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The Almighty Buck

The High Tech Sweatshop 246

Posted by Roblimo
from the sometimes-no-amount-of-money-is-enough- dept.
Well, Morrigan seems to have had a bad week. He sent in this interesting first-person tale of network woe at 0:dark:thirty. It's here to greet you this morning so that anyone in a similar situation can give Morrigan a big "right on," and those who simply use the network instead of maintaining it can gain a little insight into how hard it is to keep it working.

The High Tech Sweatshop

Its 4:30 am on a Friday and I just finished the last Mountain Dew. We ran out of coffee hours ago, the remains of it now black sludge at the bottom of the pot. The buildings air conditioning went off sometime the previous night and its up to almost 90 degrees in the server room. The two volunteer hackers on the staff went home after 12 hours, leaving me and the sysadmin...

This is a normal day for me.

I'm a systems engineer in the client services division of a network security software company. Basically what that means is that when networks break, I fix them.

I am 22 years old, I make a large multiple of the national average salary, and if I cashed in my stock options I could buy a very nice house. I'm also sixty pounds overweight, I sleep an average of four hours a night, and I have several ulcers. I usually spend about 60 hours a week at the office, but I'm on call 24 hours a day seven days a week. If I was honest with myself Id probably say I worked about one hundred hours last week. This is a normal life for someone working in this industry.

We live in a world today that runs on information. And people want all of it now. When was the last time you actually wrote out a personal letter to someone, on paper, in pen? Why bother when E-mail is so much faster and easier? But what goes on behind the scenes when you hit the "send" button? There are thousands of people out there just like me who have titles like "Network engineer" and "Systems administrator". We keep that information flowing, and we get paid what seems like a lot of money to do it. If you've been in the market for a good network admin lately you know what I mean. The market is pushing the salary into the 100k+ plus range for someone with the necessary experience to handle even a relatively small network, never mind what the really large companies like State Farm insurance or Wells Fargo bank have.

I started work on this problem with the sysadmin on Thursday before the close of business, getting things set up, preparing for the changes etc... The company was switching internet service providers that night because the previous one hadn't provided the level of service they needed. This entailed changing the IP addresses, and DNS configurations of every machine in the building, running three different operating systems, probably two hundred machines all told, then setting up the servers, routers, and switches necessary to get it all running. It's a big job, but with six people working on it we figured we could get it done before start of business the next day. Normally you would do this kind of thing over a weekend, but the ISP could either do the changeover tonight, or wait till next week, and we needed to be online before Monday.

Getting back to what happens when you press the send button. You expect the computer to send the message, and that the person it was sent to will receive it. What happens to the message then is an incredibly complex series of storage, sending, routing, switching, redirecting, forwarding and retrieving, that is all over in a fraction of a second, or at most a few minutes. But you don't care how or why it gets there, only that it does, and this is all you should care about. After all you don't have to know how your cars engine works in order to drive it right. But someone has to know in case it breaks. And when your email breaks you expect someone to fix it. It doesn't matter what time it is, or where the message is being sent, you want it to get there now.

Its now 8 am and the network is still down. We've managed to isolate a routing problem and are in the process of fixing it. The ISP gave us the wrong IP addresses and now we have to go back and redo all two hundred machines in the building. The router was crashing and we couldn't figure out why. Two hours on the phone with the vendors support, and three levels of support engineer later we fix it. People are starting to come in to work and ask why they can't get their email. The changeover process takes us about three hours and finally everyone has the right IP, but things still aren't working right. A bunch of people use DHCP for their laptops and the DHCP people cant get out to the net. The CEO of the company is one of those people...

So what do we do? Well we hire people to take care of the network. And we give them benefits and pay like any normal employee. We also give them pagers, cell phones, a direct phone lines to their houses so that any time, any where, we can get them, because the network could go down, and we DEPEND on that network, and those people. This is where things go skew from the normal business model.

All compensation is basically in exchange for time. The only thing humans have to give is their time. When I pay you a salary it is in exchange for me being able to use your abilities for a certain period of time every year. The assumption is that the more experienced or knowledgeable you are the more your time is worth. This works fine when you are being paid a wage, but salaried employees aren't. They exist under the polite fiction that all their work can be done in a forty hour period every week, no matter how much work there is. We all know this isn't the case of course. And when it comes to Systems administrators and network engineers that polite fiction isn't so polite. In exchange for high salaries and large stock options the company owns you all day and all night, every day and every night. You are "Mission critical". High salaries become an illusion because when it gets down to it your hourly rate isn't much better than the assistant manager of the local Pep Boys.

I finally went home at 1 that afternoon. I couldn't stay awake any more and if I didn't leave right then I wouldn't have been able to drive home. The funny thing is I felt guilty for leaving. Things still weren't working quite right, and I felt like I should have stayed until they were. Even funnier is that I volunteered for this. The only part of the job that I actually had to do was to change a few IP addresses and configure the firewall, but I thought I'd lend a hand, and I couldn't do the firewall till everything else was working anyway. My wife hadn't seen me in two and a half days, and I could barely give her a kiss when I walked through the door and collapsed on my bed. The SysAdmin was fired a few hours after I left. Back to work Monday morning.

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The High Tech Sweatshop

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Been there. All I can suggest is that you make a serious effort to spend more time playing and less time working. When I left my last job, I had 8 weeks vacation accrued, and a real bad attitude. I took two months off working, and now I limit my work week to 50 hrs on regular weeks, and anytime I work more than that, I take off a day or half day in the following week.
    This has really helped me be a lot nicer person overall (and my wife REALLY likes that). I have always met folks in high positions who DO appreciate my effort, and have thus always had stellar reviews and reccomedations for future employment.
    Good luck, and stay sane.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well now... I'm looking at this with Netscape on Solaris, and I see loads of question marks where there should be apostrophes (like John Katz used to). Since I can't see loads of flames about this, that must mean that you are all using Internet Explorer, and the results of the OS poll were a complete lie.

    Tom
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I am just out of college and working my first "real" job. I worked for the college setting up and supporting networks, but that wasn't anything that bad, people over me got yelled at when things didn't work right. But now, it took me months to get the job I have because I said up front at every interview, "If you are looking for someone to work 100 hours on salary and never be with his family, DON'T hire me, as my work WILL NOT get more than half my life." I got turned down for close to 50 positions. Finally it all paid off. Now I work at a company where I walk in the door at 7:30AM, walk out at 4:45PM and I am on call 1 of every 3 weekends. No more is asked and no more is expected. I get paid above the average for someone of my little experience, have a life, and will be "moving up the ladder" very soon. It can be done, you just have to be strong up front and be willing to look hard for a while.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You ASS-U-ME too much. I don't screen based on gender or sexual preference. I screen based on student group membership, and/or major. Again, it has been my experience that women's studies majors and members of student women's orgs and GLB orgs are much greater legal risks than others. My boss agrees with my assessment of the situation.

    My job is (among other things) to reduce legal risk for the company. Not effect progressive social change.

    There's nothing illegal about discriminating based on major or student organization affiliations. Sorry bud.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You wrote:

    "If you have to go to a user's desk to do something, then you're doing something wrong."

    I see where you're coming from, but in my job as a network admin, what it really comes down to is that the users want someone experienced (i.e. me) to hold their hand every once in a while. And I'm not going to blow them off or be condescending to them - having good relations with your coworkers is good for your job and your career.

    So basically I agree with the thrust of your article (in a medium to large network, not using DHCP/BOOTP is *dumb* or lazy) but there are good reasons to visit (l)users that have nothing to do with technical issues.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 1999 @02:19AM (#1784593)
    So our sister facility (that our MIS dept services also) in Garfield NJ decides they want to move stuff around and add a security system.

    We (way up here in Highland NY) get a phone call 2pm and are told "I can't get on the AS/400" so the usual 30 minutes of attempting to figure out what really is wrong with the user over the phone.

    We then finally pull from them that the "security" guys were just cutting(!) some "phone lines."

    Well as it turns out that "phone line" was our Cat 5 line from the upstairs office facility to the downstairs production floor. There goes 35 connections!

    So if we leave now (2ish) we will get there at 5 and they will have left. So we just finish up the usual 12 hour day here in Highland and then run home and grab a bite to eat, change into "sweatshop" clothing (from khaki's to shorts) and head down to Garfield. 2 hour trip, one way. We get there, all the lights are off, can't find the panel. Time to light the way with a flashlight.

    Anyway, its about 105 degrees with about 80 percent humidity and about 11 hours of work running 800 feet of pure hell through concrete, brick, wood, and what seemed to be like butter: suspended ceilings :)

    Did I mention the whole MIS dept is me and one other guy? For 300 users (most god-awful PCs) and 3 locations (all of which are 2+ hours away from each other.

    Just another lovely day in MIS. Remember folks: the MIS folks don't exsist untill someone can't send email!
  • Or at least get paid like one.

    Seriously though, I've been trying to get my damned foot in the door for quite a while now with no luck. Even for low-level Jr Admin type jobs, I get shooed out because I don't have 2-3 years active experience in Unix Sys Admining. It just seems to me, if I did have 2-3 years in, I wouldn't be going after these measily $40k Jr level jobs. If it's not that, then the companies want someone with business experience in NT Admin, 3 or 4 types of Unix Admin, Novell, know everything about configuring LAN/WAN equipment, and many other things for $30-40k. Yet there appears to be people with MCSE, Novel certs, etc going after these things. What the heck's it take to catch a break 'round here??
  • Oh wow. You get paid much more than the average salary in the United States (which is around $20,000-$25,000/year). That's what comes with the job. If you want, I'm sure you could find a 40 hour/week job at the local McDonald's that would solve your overwork problem.

    Basically, there are billions of people in the world that work more than you, and get less money for it. Overall, you're pretty damn well off. At least you don't work 100 hours/week and have to live off $100/year.
  • by Eccles (932)
    I pose the question: What changes need to take place to improve system/network administrators' working conditions.

    Two things: sys admins need to refuse to take such conditions, and they need to persuade their fellows to do likewise. Just like you did. As long as there are people who will put up with ridiculous hours, there are plenty of employers who are willing to take advantage of them.

    Don't feel loyalty to a company -- they sure won't feel it back.
  • I've known a lot of sysadmins (as well as being one myself), and most of the ones I know don't have to work severely extended hours over long periods of time unless one of the following conditions exist:

    1) You're working for a tiny company that cannot afford a real IS staff. This is usually the case for those poor idiots who are on call 24x7x365. Any real IS shop has an on-call rotation that lets people get some time.

    Just *think* before you take the kind of job with that sort of requirement. You cannot take vacation if you are on call all the time. You'll just end up physically ill and mentally infirm.

    2) You get off on the power. A lot of sysadmins seem to whine and whine about the time they spend, but they LOVE the power. Spending insane amounts of time on the system makes them feel important. Users paging them at all hours makes them feel needed. Frankly, it is rather sick (including myself in that category 8-) ).

    3) You're not very good at your job. The successful sysadmin should not be bothered much at all after hours (barring the usual unforseen problems). If you're getting chewed up by failures you need to find the underlying cause. If you're getting chewed up by user demands it is time to either hire more staff or cut back on the users' expectations.

    The job market for system and network admins is so hot you shouldn't be having to put up with the insane conditions many people describe unless you want to. Everyone has their war stories, but doing it day in day out is an indication that it is time to move on.

    - Ken
  • Masquerading is also your friend. When I had to handle an IP renumber, It took changes to two, count them two machines. The machines on the inside network didn't notice or need to know about any of it.

    A good initial setup will save many long hours of pain down the road. That's probably why the sysadmin in this story got fired. The author was a victim of that admin's bad engineering decisions.

  • then because the people working on those desktops, the admins and coders, will refuse to take proxied connections or flaky performance from NAT/IPmasq.

    The purpose of an admin is to keep the systems running, not make the users happy. If someone INSISTS on having a non-masked IP, tell'em they can have it, but you are not going to support it. If you renumber, e-mail them in advance, and let them sort it out. Otherwise, tell them that its IPMASQ or no net for you. If there's not a security issue, stick a box outside the firewall and let them log on to that if they want.

  • DHCP can give out static addresses based on the MAC address. With some creative automation, you can have a master list that is distributed downstream to the local DHCP servers and their redundant secondaries. There ARE holes in DHCP to be certain. That's what a firewall is for. If the internet was layed out like most intranets are, we'd still be trying to develop a working routing table through FIDOnet and uucp based discussions.

  • by sjames (1099) on Monday July 26, 1999 @07:23AM (#1784601) Homepage

    they haven't gotten any email for the last two hours.

    echo "yes, the net is working" |mail -s FYI phb@hell.com

    In the crontab, every 2 minutes. For more fun, grab a few random spams and echo those instead.

  • There's a timeout that goes along with a DHCP packet. The machine can reboot all it wants to, so long as that timeout hasn't expired.

  • If you're making several times the national average at the age of 22 you deserve to be working your ass off. If you don't want to do something that everyone and their grandmothers can do in their sleep, there's 5 billion people who can network just as well.
  • A more likely scenario is that they will already be skilled with UNIX because they have CS degrees

    Because, as we all know, an academic degree is the best measurement of hands on vendor- and application- specific skills. NOT.

  • People who don't have a high level of proficiency with computers are not stupid, generally speaking.

    You're correct - I don't have any sort of a problem at all with ignorance, in fact I often go out of my way to help people, and teach them.

    But there are plenty of people who are just plain stupid. For example, I had to explain to an allegedly computer literate cow-orker recently that if you saved a file under one name, then called it another name in your script, the system wouldn't be able to find it! I've had to explain to one person who was apparently a programmer that if yu called all your variables the same name, the computer wouldn't be able to tell them apart! These are just a few examples - not of ignorance, but plain, can't-be-bothered-to-think stupidity.

    We'd all laugh at someone who picked up a telephone and expected to be instantly connected to their party without dialling a number - why is that any different from someone who types 'PRINT' and doesn't bother to specify the file to print?!

  • by sql*kitten (1359) on Monday July 26, 1999 @02:19AM (#1784606)
    Thats whats really wrong with this industry, all these people that think they are super duper hot shots, and they don't know crap, but at least they know more then the average monkey. Then they go and screw everything up, and then when they fix their own mistake, management is like, your so smart.

    As y'all know, I've done a lot of work on the NT platform, and in my experience about 80% of NT problems can be traced to poor systems administration (about 15% more are caused by deploying it into inappropriate roles, and about 5% because of flaws in NT). Why is such a large proportion due to this cause? It's because NT looks like Win95 on the surface, a simple, domestic OS, and it's very easy for people to bluff their way into sysadmin roles on the NT platform - there are people calling themselves Domain Administrators who I wouldn't trust to look after a digital watch, much less an enterprise computing resource! And there's no way to find out until a recovery situation for most companies, as they lack the skills for a truly rigorous hiring process. This isn't a criticism - after all, that's why people get hired, to bring a skill into the company in the first place!

    I've never worked with Netware, but I gather the Novell folk found themselves in a similar situation in the early 90's. A bunch of people who could manage the basics were placed in positions of responsibility, and when the situation arose that required deadly skills, they just weren't capable. And everyone suffered for this: the corporates didn't have the network support they needed, the operators were humiliated and fired, and the industry as a whole was blamed. However, the CNA/CNE programme went a long way to weeding out the incompetent, and the MCP programme is starting to have an impact in the quality of NT staff.

    Any kid can download linux and teach themselves, which is a good thing when viewed abstractly, but it will definitely result in a lot more people on the market who, whether intentionally or not, grossly exagerate and misrepresent their own skills. This can only be a bad thing, it will bring ill-repute on the sysadmin profession.

  • I work as a consultant, and thus my hours are monitored quite closely, however a friend of mine has just started working for Salamon Bros, and was basically give the "option" to opt-out of the working time directive - however it didn't take an expert to figure out that his career would suffer if he didn't. For a young guy like that, the idea of damaging your prospects from the outset is anathema.

    The problem is that most IT people enjoy their work, they get a huge amount of satisfaction out of having a healthy system. The problem is that many of the people they have to work with, and much of the software they have to use, are talantless idiots whose mantra is "If it works, its finished".

    --

  • Maybe if you didn't use Microsoft products to generate ?Microsoft-HTML? you wouldn't be so ?stressed out?.
  • False. When I recently found myself unemployed, I applied for that sort of job. Mostly because I just needed to be making money. And never got any calls back. I'm overqualified to be a sales-floor person since I've worked various data-entry-with-some-thought and secretarial jobs, not to mention have a college degree, and I have no supervisory experience so they won't hire me as a manager.

    NOT FALSE

    Why don't you have multiple resumes? If you want a job flipping burgers, make your resume so that you can get a job flipping burgers. You don't walk into a clothing store for a sales position with a college degree in CompSci and five years of network admin on your resume. Fit the paper to the task.

    I wouldn't out and out lie, but I'd certainly leave off the fact that you've been doing network admin. "So what have you been doing in the past five years?" "I was travelling, writing a book, taking care of my grandmother" whatever... AFTER you get the job then you can tell them, but not until they understand you're doing what you want and you don't want a bazillion dollars an hour to do it.
  • Erm, not exactly. You see, there are those pesky job applications that you have to fill out that ask what your last 3-4 jobs were and where you went to school. You also have to sign the bottom and certify that "everything is true and complete." This is pretty much what they want in retail, rather than a resume.

    True. I wonder how well you'd fare if you said, "you'd rather not know" in those columns. :-)

    Personally I'd take the chance at getting fired for making false claims than not getting the job at all because some sales manager thinks you're overqualified.

    BTW: Is it a false claim to put down information that is LESS than what you did in order to get a job because they're practising what I would call discriminatory hiring practices? Nobody should be able to tell you you're overqualified for a job since it is you looking for A job, regardless of your experience.

    I think it's a joke that someone who has spent time and energy and blood and sweat to learn something be turned down because they have proven themselves to be eager, dilligent workers, able to adapt and grow.

    They can fire you if they later find out you lied. No joke.

    indeed. Tell them though, "Would you have given me the job otherwise or would you have spouted off some nonsense about overqualification?" I've shut up at least one employer that way and kept my job. :-)
  • The issue with "overqualification" is that hiring the applicant is a high risk. Typically, someone will take a job to pay the bills (fancy that!), and quit as soon as they find a job more in line with their qualifications. Given the cost of training someone, if they quit in the first month or two, they lose money. It's bad enough that they have to hire a lot of students, people with am "I'm only here until I find something better, and I _will_ find something better" sign around their necks are positively frightening.

    Actually that wasn't the case at all with the person to whom my reply was to. They were looking for something different. It could happen... I could grow tired of embedded hardware development and want to try something completely different for a while. Like work my way up the ranks at the local Farmer's Market or something. Stop laughing.

    People don't always take a really different job because they are looking for something temporary. I'd tell the truth about that, I mean employers are people. I would honestly put "temp full time" in the app. But I would lie through my teeth about my qualifications if I felt that my past experience and abilities would give me the "overqualified" brand.

    OH NO... FIRE ME BECAUSE I'M BETTER THAN WHO YOU'RE LOOKING FOR AND I'LL WORK FOR THE SAME PAY!!

    Tell me that makes sense.
  • The only question I have left... Is whether this girl, who, if I'm lucky enough, may be my wife, and whether, if I'm lucky enough to have kids, my future kids will be (a) satisfied and proud of my carreer (b) sufficiently supported.

    the answer is so simple I didn't believe it when I first heard it said to me:

    Your children will be proud of you no matter what, If you are a father figure and a dad to them. Don't treat them as objects, treat them as what they truly are: your progeny, the heirs to your kingdom, no matter how large or small, your most cherished gifts. It's not the job that makes the child proud of his dad, it's the fact that his dad is there and does things with him and shows him those things that dads show best. You could be a lowly Cat5 cable crimper and your kids will love you as long as you're there for them.
  • by tzanger (1575) on Monday July 26, 1999 @04:17AM (#1784613) Homepage
    First off: Things like "coffee is gone, last mountain dew" and then "sixty pounds overweight" and "multiple ulcers" are not mutually exclusive. His health is directly related in how he eats and how he treats himself.

    As far as salaried hours and time spent and the "polite" 40 hour weeks -- he's not demanding it so he's getting pushed around.

    If he were smart he'd cash in his stock options and find another job where they'd not push him around like that. I know this is easier said than done becuase I feel for the guy. I don't like leaving until things are working. I hate seeing something only partly working. I've pushed myself like he has.

    I, however, have wised up.

    No longer do I work more than 50 hours a week (normally 40). No longer do I take on the world as my own personal responsibility. I have a wife and a child and another on the way. I have my own worries and there isn't an amount of money in the world which would rearrange those top priorities. I make decent coin (less than he claims anyway) and yes I could be making more somewhere where they demand 80 hour weeks and 24 hour on call, but I refuse to do that becuase of my family. My health and my family are not worth it.

    There are emergencies, yes. There are times when I do have to run into the shop at 5am to fix something. But those times are few and far between. I get a healthy amount of sleep at night. I play with my children at home. I wear a pager, yes, but it hardly goes off because my network doesn't die when someone plugs in a new computer or trips over a power cable.

    If companies require 24 hour 7 day a week tech assistance, then they need to hire multiple techs and have one pager that is circulated between them. "Ok, Ben, this is your week for 24/7" If the network is up and down that much, the network is designed poorly.

    Lastly, why the HELL are 200 machines NOT on DHCP?!? If we change ISPs I change one config file and IPs, gateways and DNS are updated for everyone. I change another file and all our web clients are updated. Sounds like his network falls into the "poorly designed" category.

    I really do feel for the guy, but there is no reason to push himself / allow others to push him like that. If he's half as qualified as he says, he can get a job ANYWHERE and sleep at night.
  • Huh.

    I bet you don't hire black people if you're not black, or Jewish people if you're not Jewish. Are you aware that gender, race and religion-based employment screening is illegal?

    What you don't get is that these people aren't victims but rather people struggling for equality and equal treatment.

    When people of all races, creeds, genders and sexual preferences can walk our streets without fear for their safety - if you're a white male, you probably don't know what it's like - I am and I didn't until I had my eyes opened by my wife and other female and black friends - and don't have to worry that their qualifications for a job won't be overshadowed by a bigoted boss's ignorant misunderstanding of the issues of our society, that's when these people won't be struggling for equality.

    Funny, I hope you own your company, because if your boss got wind of your sexist, potentially racist, etc. attitude (Like those who are trained to think of themselves as "regular people" who don't "oppress" people who aren't like them), you're a real legal risk, in my view.

    Email me- I won't tell anyone your name. But you need some real eye-opening when it comes to how our culture treats women and minorities, and why certain groups exist.
  • Yes - except "NT is so simple to maintain that you don't need full-time professionals except on the largest networks". Don't laugh - a former boss of mine was told this.

    Not to mention the "paper CNE" and "paper MCSE" problems. Certification may be good, but it's no panacea.
  • This sounds like my life. I'm a sysadmin, not the network engineer, but I've spent my fair share of time switching out VIP cards in a Cisco 7513 or making a 100 foot crossover cable at 3 AM when the FDDI module in a catalyst failed. I'm also on call 24/7, and so is another sysadmin here who works with me. It's true, the company OWNS you night and day, around the clock. Heck, I'm just getting over a serious case of bronchitis so bad I was coughing up blood, and I was WORKING FROM HOME! And I'm salaried, so what's OT? The difference in pay VS hours worked means I'm making about the same per hour as my mother, who's a secretary with no computer skills.

    The problem is I'm making squat compared to a lot of other people with my experience, and for some dumb reason I'm putting up with it. Call it loyalty to a company I was one of the first 20 employees for, I guess (even though we've been bought and had the company that bought US bought out).

    Why do we keep doing this? Anyone know a good shrink?
  • Used to work like that, no more. There is plenty of work available.

    I don't get paid for 24/7, so I don't do it. It's good business to stick to your contract, they don't thank you for the extra.
    Living in Europe with the Working time directive is quite handy, maybe the US needs something similar.
  • I'm no expert on these things, but surely changing ISP shouldn't mean changing IP addresses? You had them registered in the name of the company you're working for, right? Similarly, with DNS, I'd expect a local nameserver that all the 200+ clients used, so you'd only have to make the change in one place. Am I missing something obvious here?

    Apart from that, I sympathise with your position. Like many here, I've been there, and decided it wasn't worth it. Strictly 40 hours a week for me (but then, I'm a contractor now, so they have to pay me if I work overtime...)

  • Not necessarily all his fault...

    In our datacenter, we have 150+ machines. Almost every one (for performance reasons) has a caching nameserver running with references to our "real" nameservers in their '/etc/named.{boot,conf}'. Add to that several class C networks, subnet a few of them. Routers and such expect IP addresses, changing the config on our Local Directors would take a few hours in itself... Changing our IP address space (on a moments notice) would be a nightmare.

    Also consider that broadcasts (i.e. dhcp/bootp) don't cross networks. You don't want to join all of the nets together, broadcast traffic could eat up a good chunk of your bandwidth (at the very least, increase latency). So, you decide to maintain 5 DHCP servers. Congratulations, you've added 5 new single points of failure. You need redundancy, so you add another 5 machines, replicas of the first. (I could go on...)

    1. What is(are) the "moral(s) of the story"?
    2. bootp+production=bad.
    3. There is no cure-all.
    4. Read before you reply. This guy didn't have alot of time for prep-work.
  • You're absolutely right. Said that in my other post, but I figure its worth saying it again. The issue with his job was because he won't stand up for himself, and the issue with the switchover is that he or whoever above him makes the techical decisions simply don't know what they're doing.

    DHCP, simple server scripts, a good hosting architecture for websites and DNS, and a bit of planning ahead keeps that problem from happening. IP Masquerading or NAT on either the firewall or a Linux server takes care of the rest.

    Now if you were in a corporation where all the desktop machines need to be restarted, then you've got a bit of a pain -- you could use BO2K! ;) Seriously though, if you've got world-routable IP's on the desktops, than its pretty clear that the technical staff is clueless, so that's a non-issue.
  • Even on a small network not using DHCP is just dumb. It takes, what, two minutes to set it up? Saves a lot of time on each client (although Winblows doesn't seem to pay attention to router or DNS addresses it gets via DHCP... who's the bonehead at Microsoft who did that???)

    First thing I do at a companies I go into that don't have it, is set it up, so at the very least I don't have to keep reconfiguring my laptop... DHCP at home, and at work means no tweaking the configuration!

    The other problems you're commenting on are related to fundamental flaws in the whole client/server idea -- which is why the industry is moving back towards big-iron for corporate applications. The whole intranet movement in applications is driven in a lot of places not by the idea that its standards based, but because the powers that be know how stupid the shift to client/server really was.
  • Eh, you could use SNMP on some routers to do it. He might've meant using NAT on the router to "reconfigure" the servers rather than the router itself.

    I'd guess he probably meant SNMP though.

    Its a perfect case when network engineers or sys admins should know Perl. :)
  • by tgd (2822) on Monday July 26, 1999 @02:43AM (#1784623)
    I'm sorry. I don't mean to be rude, but this is the same as every other labor-related story thats cropped up in the last few weeks on here. I bet we see the same B.S. about unions and the same arguments for and against that.

    In the end though, it boils down to one thing. If you don't like it, quit. As you said, you're making multiples of the national average income for someone your age. You could always go sell clothes at The Gap or something. Or take one of those several hundred thousand other open IT jobs at companies that have sufficient technical resources and skills in house not to end up in that sort of a situation. (And a properly designed network architecture shouldn't have nearly the issues in that sort of a switch over... but I'll get to that)

    There is a tendancy for people in the industry -- particularly people who are in positions significantly beyond their realistic abilities (I'm not saying this is your case, but A case) -- for people not to stick up for themselves. If you don't like working late hours, don't. Half the time people think they have to, their management really isn't saying that, they're just assuming it. If management IS saying it, then say no. If they fire you, they fire you. If you really have any skills, you'll get another job without any problems, and if you don't, maybe thats what you should concern yourself with.

    On the area of mass IP migration, I hope this story serves as a warning to anyone else working in those situations. Its not difficult to engineer your network systems to handle this cleanly. Generate your DNS entries out of a database. Generate a DHCPD configuration file that assigns internal-only IP's for each server, Also out of the database, do the same thing with your server configuration, and IP configuration. Simple scripts to do that. (And you're not using NT for real work are you? You probably could do it with NT anyway, just takes a bit more hacking)

    A few days before the switchover, change your SOA's for a near-immediate changeover. Run a query against the database to regenerate your various configuration files, and bring down and back up the networks on the servers. On most systems you won't even need a reboot, and you'll have a few seconds downtime.

    I've done provider switchovers at companies with dozens of servers and hundreds of clients no-sweat with less than an hour downtime. If you don't have any other downtimes, you're still doing better than EBay ;) If you've got high profile clients, you could always use a NAT solution to handle the switchover period. I think Linux could probably even do it for you.
  • Let me count the ways:
    1. An ISP switch should take a maximum of 4 hours, and that includes remapping IP addresses of the servers on your DMZ and reconfiguring your router to the new ISP.
    2. If you use network address translation (masquerading) and internal (10.x.x.x) IP addresses, then NO CHANGES are needed internally when changing ISPs.
    3. All workstations and most servers should be using DHCP to allocate IP addresses and download net mask, domain name, etc.
    4. The DNS servers should use Dynamic DNS to resolve host names to DHCP-allocated IP addresses.
    5. By letting himself be abused in this manner, he is lowering the standards of a suitable work environment for everybody in this industry.
    6. If this guy was really so smart, he could find a real job doing the same type of work on a normal 8 to 10 hours a day, 5 days a week schedule. For MORE money. Quality is in demand.
    7. He is running himself into an early grave, as he himself testifies.
    8. He has no life outside of work. Ugh.
    9. He is confusing spinning his wheels with moving fast. Its the MPH that count, not RPMs.
    10. Not only is he a whiner, he's a SMUG whiner.
    Sometimes, you just gotta know when to say NO!

  • Thank God (whichever you like)...I hope this gives some of the less technical users out there some sort of apreciation for 'us techies'. I've been there...done that....(Way tooooo often).... Anyway.....Has anyone ever done a study about why we feel guilty when we leave a situation like this? I know the author did...I have....I'll have to talk to my wife (a psych major...going for her Doctorate)... Well...for me anyway...most of this stuff is over...I've just gotten a job as a Senior Systems Design Architect....I can let the engineers deal with these problems....:-)
  • While the writer may not have engineered the network he was hired to maintain, there is such a thing as re-engineering, time allowing of course.

    On another note, DHCP can be configured to serve static addresses. This way, massive changes such as the one he suggests would require editing a single file on one of the servers, averting the headaches of visiting 200 desktops.

    Let's hope he has learned a lesson.
  • DHCP can be configured to serve static IP addresses. Configure your clients to use DHCP. The next time something like this happens, you'll have to edit one file on one server rather than visit 200 clients. I can't imagine having to do that, and if I had to, I would seriously reconcider my approach to IP management.

    Why not use a private netwotk? Is there some reason why you need public-side IP addresses for your clients/servers? Cut your netowrk into a private side and a public side. Place all publically accessable boxes into the DMZ and secure them. You may need another router (or box) to route between the public and private side. The next time changes such as this are required, you need only reconfigure the public side boxes, leaving the clients as they are.

    Make sure your clients never have to leave your network for services. From what I read I assume your clients are using your ISP's name servers?

    I also have a question:

    If you are the 'network' administrator, why are you concerned with client configurations? Is your job description sys damin/network admin? There should definately be a destinction between the two. Telecom analysts are not necessarily good sysadmins and good sysadmins might now know a thing about telecom.



  • Using Netscape under NT reveals all. No IE necessary.

    It's a fonts thing.

    -kabloie
  • I totally agree. This isn't China (I used to say "This isn't Russia") -- the point is that we still live in a free country (thank God). Thus, you are able to choose your path.

    Obviously money is most important to you. Why else would you sacrifice your health for "two times the national salary"? But, because you felt the need to whine on Slashdot, you must be growing weary. If you are tired of poor health, then DO something about it! You appear to be a capable person. Use that capability to strive for a better life!

    I used to work in a sweatshop -- not as a sysadmin, but as a programmer. No, I didn't work 80 hours a week. But I worked enough to worry about work when I wasn't there. It was not worth it, so I left. Now, I work for a larger company, get paid more, and have every other Friday off (not vacation time). I finally realized that money and power do not equal happiness...

    Good luck!

  • by cthonious (5222)
    The market is pushing the salary into the 100k+ plus range for someone with the necessary experience to handle even a relatively small network, never mind what the really large companies like State Farm insurance or Wells Fargo bank have.

    Really? That is not my experience at all ... average MSCE makesbetween 40k and 55k, unix sysadmins with programming experience seem to be around 45-80k depending on experience and other skills. 100k to manage a small network? I don't think so - I wish.

  • we didn't have the problems you had with the isp switch over, but we did
    when our web/mail server was hacked.. i'm a programmer here not the
    sysadmin.. yet i had was at my office from 8am till 4am teaching our
    "sysadmin" the principles of security, telling him how it got hacked,
    teaching him simple firewall rules, and how to take that goddarned wu_ftpd
    out and putting something else in there like nc or pro...
    oh and i also had to teach him how to do a linux install and partition
    drives and stuff... made me wonder why i'm the programmer and he's the
    sysadmin... and u know what happened next ? the sysadmin is still there..
    even though his incompetence was obvious in fron tof the ceo of my company
    and to the director of technology (a figure head only). our company is
    small so everyone knew what was going on and everyone saw all the work i
    put in and not get compensated for it... no thanks or anything.. oh no
    wait.. i was just told that they were glad i'm there because now i can be
    a peer to the sysadmin.. i was like how about u pay me to be your lead web
    developer and peer to the sysadmin... i'm 20 and was making 50k there..
    since that incident i looked around and got a job with nice stock options
    and 15k base pay more than here.. u did a lot work man.. u should look
    around as well. but then again you're makin over 100k already :P...
    hopefully by the time i'm 22 i'll be makin atleast 90 :).
  • argh! i'd almost forgotten about those...
    the few times i've been forced to mess with NT boxes (more than i'd like to admit, though) i've always done whatever possible to avoid those abominations.
  • then you've got a bit of a pain -- you could use BO2K! ;) Seriously though, if you've
    got world-routable IP's on the desktops, than
    its pretty clear that the technical staff is clueless, so that's a non-issue.

    I'd seriously beg to differ with you on this one... in many companies (especially those like internet providers and such), you certainly will need routable IP's to the desktop... if not for actual real need, then because the people working on those desktops, the admins and coders, will refuse to take proxied connections or flaky performance from NAT/IPmasq.
    Sure, if you're talking about sales and marketing, it's not a problem to use IPmasq/NAT. /Andrew

  • Because, as we all know, an academic degree is the best measurement of hands on vendor- and application- specific skills. NOT.

    Of course it isn't. The best measure of hands-on skills is a certification that can be obtained via a three-week "boot camp" by anyone with a modicum of computer experience.

    "Professional" certifications will always be a joke as long as companies use them for marketing purposes only ("See how many MCSE's there are? NT is popular! Support is available!", "See how many CNE's there are? Netware is popular! Support is available!") rather than as a truly objective measurement of a person's skills and knowledge. None of the people I know who are "certified" by any of these programs got the cert because by doing so they would expand their skills - they all got it because it's worth a couple thousand more when the salary negotiations come up.

    Such programs remind me of the "driver safety" courses most states offer to let you remove a traffic ticket from your record. They care not a whit about teaching actual driving skills or imparting safety knowledge - they just want to make sure you sit there for six hours and regurgitate the "right" (i.e., the ones you were given a few moments ago) answers when prompted.

    Pfft!

  • http://www.fourmilab.ch/webtools/demoron iser [fourmilab.ch]

    Please... I can?t stand reading HTML with a bunch of ?question marks? littering it. It?s very annoying, don?t you think?

  • i sometimes liken system and network admin to being a coal stoker in the basement of a big building, just shoveling coal into the furnace 24/7 to keep the business above running.

    punchline of your story is that they fired the (only?) full time system administrator.

  • I'm in the UK, so perhaps the climate is somewhat different.

    But, how DO *most* people get their MSCE/CNE/etc papers? Do most people pay for them themselves out of savings etc, out of their salaries, or do they have their employers pay for them?

    As for me, I'm 19 with no formal qualifications. I'm working in the IT dept. at a council because I aced the techy quiz I was given at the interview, 'cos I'm a cocky bastard who knows what he knows and knows enough buzzwords and background info about what he doesn't know to get by. :-)

    The difference in practical knowledge levels and approach between my degree-educated colleagues and the self-taught self is extremely noticable.

    Most of the skills I've brought to the dept. are UNIX and Internet related, but a few months ago the council paid to send me on the Exchange Server course, so I could set up the email for council. If we have enough money in the budget I might even get sent on the NT admin courses that were the prerequisite for the Exchange course :)

  • Well you have a few decisions to make:

    a) Decide how much you want to measure your self worth based on how many hours you work
    b) Decide how badly you want/need the money if doing less actually means earning less
    c) Honestly evaluate whether you're doing this job in the most efficient way possible
    d) Honestly evaluate whether you're a control freak who can't or won't let some things go undone and/or let someone else do them

    Then what you have to do is go to your employer and negotiate how this workload. If your employer stonewalls you then the decision is clear. If the outcome is some plan to alleviate your workload then there should be specific milestones and targets to get there.

    Every proferssional industry holds out a carrot to get people to work harder be it money, title, partnership, perks and the like. For example a legal associate or auditor has specific, sometimes almost unrealistic billing-hour goals, a systems consultant has to bring in 'x' dollars or travel 90% of the time with the prospect that at least there is a chance that down the road the payoff is worth it. In each of these there is an expectation that if you don't make the cut eg. didn't make partner in the 7th year, you're out. You alone have to decide whether there is a carrot for you, whether it's real or bogus and whether it's worth the sacrifice. You alone have to understand what next job will be - that is - if doing what you're doing leads anywhere in your firm.

    Alternatively you may wish to consider the specific industry you work in - some are much less forgiving than others. Is it possible to do your job in some other sector that doesn't have the same demands on your time?

    I'll draw you an analogy. A few years ago I interviewed at a consulting boutique. 12 interviews one half hour each with each of the prinicpals and one the founders. Every single one focused on the massive number of hours they expected this person to work - a MINIMUM expectation of 12-14 hours per day, half-day on Saturday. This location was ~2 hrs from my home, each way. This was a privately held firm where most the equity was held by the two founders, a husband and wife team. By then end of this process the only thing I could say to the founder was that I had no problem working 100 hrs/week but why would I do it for him? It was clear that they weren't giving a piece of the business and that they wanted to 'leverage' the employees until they died or quit. Their agenda seemed clear. Pump up the value of the company, sell it and drive away in a new Ferrari. This was a valuable lesson for me because it convinced me that being self employed and/or starting your own company is probably not much harder than building up someone else's business.
  • Consider that for a moment - if anyone is that critical, a very foolish management decision has been made. What if that critical person is killed in an accident? The business closes and everyone goes home, right? After all, that ONE PERSON was the only one who could keep it running, and keep us competitve - without him, we just have to quit. Have you ever heard of that happening?

    It's not all that uncommon. I was one of these "indispensable" people, maintaining a system that I made robust enough that it didn't often cause problems. The system was mission critical. Did management provide backups for me? In their eyes they did, they gave me two backups, one an IBM MVS guys who was struggling to learn Unix (which is what this system was using), the other a Powerbuilder/Visual Basic program who thought Unix was too icky or something. Both were pretty useless as backups. the VB programmer tended to break things more.

    Management recognized that these people weren't learning, and did little to correct the problem, other than give lip service to it. To make it worse, I discovered that the useless backups were getting paid more than I was. I decided to quit, and the company had no choice but to bring me in on a consulting basis, until they could get new staff competant enough to maintain the system.

  • While seeing some comments around here I noted a general mood that's hard to agree with. Well the author has made some good errors. He does look quite bad. But people, mission critical jobs do exist. And beware of them. They are no kiddy's toy. And I don't use phones to fell important. The best I can get from them is the chance to have some good free time on myself.

    In reality 90% of problems concerning an average sized ISP are either "dumb" problems or false alarms. A phone or a pager allows a mission critical admin to send to Hell these things in a polite manner. Well here just holding a phone does not help you much. In fact the thing is quite complex and concerns some levels of "filtering" calls and problems. Frankly if everyone knew my work phone then I would surely be hanged on it 24/7/365.

    But not having a secondary or tertiary means of communication is being stupid if your work is mission critical. If you don't have a well planned system of communication (that does not concern just your workplace) then wait for very serious trouble. You will end with a queue of problems rising up like a snowball. And besides you are not creating only problems for yourself but overcharging everyone dependent on you. In one section around here we do have such situation because the teamleader there is not careful to plan a good communication environment. Things hang up for days or weeks due to this. Thanks God his section is not mission critical. But it looks much like that due to all those delays there...

    I may agree that being ISP does not mean that you're mission critical. In fact mission critical is mostly a task and not a job. However, depending on the structure of the ISP it is highly possible that some places are mission critical and there's nothing strange with this.

    What is strange and dangerous is to mess mission critical tasks with regular work. In fact maintenance is a critical point of the organization. But if maintenance is constantly done at mission critical rythm then there is something wrong with it. Well in fact we had this situation that lead to wiping out all NT workstations and replacing them with Linux :). The level of calls dropped by 400-500%.

    Well in any case I may tell you one thing. During all these years I passed a Hell of situations. Yes I do have some grey hair on my early 30's but that's due to a problem not directly related to my worktime. I don't have ulcers and I only blame two things in my health: a small spine trauma I got from falling six meters head down and some headaches when I push the line of worktime. And this only happens when I run over two days eyes open.

  • I know how it's like... I'm going on my 34th hour right now and still have at least 5 or 6 hours left before I can go home
  • I recently graduated with a MS in CS and I knew damn well that I was going to be taken advantage of. I was getting numerous e-mails/phone calls for jobs that had "sweat-shop" written all over them. Most of them are web-related: web engineers,CGI programmers,etc... I spent 5 months avoiding these jobs and looking for that one really cool job. After my exhaustive search, I finally got an offer from a company that does interesting work and treats their employees right. Last year the company had 0% employee turnover. That's right, zero, nada, not one employee left.

    I wish all of you the best of luck in whatever you do...


    --Ivan, weenie NT4 user, Jon Katz hater: bite me!

  • I am sorry man but this guy does not make those kinds of decisions the Sys Admin that got fired after he left made the kinds of decisions that would have made this turn over easy to handle.

    A lot of hot shot tech kids are busting this guy for not setting up the network to handle this kind of transfer. However this guy is a tech not a network architect or a Senior admin. He could have probably done it better but at this point all he could do is make the changes inside of the already established setup. You have to understand who makes the decisions on how the network is set up. I will bet you money that he was not the one setting this structure up.
  • Read the article again. First, I do not feel that I should be forced to work 80 hours a week even for high pay and overtime with the arguement that at least I am not lugging groceries for minimum wage. However, if you look closely at the article it has much more to do with the simple fact that the writer is completely hooked on his job to the point of ignoring everything else.

    He volunteered to help out and felt guilty after working for as long as he did. This was a confessional more than a bust on his companies policies.

    Not only that, but this is the rule for many sys admins. They get into their jobs because they LOVE computers, technology, networking and systems. Then they become obsessed with their jobs to the detriment of everything else. If you can't relate then you are not doing what you love. Sure, it is his own fault. The deal is that he is beginning to realize it is a problem. I am not sure if the quit bitching responses are really necessary. The been there done that get the life that is waiting for you responses are much more constructive.
  • Sorry Midnight the person at the dentist's or dental department would just look at you and say, "I want the hurting in my tooth to go away!"

    The dentist not expecting the guy to have a clue of why is tooth is hurting would go ahead and remove those two lateral incisorors as some as possible.

    The problem with so many computer people (BTW, I run a Help Desk), is that we expect the people to have a clue when they should not have to. Putting this simply, if their job is to sell stuff but they are required to send their boss email updates, they do not and really should not give a flat damn about how it works. Their only concern is that their email works, period.

    The person knows their product inside and out and can give a presentation like you would not believe. They pass the million mark in sales on a regular basis. Why the heck should they clutter their heads learning computer stuff? So we as computer people will have an easier time explaining why it took half a day to get the mail server back up? That is nonsense.

    I know that I will get flamed back with a detailed bit about why everyone on the planet that uses a computer for their job should understand the tool to use it arguement. I want my fridge to work but I will not sit there and learn the ins and outs of appliance technology just so I can sound smarter to the repair man when the thing decides not to blow cold air over my Coca Cola. Sometimes it sounds like what we expect from the users.

  • Listen, I work for a smaller corporation that is a part of a much larger one. I hear these kinds of stories all the time. The 36 hour turn around for a complete backup, installing new HD and then repartitioning the thing and putting the files back where they need to go was the most recent one. It does not sound to bad until you realize how complex the file structure has to be for our object file transfer program we use to move files around to be applied to the database. Also over half that time is taken getting the files off in the first place.

    Anyway, I want to get more technical and I have been thinking about getting out of being a Help Desk Manager looking over techs and being a tech again. The tough part is that I hear stories like this and wonder with a family, house and a good wife at my back is it really worth it even to chase down something I truly love? Gimme some thoughts people.
  • Just because you're using DHCP doesn't mean you're not using static IPs.

    DHCP can be used to assign static IPs. Doing so also has the advantage that it forces you to keep track of which machine has what MAC address.

    BTW, in response to the person who said that rebooting didn't necessarily mean you sent a new DHCP request; only if your OS is broke, bucko.

    DHCP has security problems, but they're a non-issue since they're not anywhere close to the worst holes you're going to have in any TCP/IP installation. At least with DHCP-assigned static IPs you've got:

    1) A correlation between MAC and IP in a handy
    database.

    2) A user calling you bitching about his machine
    not working if somebody tries to pirate his IP by pirating his MAC.
  • You wrote: "They made this neat thing called DHCP. And they have the equivilent for the routers."

    What is the router equivalent to DHCP?

    The best solution I could recommend is writing some Expect scripts to automate router & switch configuration.

  • SNMP could _probably_ be used to reconfigure the devices, but the fact still remains that somebody would have to write a script to do the SNMP sets. Not quite as automatic as a 'router equivalent of DHCP'....

    I do mass changes on thousands of routers/switches/hubs etc for a living (on one of the big networks the author mentions, actually) and I can say from experience that a certain vendor's (read 3Com) MIB support is still a little shaky. That's why we use Expect to automate telnet sessions into the devices so we'll be guaranteed that we'll be able to configure any device setting.

    And everyone should know Perl :-)

  • So why not sub contract the cableing out and then bill whoever authorised the security guys to slice the cables.

    Otherwise it looks like the system went down again for no reason and you get the blame. After people have thier budgets burned for messing with your stuff they won't do it again.

    Hey become a contractor and charge for your time.
  • I find if I talk people through and help them learn to get it right it pays off more than shouting at them. They will also be more inclined to help you in the future.

    I also beleive in treating your inferiors in how you would like your superiors to treat you.
  • At one time I might have functioned in a similar context, now if this type of thing happens to me more than once a month or once every two its time to sit down, calculate how many hours the company owes me and goto the boss to work out time off to make up for it.

    I figure I work 50hrs in an average week, before I was salaried the company tracked my time to the point where it became self regulating (after dishing out 50+hr's OT in one pay period they start realizing exactly how much they need an additional person).

    But these days its a bit different (because I'm salary), I have learned when to say when and to tell my boss that I have to many clients or to much going on to be messing with additional work and with that I have also learned the value of my personal time.

    Anyway, in my experience if you do a good job and make the customer happy (whether you are internal or have outside customers) companies will usually work with you in order to keep you on board. The big thing is that you need to be able to tell them when you are overloaded or make sure you are being treated fairly when it comes to making up for going someplace and putting in 35 hours in two days. If your company won't listen to you then maybe its time to start looking for a company who will.
  • He's right in that some people that are doing the hiring don't know crap. I was at a major HMO and they hired people to do helpdesk who knew only to click on the start button, didn't have any formal education, and of course, got paid little. The people doing the hiring only cared about keeping bodies so they could justify their own jobs!

    I think it is good to evaluate somebody for the right reasons, skills, abilities, work methodology, people skills. Some people with college degrees are better than those without, but I have seen people in college who are no good at all. It is important for those who are looking for jobs to evaluate the employer, too. If they are going to be working for a crappy manager or company, might as well not accept a job offer.
  • The only way to save yourself from this is to try and seek out the jobs where you don't start in a bad position. The two things I run from are large company positions (where you fight existing methods and beurocratic policy) and small companies who are unwilling to let you actually change anything.

    I recently started working for a Linux-centric company who had some serious security and maintenance issues. The solution was to start from scratch. Sure, it seems like a waste of time to them, but for my sake as an admin and theirs as a company, it was the best solution. It's a good place to work if you aren't fighting a company or put into poor situations.

    You can't always pick the perfect job, but weighing that in advance can help keep you from watching your life get sucked into a job.
  • I can tell you that DHCP/BOOTP/TFTP are not the be-all and end-all to your network management woes. Not all applications and network management software/systems play nice in a dynamically addressed environment. We have a rule of thumb that works pretty well:

    If it's a desktop/server, it gets a static address since those machines do not leave their physical location. If it's a laptop, it gets DHCP. If it's a router/gateway/firewall/etc., it gets statics (don't even get me started on the security implications involved in running your router plant with DHCP/BOOTP - it's more trouble than it's worth, believe me). Stick your plant behind a translating firewall setup of some kind and don't wash your internal network laundry in public.

    As I said, no silver bullets, YMMV, past history is no guarantee of future performance, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it, etc.

  • People work like this in every non-govenrment industry. My wife used to be a retail manager for a national clothing store. She would work all night getting ready for a big sale, or give up her days off for weeks on end. She had the respect and one of the best stores in the region, but that just gets old after a while.

    There are a LOT of cush IT jobs out there. Find them. Covet them. Don't trade your life for money.
  • >I get a kick out of stress (as long as I have sufficient time to recouperate

    Yep, power outages and halon dumps sure to raise the excitement level.

  • Did the same and been unemployed for the last two months. Now the question is whether to do it again.

    I liked the fast pace of the job, the long nights, the 2am sessions when everything just finally "works." I did not like the meager pay.

    I liked the huge experience I got, but not the grief. I liked making things _happen_.

    As soon as I left, the MCSE that replaced me took down my linux firewall and replaced it with MS Proxy server. I had never even considered it because of the money. Perhaps they should get legal on their licenses of SQL server first. (A few million bucks should do it)

    I'm wiser and smarter now. Perhaps I'll do it again. Perhaps I'll get a better deal this time.
  • Gee, it would freaking help if those of us with the beginnings of the knowledge and the desire to learn could afford the courses needed to get those skills.
    Seems like MOST of the people in the business are children of well-to-do parents who could afford to put their kids through the $8000 courses with the $150 tests.
    So if people want to stop this shortage of workers in the U.S., stop hiring foreign workers and start funding the education of those who are willing and able.
    Even my GI Bill won't cover the courses I need to get something like the MCSE.
    Personally, I'm looking forward to LPI getting the Linux certification ready. I can only pray I can afford the education that'll be required.
    Digital Wokan, Tribal mage of the electronics age
  • Wait a minute. You're making a multiple of the national average of salary? Your stock options could buy you a house? Quit complaining. I been there, I done that, I got paid dirt, I left. At least you're being fairly compensated for dedicating your life to this stuff. There's a lot of people who would be very very happy to be in your position.

    I'm not saying I dont understand what you're going through, I've been there. My pager woke me at least once a night. I spent every saturday morning nad most of sunday working remotely. I never was able to leave the range of my pager. I received over 1000 emails per day, My diet was Mt Dew, pizza, and beer. 60 hour weeks? Sure. I spent the night of the company christmas party planning for a data center migration. I spent thanksgiving morning installing a reboot switch. I made $13 an hour. You just cant win me over on this one. If you dont like it, quit.

    -Rich
  • See, the thing is. No one is getting beaten. You're not working on top of a crane, you dont work with hazardous materials, there's not a great risk for injury onthe job, you dont see OSHA banging down the doors of tech companies complaining about working conditions. This guy chose to do this, he volunteered for the work, I understand his need to complain. Like I said, I've been there. However, you have to look at this from the perspective of a blue collar joe. This guy volunteered for this work. He is compensated handsomely, He is clearly an important employee with a likely future path up the company ladder. He has skills which are in demand in the workplace. What's he complaining about? How do you explain his plight to line worker in detroit who was just replaced by a robot? I understand his job sucks, but something makes him stay there, and there are a lot of worse places to be.

    -Rich
  • On the contrary, I can relate. I was a sysadmin. I worked ridiculous hours for MUCH less pay, and I bitched and moaned just like this guy. Once I became truly dissatisfied, I left.

    My point is this guy has skills that are in demand. He's obviously very intelligent. He makes a good amount of money. There's NO reason he should have to put up with crap from anyone. If he doesn't like it he should quit, plain and simple. There are plenty of jobs out there where you dont have to pick up after everyone else, where you dont have to deal with people who dont understand and where you truly have the ability to love the technology rather than sacrificing your sanity to it.

    -Rich
  • If you have a CS degree, most employers assume that means you spent at least 4 years dedicated to learning your subject matter. The fact is that most college students today spend their 4+ years trying to get a degree while learning as little as possible.


    Yeah! When I was in college, we really busted our balls day and night to REALLY understand our computers. I could build an ENIAC from scratch in an afternoon. I'd like to see a college brat today do that!

    In my Junior year, I spent the 3 weeks before fall term finals awake, studying. These kids today get 'A's if they're awake during the exam.

    Before they gave me my BA, I had to build a pocket calculator capable of 3 dimentional plotting and rotation from only the disassembled guts of an FM radio and using only my teeth (OK, I will admit that I did use my left eyebrow once to nudge in a capacitor I was soldering).



    Get real! There have always been lazy and motivated students; when you went to college, at least when my father went to college, and now when I'm in college. I'm not a CS major (anthropology, if it matters), but I'm seriously impressed with many of the students who are (even in their sophomore years). You're prolly going to start spouting off "when I was your age" stories next, right? *kidding*

    Maybe it's just because of the school I'm at, but everybody seems to be working damned hard and learning quite a bit.


    --Andrew Grossman
    grossdog@dartmouth.edu
  • Send them some mail from a yahoo account to make sure, should please them ;-)
  • Sounds like to me they had DHCP. MIght have been in the process of moving to it. Switching to a new (Okay, DHCP isn't exactly new..) technology can take for-freaking-ever in an existing infrastructure. Where I'm working in a then-cablecompany now-ISP, we've still got some stupid tech on the 'enterprise' network.
  • Yours: But overtime was well... Very rewarding to say the least.


    His: High salaries become an illusion because when it gets down to it your hourly rate isn?t much better than the assistant manager of the local Pep Boys.

    Not everyone get's overtime.
  • This sounds frighteningly familiar.

    From September 98 to March 99, I worked as an intern in NetOps at a large hospital system in PA. Our biggest changeover push was bringing online the new clinical labs software on our Tandem. At 1:30AM on Friday night, I get paged by the second shift guy who usually just pages the on-call anyway and get asked to come in "just for a few minutes to look this over". 37 hours, 9 pots of coffee, 6 cases of Mt Dew, 7 dozen donuts, and 4 pizzas later, the four of us bring the damned system online. And that was just getting the Tandem to be seen on the network frum the entire /16 (and the 10.0.0.0/8 private network). The software didnt come online for another 2 weeks.

    After going home at 2PM on sunday, I didnt come in until Wednesday. The -overtime- was nice, but dammit, you need to sleep. They called Tuesday afternoon asking where I was, so I just told them "36 on, 36 off, see you in the morning" and hung up.

    Did I mention that I was only 19 at the time, still in college at Drexel University in PHL, and only paid 15/hr?

    *yawn* more coffee please.
  • Sounds familiar...

    14+ hour days, 7 days a week for 18 months.

    I decided to bug out and get into testing/development. 7 hour days, 5 days a week. The disadvantage was that I took a drop in salary, and now don't have a real choice in what I do. The advantage is that I can now spend several hours a night with friends, gardening, reading, listening to music, getting some proper sleep etc. I also lost about 30 pounds (from UK 13.5 stones to UK 12 stones), and I've never felt better.

    If you're in this situation, my advice would be take some time off and examine why you're really doing this. Is it for money, love, or apathy? If you've got ulcers, I'd think long and hard about this one.

    I wonder how sysadmin's attitude compares to those of doctors? I'm not trying to compare the jobs here, but junior doctors (here in the UK) work very long hours. But you couldn't tell them to stop. I wonder if it's for the same reasons? When I moved over to development, I tried to do everything myself, in much the same way as I did in sysadmin. I was taken aside, told to chill, and then realised that I could now ask the sysadmin to fix stuff, and could also depend more on the team.

    Ramble mode off. :-)

    Anthony

    PS. I'd recommend gardening to anyone. Wrist deep in dirt is a great balance to figuring out .idl files...

  • by Ominous the Forebodi (18697) on Monday July 26, 1999 @05:22AM (#1784669)
    Come now, people...

    Certifications and degrees do not prove knowledge. I've seen all too many people wandering around with certifications and/or degrees who couldn't config their heads out of a paper bag. Meanwhile, I've met a great many home-grown technicians and engineers who could rewrite your OS from the ground up, even though they had never set foot in a college classroom or even picked up an A+ study guide.

    At my last job, we had an 18-year old desktop support technician who knew more about the NT domain at the company than our MCSE-certified Systems Engineer did. Sure, the MCSE could quote Microsoft recommendations all day, but didn't have a single bit of real-world experience behind an NT domain. He couldn't handle the "make due with what we have" philosophy of our small company. He knew what we should have (according to Microsoft) to do what we wanted to do. He didn't know how to operate in the real world of tight budgets and obsolete hardware.

    At my current job, I have a coworker who recently went from no certifications to an MCSE in just over 2 months. He's now certified to administer software that he's never even seen outside of shrinkwrap. Today he's also a Microsoft Certified Trainer, and plans to make his fortune training the future MCSEs to pass their tests without ever having to actually touch NT Server.

    The biggest problem with certifications is that they hide the qualities that employers really should be looking for behind this "Microsoft says I'm qualified" facade. If you have an MCSE, most employers assume that means you know how to administer an NT domain. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. If you don't have an MCSE, you have to prove that you can admin that domain.

    If you have a CS degree, most employers assume that means you spent at least 4 years dedicated to learning your subject matter. The fact is that most college students today spend their 4+ years trying to get a degree while learning as little as possible.

    This is not to say that certifications and degrees are worthless. Far from it. While they do NOT prove knowledge, they DO prove dedication. If you're not willing to spend the few months necessary to get your MCSE, how can your employer know that you're willing to spend the time necessary to make his network operate properly?

    The point, however, is that certifications alone do not make one great. When it all comes down to the wire, knowledge is what really counts.
  • Though I understand the writer's concerns and situation, we the technicians and programmers are in demand. We do have the skills and economic clout to decide our fate - but we're not used to it individually or (importantly) as a community. I think we're used to being the nerds, the techheads, etc. and sometimes we just take it and live with it. We don't have to.

    To put it simply we're needed and you can't just replace us. The Information Economy is run and maintained by us. We have the clout, but don't often realize it - and when we do we're damn powerful. We are not just necessary, we are indespensible.

    I work about 40-45 hours a week as a programmer/analyst, and overtime when needed (sometime pre-emptively). I know my sanity is more important than money, and that if my manager doesn't understand, there is other work out there. Too many of my fellow computer professionals have lost their sanity, and I put my foot down early that I wouldn't be one of them.
  • I admit, jobs like this are usually thankless. You're expected to keep the network running, regardless of the changes that are thrown your way or the IEU (Idiot End User, pronounced "eeww") that can't send email. I worked for a budding regional ISP for a while doing the exact same work, usually way out of my league experience-wise, and I wasn't making multiples of the national average.

    But you have to ask yourself why you still do it. It isn't the pay, even though that's nice. Chances are you still do it because you actually like your job, the people you work with, and the status it provides you. No problem there, but the "suffering sysadmin" profile is a bit lost on me. Personally, I think some people who perpetuate this portrait of themselves simply like the image it portrays: the intelligent, suffering problem-solver who is knee-deep in the throes of yet another networking disaster.

    Like another post mentioned: if you don't like your job, get out now. Your time is far too valuable to spend it doing something you don't find fulfilling. And there are so many other opportunities out there. Hang up your sysadmin hat, start up a consulting company, and set your own hours. Chances are you'll still be able to make ends meet.

    --Mid

  • idiot \Id"i*ot\, n. [F. idiot, L. idiota] an uneducated, ignorant, ill-informed person.


    When I was speaking of end users, I was looking at them from the sys admin's perspective. For instance, a typical complaint from users when there are network problems is "But I just want to send email...", as if this is a simple task that shouldn't be interrupted if the router is down, the DHCP server is unplugged, and some backhoe 200 miles away just cut through a fiber line. The point, even the point of this entire /. thread, is that the majority of people don't understand what a sys admin goes through to keep "the network" running.

    In the same way, your dental department chair would take a pale view of me if I said "But I just want to remove two lateral incisors, without anesthesia, sterile tools, or even a well-lit room...". I'd be an idiot.

    Your point about not treating everyone who doesn't write code as inferior is well taken, and quite true. But it is out of place. We're talking about a network technician who had to deal with unjust job-related pressure from ill-informed people.

    --Mid
  • No, my friend; this is a well-paid whore who's (well) paid to _get_ beaten. So she either shouldn't complain, or get the hell out of the business.
  • by kieran (20691) on Monday July 26, 1999 @02:30AM (#1784676)
    Some people wonder why Sysadmins are known for being so cranky, why the whole "Bastard Operator from Hell" culture came about. They see intolerance for ignorance, and put it down to elitism.

    But that's not the whole story. When someone fscks up - like giving out the wrong IP addresses, in Morrigan's case - it can cause a lot of headaches. So you blow up at them. I'm known in my Company for exploding over the phone at Telco staff when they give me stupid answers to simple questions: not just because I look down on them, but because their incompetence causes more unneccessary work for me.

    Is it any wonder BOfHs are what they are?
  • This guy has only himself to blame for all of his work. If he knew what he was doing, he would not have to go to every workstation to fix them. They made this neat thing called DHCP. And they have the equivilent for the routers. Mabey you should try some planning before you go off and do something. If you have to go to a users desk to do something, then your doing something wrong. Thats whats really wrong with this industry, all these people that think they are super duper hot shots, and they don't know crap, but at least they know more then the average monkey. Then they go and screw everything up, and then when they fix their own mistake, management is like, your so smart.
  • Another problem with voting with your feet is that you get trapped in a time loop. If the reason you are leaving is because you have no time, when will you find the time to interview?

    This is a nasty little death spiral, and it takes a lot of effort to reach escape velocity. I've been there, I've done that, and my sympathy goes out to those who have neither the time to interview nor the money to just quit and be unemployed for a couple of months.

    But, IMHO, it's worth it.

    Also, remember to put your values in perspective. A lot of people are making high five figure or low six figure salaries. How important are those last few thousand dollars?

    You don't live twice as well on $40k than $20k, nor twice as well at $80k than $40k. That first $20k or $30k is very important; you keep wheels on the street, roof over the head, and food in the fridge with that. Everything else is toys and gravy; the lifestyle equivalent of chrome. Many of us could afford to take a pay cut; for those of us who are losing their minds, that pay cut pays dividends in sanity.

    One of my contacts is a consultant and family man who cannot stand 40-hour work weeks. He works ~20 hours per week, makes enough money to get by reasonably comfortably, and has the time to raise his kids. If you're making a lot of money, how important is that money to you? I've gotten to the point where I am not going to give significant new amounts of effort for any amount of money the corporate world wants to throw at me. I have enough; while more money may mean better toys,

  • Just *think* before you take the kind of job with that sort of requirement. You cannot take vacation if you are on call all the time. You'll just end up physically ill and mentally infirm.

    The company I work for expects everybody to take vacation. This forces people to learn enough to cover for each other, and to lose that "geek addiction"--the realization that a particular employee is as mission-critical as the RAID array. This also prevents burnout; this outfit is aggressive about reducing turnover.

    It works about halfway decently; nowhere near perfectly, but better than if they weren't aggressive on this count.

    Part of the reason for my company being "enlightened" is that we are a technical business. Life is probably much harder in an IS department for a non-computer company (like a financial outfit or retailer).

  • I'm sorry. I don't mean to be rude, but this is the same as every other labor-related story thats cropped up in the last few weeks on here. I bet we see the same B.S. about unions and the same arguments for and against that.

    As opposed to the same B.S. about "if you don't like it, leave?" ;) (Not meant to be a flame, but I do see a lot of those posts.)

    In the end though, it boils down to one thing. If you don't like it, quit. As you said, you're making multiples of the national average income for someone your age. You could always go sell clothes at The Gap or something.

    False. When I recently found myself unemployed, I applied for that sort of job. Mostly because I just needed to be making money. And never got any calls back. I'm overqualified to be a sales-floor person since I've worked various data-entry-with-some-thought and secretarial jobs, not to mention have a college degree, and I have no supervisory experience so they won't hire me as a manager.

    And depending on what sort of market you're in, there may or may not be one of those "other" types of jobs. Admittedly, this kind of treating employees like they have no lives is why I left the bank. (The worst example: 60-hour workweek between Christmas and New Year's, while my then-girlfriend was visiting from out of state, which contributed quite a bit to our breaking up. I know it doesn't sound that bad, but we were very much not getting paid enough, anywhere NEAR enough, to justify this. Try $8.50/hour or so. This was back in 1997; I knew that the closer we got to Y2K the worse it would get. I quit that job as of Christmas Eve 1998, thankfully.)

    But as I was saying, depending on where you are and how free you are to move elsewhere, sometimes the "just leave"option is just not viable. Being overqualified for "lesser" jobs can be a serious problem if you try to go that route. Even if the job is only one step down from whatever you're doing at the moment.

    Also, changing careers is difficult. When I went to the Job Service office while I was unemployed, they basically started trying to convince me to go back to the bank, when I left the bank at least in part because I don't want to work in the financial industry. (Fortunately, I got this job right before that would've happened.)

    Like I said, it's just not that simple.

  • Erm, not exactly. You see, there are those pesky job applications that you have to fill out that ask what your last 3-4 jobs were and where you went to school. You also have to sign the bottom and certify that "everything is true and complete." This is pretty much what they want in retail, rather than a resume.

    They can fire you if they later find out you lied. No joke.

    And yes, I am fully aware of how to "tailor" a resume based on what kind of job I am trying to get. Generally, in my case, this is the "censored" vs. "uncensored" versions of my resume -- the "censored" one leaves off the experience I have in leadership roles of various campus groups that "suits" might consider questionable.

    I got my current job with the uncensored version. *grin* Note to self: Burn the censored resume and never re-make it.

  • Yep, all of us on /. have our "can you BELIEVE this?" stories when it comes to computers. Gods know I've got mine. (The aforementioned co-worker who fell for the BudFrogs hoax and said she'd trust a corporate VP over a bunch of snotty college kids being my favorite example.)

    And yes, some people just can't be bothered to think, and they do stupid things. My gripe here is with the "experts" who can't seem to distinguish between someone who is just new to computers and needs to be taught basic concepts (even those which seem ridiculously basic) and flat out can't-be-bothered-to-think stupidity.

    For instance, I can understand why someone who has been using the 'net from work and wants to get connected at home doesn't understand about the need for a modem. You don't have to "dial in" at work, generally speaking, after all. It's just there for most of us. I can understand why someone whose main method of net-socialization was (pick one) MUDs, Citadel-based BBSes, or IRC would have trouble transferring command knowledge to the other two; they have very little in common. (Even typing "help" is no help when what you needed to type is "H" or "/help." *grin*) Other people I've talked to sit back and say "how stupid can you be to not understand how that works?" *sigh*
  • by fable2112 (46114) on Monday July 26, 1999 @03:22AM (#1784713) Homepage

    No matter what their actual job description is, the person who knows how to fix things when they break will be continually called upon to do so. By everyone. And I do mean continually.

    My work-study job was predominantly secretarial/admin. assistant type stuff for a woman who does teacher in-service programs. She's quite intelligent, but knows very little about computers. As part of my "job" on a few different occasions, I got to go to her house and fix her personal computer. Generally, what turned out to be wrong was something fairly simple that was obvious to me, but not to her. (Her idiot ISP had misled her into thinking that 9600 baud was an appropriate speed to attempt to run Netscape on. OOOOOOOPS! Other similar problems had occurred as well.)

    There were also the calls from my mother about "how do you get this to work?" She didn't want to ask my father, who knows more about computers than I do, because she didn't want the long technical explanation that she wouldn't understand anyhow, she just wanted it to WORK. I still get those calls.

    Even at the other jobs I've held prior to this one, I've been the computer-savvy one and on several occasions had to spend a good piece of my day: explaining that the Budweiser Frogs virus is a hoax (and putting up with a very rude co-worker who said she'd "trust a company vice-president over a bunch of snotty college kids any day." Um, maybe the college kids actually understand computers? No, never! *sigh*), teaching people how to send e-mail, "fixing" various "bugs" directly trace-able to misunderstandings of how the program works, and answering various "how'd you do that?" questions when I had done something like change the type size on icons or the background colors in the CICS screen.

    Way to keep me from getting my work done. *grin* And this is 99% end-user stuff. My father, who knows a great deal about how to set up networks, etc. (all self-taught) was really not allowed to have a life. Still isn't, sometimes.

    Sometimes I'd go with him. He'd set me up to play games (when I was younger) or get into my Internet account (when I was older), and he'd work on fixing whatever the latest thing to break was. Invariably, we were there for at least an hour later than we were supposed to be. Either the problem would be more complex than he had thought, or someone would see him in the building and start hitting him with questions because they (with good reason) did not trust the actual computer services folks.

    But, as far as the "real" tech folk (who have been marginal at best, dangerously incompetent at worst) go at the community college he is a professor at, he's quite unpopular. Things like stumbling across a gaping security hole in the system, pointing it out, and getting reprimanded for trying to poke holes in security. What fun.

    The problem is that the faster computers and information get, the more demanding people will become that they STAY that way. And until the industry as a whole has the sense to scream "STOP IT!" in some form or another, this is going to continue. And it is going to continue to get worse. Mad as Mom and I used to get at Dad about this, and much as the stress started to take a toll on his health, I don't think that he was regularly getting only four hours of sleep and/or working 100-hour weeks. (60-80, probably, but not 100.)

    I keep hoping that this problem will fade once more people get at least a basic understanding of how systems work, but we have a long way to go before that happens. :(
  • by fable2112 (46114) on Monday July 26, 1999 @04:29AM (#1784714) Homepage
    You're expected to keep the network running, regardless of the changes that are thrown your way or the IEU (Idiot End User, pronounced "eeww") that can't send email.

    Classic example of what bothers me about a lot of computer experts, right there. Admittedly, it is irritating to deal with folks who don't understand computers when they just won't listen to you.

    However, scattered through this and other /. threads is the implication of "anyone who isn't a [sysadmin/Linux expert/programmer/insert category of your choice here] is an idiot and not worthy of my respect."

    Here's a clue, folks. I used to work for an orthodontic school. The department chair is 77 years old, and one of the foremost experts in his particular field (treatment of facial birth defects, especially cleft lip and palate). He's been teaching since the 1950s, written books and journal articles galore, and knows less about computers than I did at the age of five.

    Is this man an "idiot"? I hardly think so. People who don't have a high level of proficiency with computers are not stupid, generally speaking. They are either: (a) sufficiently old to have been using typewriters or pen-and-ink for most of their lives, and thus a bit set in their ways; (b) experts in other fields (dentistry, music, early childhood education, what-have-you) who devote a lot of time to their area of expertise and don't have enough left over to become computer gurus; or (c) honestly trying to learn and frustrated by arrogant "experts" who focus on what they are doing wrong and act as if the end-user is wasting the expert's time, not to mention by technology that becomes obsolete practically before it hits the market.

    I know it gets frustrating to keep explaining "simple" concepts to someone who doesn't have the same intuitive understanding of computers that most /.ers have. But that doesn't mean it's acceptable to treat them like "idiots."

    Hell, by some people's standards, I'm an "idiot." I'm a technical writer, not a programmer. :)

    *steps off soapbox*
  • by fable2112 (46114) on Monday July 26, 1999 @06:40AM (#1784715) Homepage

    Good. Employers like you are exactly the sort I wouldn't want to work for anyhow.

    Ah, how quickly you assume what I left off of my resume. One item was work with the campus GLB group, yes. But the other two were a more generalized student-activist group (working out of a state university in NY, which had a wonderful system that could very well get killed by Pataki and co.) and the newly-started-up gaming club.

    Ever had to explain to a potential employer that no, you're really not a satanist even though you play AD&D? :P
  • Some certification does mean something. Novell certification is actually challenging, and I think we've all heard the horror stories of Cisco training.

    Unfortunately, there are too many people out there that try to 'teach the test', which is what generates these paper CNAs and the like. The problem is, testing is meant to check your knowledge by sampling a subset of what you should know, and by that, infering the larger part.

    Unfortunately, with a paper , there's a chance that the subset being tested is actually the whole of their knowledge, and so, should something go wrong that's outside their factory sterile problems (ie, multiple parts break at once, someone 'reseated' a cable and broke a pin off, etc.), they might have no clue as where to begin.

    The key is to find someone with good analytical skills, and a mind for problem solving. Even if you've never seen a particular problem before, in most cases, you should be able to figure out what parts aren't broken, and from process of elimination, find out what is.

    (okay, I admit. I had a bent pin on a SCSI cable when I was installing a new scanner for someone, and it still acted up when I swapped out the cable, because my spare must've been bad, and I forgot to look for the obvious bent-pin connection, as someone else had plugged it in.)
  • I can sure sympathize with this. Its not just a problem for net techs. This salary trap applies to lots of jobs.

    I suggest exercising those stock options without cashing in. You get some extra consideration from the company -- how much depends on the company -- and you maybe get some justification for all those hours. Dividends don't amount to much as a percentage of current price, but they might be pretty attractive at the option price.

    This isn't a solution of course, but it might help and it won't hurt.

    Zax

  • Sympathy first: I, and all of us who make the machine go, feel for you. From one point of view, you are a noble hero trapped in an evil system.

    You may, however, take another point of view that will give you your life back - you don't need this job. This job needs you.

    That's how they sucked you in, right? You're "mission essential". You're "on the team" and the team needs 110% from every player, right? It's YOUR JOB and you'll LET YOUR TEAMMATES DOWN if you don't live for it.

    I'm going to indulge in a bit of personal speculation here, so I ask that you not be offended if it isn't you; it's a profile that tech employers look for, and your post shows some of the signs.

    You are young, technically competant (perhaps even brilliant), have a powerful work ethic, and little social life. You probably relocated to take this job, further separating you from non-work involvements. You want money, of course, but also recognition of your value.

    This looks complimentary, from my perspective - but you must realize that your employers do not think like you, or me - they are an alien race. To them, you are a "technical person": i.e., not a real person. When they find someone who fits the profile above, it's like hitting the lottery - they can buy your whole life for the price of a real person's 40 hour week!

    You've already made the connection to hourly pay, which is good. Check this out, too - do you make more than the CEO of the company? More than the CFO? No?

    Were eithier of those working at 4 am last Friday in a 90 degree room? Do they ever have "emergencies"? NO?

    Hmmm.... Now, in a logical world, that should mean that you are more important. You HAVE TO make it work. It is CRITICAL. What the CEO does isn't - it can wait for morning.

    So there is a twisted prestige involved, too - you must be important. They tell you how critical you are all the time.

    Consider that for a moment - if anyone is that critical, a very foolish management decision has been made. What if that critical person is killed in an accident? The business closes and everyone goes home, right? After all, that ONE PERSON was the only one who could keep it running, and keep us competitve - without him, we just have to quit.

    Have you ever heard of that happening?

    Was the SysAdmin "mission critical"? When did he switch from being essential to being disposable? What changed?

    Nothing.

    It's a lot cheaper to provide the illusion of importance than to hire enough people to actually run a 24/7 operation. They are lieing to you, and if you buy it, you will someday be disposed of when someone needs a scapegoat for a failed policy.

    I could keep ranting for pages, but it is time to sum up: You are getting robbed of your time, and you cannot expect the robbers to stop it if you don't make them.

    Take less money; ditch the prestige. Work where your boundaries are respected. When you are off, be OFF - no pager, no phone calls. Remember, even surgeons and nurses ( who are compensated specifically for on-call time, even if they are not called) get days of inaccessability.

    If you want the money, contract your work on your terms by the hour, and reject jobs when you feel like you are working too much - you will find that this might make you even more valuable because you are so hard to get.

    When the brilliant "technical people" are no longer offering whole lives for sale at bargain rates, the business minds will begin to give over reasonable staffing plans - but not until what they are now doing hurts them. It is up to us, folks.

    Pat.
    ________________________________________________ __
    Remember, there is no "I" in team - but there is a "U" in F___ YOU!
  • by blacktie (72224) on Monday July 26, 1999 @05:40AM (#1784749)
    As another in the countless horde of the "been there, done that, probably going to do it again" types, I feel that the only wisdom I can add to this is a little reality check:

    You are not curing cancer.
    You are not saving the world from mass destruction

    go home.

    Too often, I find that we sysadmins shoot ourselves in the foot by trying too hard to meet a user's requests. We get a project request, bust our ass to complete the project in record time, and please the user community immensely. This is all fine and good until we get another project request, and now we're expected to complete it in record time as well because "you did it once before, why can't you do it again?" Usually, in the first instance, it was not necessary for us to complete our project so quickly. Our users would have probably been happy if it was finished a week or two later, but we delivered if only to demonstrate that we could. But then we've doomed ourselves, because now the user expects miracles to happen; s/he actually makes plans based on the fact that miracles occur on a regular basis. And we chastise them for their naivete, even if we set them up for it in the first place by working hard when we really shouldn't.

    Why do we work so hard? Part of it is to keep the high-paying job, but it's mostly because we take some sort of masochistic pride in burning the midnight oil longer than anyone else; working on some component that has been deemed mission critical by someone who has grown too lazy to know how to conduct business with an abacus. And we call this martyr syndrome professionalism.

    But in the end, for most of us who work for corporate or academic institutions, what have we accomplished when we finally go home? Some people can receive an e-mail about "How to make $$$$ FAST" in ten seconds instead of ten minutes. Some people can make more money in less time. Some people never notice that anything changed. Their lives go on.

    I'm not saying that we should be fat and lazy, but we shouldn't be burning ourselves out when we don't have to. Yes, there will always be projects and network outages and an ever-increasing pile of work that we need to tunnel out of, but no it doesn't have to all be done today. Any project that requires any sort of planning should be done without anticipating anything like overtime. If overtime is required, it has to be for a good reason. Too often, we bitch about having unreasonable project deliverable dates, but that's usually because we just don't know well enough to push back.

Little known fact about Middle Earth: The Hobbits had a very sophisticated computer network! It was a Tolkien Ring...

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