation on topics that I have had to work on. I may never work on them again, but I keep the documents around just to have that resource for my company. I spend time going to Linux shows and join professional organizations just to be better. Just to be worthy of the title “Senior” in Sr. UNIX Systems Administrator.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve met people who couldn’t work their way out of a system down if their lives depended on it. In fact, in a company of thousands, I’ve met one guy that has demonstrated and level of qantifiable skill. He is a _great_UNIX admin. Consequently, all the work in the organization gets filtered (somehow, magically) to his work queue.

Now, in seeming opposition to my former statement, should I work somewhere where I will get quite a bit of transferred work from people who don’t want (or are unable to)to do the work themselves?

I think not

…more to come…

[1] always logged in, architecting, building a new solution, or installing new machines.