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The Almighty Buck

Playing With IT, And Why It Matters 283

agallagh42 writes "Check out this article at ComputerWorld Canada by Peter de Jager, about how the best IT workers are really just "kids with big toys". How many of you have come across IT workers that obviously have no real interest in technology, and how much does it affect the quality of their work?" (Read more for another article on the more serious side.)

Code_Poet writes: "For anyone that has tried explaining to management the importance of well structured IT in a corporation, here is an excellent article over at The Economist on-line edition that explains the need quite well. Many companies when in a crisis situation just want the problems fixed and want to move on. Few understand it's an integral function of a corporation these days..."

Upshot? Toys are fun, fun is important.

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Playing With IT, And Why It Matters

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Not once in 3 generations in my family has anyone had "play time" in a real job. I don't think it's a requirement. In fact it's a insult to the people who give 110% and what labor unions are for.

    Looks like you've just discovered the difference between the professionals and the clock-punching ilk. I guess you have one brain cell still firing. What you don't see is the sysadmin coming in at 9pm on Sunday to fix some problem. When the sysadmin does his job, everything works, so he plays. When things break outside your narrow 9-5 vision, he's there so you can log on in the morning and whine.

    How many sysadmins have you seen come and go where you work. Well we've seen piles of you kind come and go.

  • Even though it isn't your stuff, it's always fun when boxes of new equipment show up, and you tear them open and set up the machines inside. If all I did was admin UNIX and NT all day, and never had the chance to set up a new piece of kit, I'd be somewhere else by now...

    - A.P.

    Forget Napster. Why not really break the law?

  • One of my geekiest friends used to run a computer fix-it shop, at which I worked doing Mac repairs. He now teaches people in classes like that, which he likes better. Among the classes he gives is the A+ cert. Once I went to check out his classroom and the funky network he put together to get all the PCs, which he built himself from parts, to talk to each other. For fun, we took the A+ equivalency test- I'm a Mac geek and he had never studied the course because he didn't have to, only had to run the programs for the students.

    We both would have passed the A+ cert without any studying whatsoever.

    We also both thought it was a terribly ridiculous sort of cert to have, if a Mac geek could pass it just by guessing cleverly and knowing what some of the answers _weren't_. I actually beat out my friend the PC tech occasionally :)

    Believe me, certs like that are meaningless...

  • Would you trust a surgeon to operate on you if he didn't take medicine seriously and only thought of it as his day job? Would you really go under his knife if in talking to him he said "Well, I cut people open because it pays well. I happen to hate humanity and I just find people disgusting". I sure as hell wouldn't.

    It's really the same thing with technology. If the people working with it don't love it, they're going to suck. I produce much better code when I'm working in an environment I enjoy, both in terms of workplace, as well as the actual development environment.

    See ESR's The Art Of UNIX Programming []. People do wonderful things with UNIX in part because it's so much fun to use. Just as doctors who enjoy working with prostates are probably good at operating on them.

  • I have a co worker who is very much like this. She would never write code outside of work, this is what she does to pay the bills etc. On the other hand she is damn good at what she does. If you have a bit of code that needs to be maintianed give it to her. She *WILL* find the bug.

    I will admit to spending more of my time fixing old code that writing new code. It may not always be as exciting, but I'm good at it and it always will need to be done.

  • I think there is a definite difference. For me personally, anyway. It contributes to the overall culture at work and makes for a much more enjoyable work environment. This environment means a lot to me. I've worked in environments where the people weren't passionate about their work and it wasn't nearly as much fun.

    I think most of us like to be around people that have similar interests. At work where we spend 8+ hours a day with the same people, it better be somewhat enjoyable (for me at least) if not, I'd go nuts!

  • by geek ( 5680 )
    Since when do you need passion to do a job? Do you think coal miners had a passion for their work? How about janitors?

    It makes me sick when people don't hire someone because they don't spend 18 hours a day in front of a machine plugging code into a text editor with a hard on.

    Some people have lives folks, especially this time of year, water skiing, hiking, family time, camping etc..... Why would anyone have passion for a monitor and keyboard when they can spend a day on the water with a brew and some buds. I mean really people, there are much more important things in life than ones "passion" for their work.

    It used to be all you needed to get hired was pride in ones work, which is a totally different thing.

  • Your "not a 9 to 5 person" clause unfortunately leaves out many people who would otherwise fit in perfectly.

    I have a family, my wife works, and I need a predictable schedule so we can work out who will be home with the children and when.

    It's not that I don't have a passion for the work, it's just that my children are more important. You'll be leaving out a lot of talented people if that is one of your main criteria.

  • But can't I do it 'till I need glasses?
  • I'm an IT Support Person, and I've had days with "Jack Shit To Do". It's generally when everyone else is on vacation, and I'm all caught up on my trouble calls. I get a lot of web surfing done, and organize things for the days when I go non-stop from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. with people screaming at me because they don't bother to save frequently, or back up their data.

    I don't think that IT people are a special class or anything, but we tend to see people at their worst, when they're frustrated because something isn't working right. They're usually also embarassed and pissed at themselves, because they've done something stupid, but that won't stop them from taking it out on you.

    I don't think IT people are godly, but we do have to put up with more than our share of bullshit, and if we don't get at least a little down time and some toys occasionally (I've got my new 21 inch monitor on the way) then we'd all just burn out like social workers do...
  • I suppose this means that for job security, it's better to let little problems simmer for a while (so you appear to be loaded down), then come charging to the rescue like a white knight (so you get appreciated). :-)

    Very true. I always use this tactic, as well as telling people that I won't be able to get to their problems for two more days, then showing up in half an hour to fix them. This makes them think that you're a miracle worker (Montgomery Scott - Star Trek) and also keeps them from calling you about things before they engage their brain to solve the problem themselves.

    More importantly, it gives you some padding for the call that you thought was just a computer lockup but turns out to be a toasted hard drive that the luser didn't backup in the last six months, so you've got to spend an entire day trying to get that drive to cough up some project that is due TODAY.
  • Depends - if someone doesn't take their responsibilities seriously, or have priorities in order it could be a problem - the cost of having lots of paid 'play time' (or OSS R&D I call it) is making sure my mission critical servers, workstations and of course data backups and recovery plans are in good working order - eternal vigilance. That takes maybe an hour, plus maybe a few hours servicing user complaints (this is a little over 50 PC's) - which usually comes to "you'll have to get the boss to spend more $$$ to do that" or a simple reboot, or just sympathize with someone about a Msft oddity, then it's off to d/l OSS and 'playing' with things like, currently, getting a Mosix cluster up on a few old pentiums. Also have to spend some weekend hours doing server maintenance. I've trained my super to not bug me with 'busywork' - I'll make my own damn busywork that also keeps me a sharp, up-to-date sysadmin.

    The best hedge against 'disruption' is keep a solid wall between 'production' and the 'test (play) lab' machines.

  • A machine with no moving parts should never break,

    Now I see why Windoze machines always break: they're CRAWLING WITH BUGS!!!!


  • I think that someone needs to have the desire to play with things and see what it can do however they also need to be careful and not let this desire to play consume them and stop them from doing the job they are being payed to do (to often someone will put off helping clients because 'I'm just waiting for this new tool to finish compiling')
  • So he'd ask people if they own a PC. I know a couple of people who don't own PC's anymore. There's Sun Blades, SparcStations, Indigo's, Alpha's and all sorts of things non-PC that you can do a lot more with.

    Someday I'd like to say I don't own a PC.
  • If a candidate has knowledge that applies to the problem, then I say, by all means, hire her!

    I don't know. After all, we're talking about human beings rather than machines, and when dealing with human beings, there are other important factors to deal with besides whether or not their "specifications" are good enough.

    Obviously a more extreme example, but would you really want to hire a highly-experienced code-grinder who insisted on clocking out at 5pm every day, had poor personal hygiene, lacked decent interpersonal skills, and went to KKK rallies on the weekends? Even if that person really was a top-notch programmer otherwise and willing to work cheaply?

    Besides, maybe the company in question is trying to keep up with "cutting edge" developments with Java, and considers the ability to make the most of Java developments an important asset to their business model. If so, someone who has no opinion of "what exciting things are happening with Java" may not be too motivated to keep up, beyond a bare minimum to keep getting a paycheck.

  • Buhaha funny, moderate this up. Maybe we should replace OSS with Open Flesh -- "To really scratch an itch".
  • Both of my parents are (were) also electrical engineers and they started up a couple companies in related fields. Needless to say, I've known a lot of engineers of those generation(s). While I agree with you that the majority of them (all except for the oldest ones) know assembly, machine code, fortran, and other languages well, I do not agree with the implication that they're all dry and/or geeky. Some of them were geeks, some of them were not geeks all [although I'd say that few of them were trendy in the marketing sense]; technical abilities tended to have little clear correlation to external appearances. I know a lot of non-geek engineers that are extremely capable and accomplished. In fact, the only thing I can really say for "geekiness" is that it tends to be more of a limiting factor--those that appear to be big geeks tend not to be capable of larger responsibilities like management and/or proper planning.

    That said, the geeks tend to be more focused purely on technology, but it is neither necessary for skill nor a gaurantee of it by any extent of the imagination. Some of the worst geeks are merely techies....Also, somewhat back on topic, I think a lot of people forget that some people are more driven by results (non-financial) than by the technology itself.
  • by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @12:58PM (#267519) Homepage Journal
    Oh please! The dot com crunch was because stupid suits started companies with no business model and lots of funding and lots of idiots rushing in to buy the companies over inflated stock. It had almost nothing to do with the geek employees.

    I work extremely hard. Much harder than most employees. Monitoring systems, hacking together code, etc. Usually on a wage much less than I deserve. A lil time to relax here and there is required to keep me from stressing out and burning out.

    This is the same reason I tend to not give a damn if I come in a lil late or take long lunches. When I am at work I am being battered from all sides to keep things running smoothly and don't need the extra stress of following a strict schedule. My brain is usually working through problems no matter where I am so I am working even when I'm not actually at work. Doing something else helps relax me and makes it easier to grasp complex problems.
  • That's funny, because I don't think I've heard a Marketing guy say anything besides those phrases. Maybe they have a lot of lunch meetings :)

  • That was true until everyone noticed how much money you could make in the field a few years ago. Now it's about 50/50 as far as loving your job (IMHO).

  • Wow, some very good points with regard to my very off-the-cuff remark. I really haven't found a political philosophy that indicates exactly what I feel. I could be a conservative except:

    • I'm open to new things, and I don't think many conservatives (or at least those in politics) are
    • I believe in freedom of speech, expression, and religion, and many conservatives don't agree with those freedoms when they threaten closely held religious beliefs.

    Likewise, I could be a liberal except:

    • I'm fiscally conservative (and BTW a monster tax cut doesn't count as fiscal conservativism in my book)
    • I'm not too happy with affirmative action
    • I support the right to bear arms, which many liberals don't agree with when it threatens their closely held beliefs

    As you can see, I've got some issues :)

    I suppose I could be a libertarian, except that I would worry that such a government would allow business interests too much control over society due to their vast resources. So in general I vacillate between Libertarian and fiscally conservative liberal. I would totally support the Libertarian party if corporate citizenship were revoked.

  • Yes, and we know what kind of crime it is: ThoughtCrime!

    Yes, by merely professing to a certain opinion, even if you've never harmed a living soul, you're automatically a criminal. This may come as a surprise to you, but any time a government can tell you what to think, you're a lot closer to Fascism than you think you are. Are you ready to start burning Fascist books in the street, and after that maybe trashing some of their businesses?

    And how exactly is being a Communist better than being a Fascist? Stalin killed plenty of people too, you know, and communism can lead to nationalized hate just as easily as any other form of dictatorial government.

    Sometimes it gives me pause to defend the right of Nazis (whom I personally abhor) to speak their minds, but I absolutely loathe defending the right to speak of those who would deny such rights to others. I guess it's just the curse of being a "damn liberal" in an enlightened-but-not-quite-entirely age...

  • ###I blame the ease of administration in MS products of late for this trend. Someone that doesn't know much beyond their admin tasks can still pass their job requirements and get by in the IT world these days. You won't find those people working on advanced (read: UNIX based) server systems or Cisco/network products, because it involves an inate knowledge and thought processes which only comes (again, IMHO) with years of playing with computer systems (probably teen/pre-teen years) and a desire know how to do something just because, or to see if it can be done. ###

    Well in theory, isn't being able to use programs without having to spend years playing with computer systems a good thing?
  • I think the whole Y2K thing made a lot of people realize that they don't rely on technology as much as it seemed.

    And of course, that your toaster/microwave/tv/etc really doesn't give a shit what year/month/day it is.


  • Really. Isn't "IT" supposed to be so wonderful, change the world, take the smell out of diapers and make Dubya keep his campaign promises after all? I mean, "IT" is so great, we can't even be told what it is, but only who is working on "IT"?

  • I want to leave my company because IT here is really really bad - Microsoft all over the place, including MS Exchange which prevents me from running GNU/Linux in my workstation, badly managed Unix servers, no quality standards, lots of people with no interest in technology whatsoever. The funny thing is that we dominate our marketing with a highly successfull... business computer program system!

    Sometimes it is not so easy to leave... I have no formal Computer Science education, and I live at Brasil, so offers aren't abounding... what I really would like to do would go back to school, learn CS and get a master degree working towards a working implementation of Chris J Dates' Tutorial D relational database management system language, but I see no way of doing that.
    Leandro Guimarães Faria Corsetti Dutra
    DBA, SysAdmin
  • The issue is a little bit thornier, and perhaps I'm a little bit stupidier than you think.

    I'm married and have some responsibilities, and on the other hand I lack some basic training in Math such as Calculus and other High School syllabus. So what I think I really need is not a full undergraduate course, but a focused basic Math (including Calculus and all the High School stuff) and Logic tutorial that would enable me to learn programming and database theory. With this I would later be able pursue some job, be it commercial or academic, on databases.

    I still haven't found anything like it, but would gladly be proved wrong.

    Thank you for your attention, Glanz!
    Leandro Guimarães Faria Corsetti Dutra
    DBA, SysAdmin
  • I would be very, very grateful, thanks in advance!
    Leandro Guimarães Faria Corsetti Dutra
    DBA, SysAdmin
  • Since when do you need passion to do a job? Do you think coal miners had a passion for their work? How about janitors?

    Hmm, you're both a little OT, there are many different types of coders needed but here on /. many expect to find the kind that can be artistic and creative.

    And that often (usually?) brings along a certain eccentricity that is not commonly found (nor needed!) in the other trades mentioned.
    And no, you don't need passion to do a job but when you want to excel in it it's a near prerequisite. As we're not informed about the requirements for the job offered it's hard to comment on the reason for not hiring the lady.

  • I think the "toys" in question aren't Palm Pilots or even spiffy laptops. They're the Cisco multilayer switches, E10K servers and Symmetrix storage units that were flying off the shelves over the past few years. I have to admit that I really enjoy being able to work with high end equipment, but during the funding frenzy of the late '90s a lot of companies bought a lot of expensive hardware that they didn't really need. Their IT departments got blank checks to buy what they felt was necessary, and the only people in a position to question the purchases were too busy salivating over the next batch of gadgets on the way.

    I've seen a few (small) companies throw millions of dollars into hardware upgrades when it was really their code and database designs that were slowing things down. Hopefully, now that the money is much harder to come by, people will have to focus more on building efficient systems instead of bigger ones.

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @01:29PM (#267532)
    > I work with a bunch of guys, that are as far from the traditional geeks as they come. ... What they do, is write quality code, develop innovative hardware, and usually do it under budget and ahead of schedule.

    I congratulate you, and envy you too. In my experience, professionalism is even rarer than joie de hack is. Over half the IT people I've ever worked around lacked both.

    I'll grant that professionalism is more productive than joie de hack, but the latter still tends to be much better than neither. Too many people in IT are clueless, unmotivated timeservers waiting for the next paycheck to show up.

  • One of the biggest IT problems I've seen out there, possibly the most widespread, is not lamers, disintersted moneygrubbers, kids-with-toys, or tight-assed bosses. It's simply *bad communications*. It's been rare for me to really see a company where the IT department actually understands what the company wants to do, and the company understands the cost and process of getting there. Usually this is due to a lack of a good MIS person. A good MIS must know not only the technical issues, but the political and organisational ones as well. They must be able to speak with the company and act as a go-between for the techies who do the work. People talk about bosses who won't 'spend the money to do it right'. Well.. has anyone *properly, in terms they undersatand* shown them a cost/benefit analysis? Shown them what they really will and won't get?
  • If that's who the person you have to report to, the politics and paperwork are the key. The MIS should be able to document, and say, to his hypothetical grey-haired corporate zombie 'this is what needs to be done. Here's how long it will take; here are the resources we need' and get his answer.

    Zombies can be dealt with. It's when you get all these 'okay I'll go talk to Sam and ask if we can have some more machines' or 'I'll bring it up over coffee next week' that things don't get done.

    I knew a corporate account type (CFO) who I thought initially was 'accountant' and wouldn't understand anything, and this would make things difficult. Turns out, things were only 'difficult' when we simply asked for stuff. If we presented proper business documents (ie: terms he can understand, becaues as CFO, he *HAS* to understand the impact of what they do in financial terms, things went really smoothly.
  • I expect that those IT professionals working for me will have input into what our department does, that's why I hired them... I can't possibly plan how long something will take or what resources are required without talking with them first.
    And dammit, YES, I *DO* want people who will do what they're told, because it's my JOB to keep the department doing what we're supposed to be doing. Just because one of my IT Professionals thinks something else is 'more important' doesn't matter.. he can bring it to my attention, but in the end, I decide what gets done and what doesn't, and if the department doesn't do what it's supposed to, I LOSE MY JOB.

    Yes, it's an unfortunate blip in the IT world, especially with this Internet thing, that lots of 'neat ideas' came about from very green IT people (read: young, inexperienced, but smart and creative) and were exploited by the company, and it sucks. That's life.

    Managing an IT department is *NOT* a piece of cake, though of course every new 'IT Professional' thinks he knows it all and could do everything, and criticizes his boss who doesn't 'know' every detail about everything. It's not our JOB to know every little detail; it's our job to ensure the company's IT departmen runs smoothly, doing what the company requires it to do.

    Another thing. All too often I hear crap like 'management knows nothing about IT! THey don't know what they want.. they're idiots'. Well... one thing experience has shown me is that IT people (me included) like to overengineer everything, and solve every problem with computers, whereas Mr. Suit doesn't *give a shit* how it works, as long as his fax machine faxes and his email emails.
  • Good points! Here are my thoughts.

    Yes, the IT Manager *should* understand, and care, how things work, and about scalability and such. In fact, it should be his JOB to ensure that whatever is done by his department is communicated properly to those outside in terms of cost. What's the cost for a scalable system? How long will it take? what are the risks of not doing it? These are all things that he is supposed to do.
    As for Management -vs- Employees in terms of salaries, in many cases, managers should make more. The flip side of your argument reads 'how can I Manage some employees for the company if they all get paid more than I do?'. You don't pay people more than those who work under them, very bad practice. Managers, however, should be paid appropriately. Let's say tehre are 5 mid-level IT workers working for the manager.. and those 5 guys make, say, $75k, the manager should make perhaps $90? He should NOT be making $150. Now, if that manager is responsible for managier 50 or so of these employees, in a larger department, perhaps he SHOULD make more.

    If you are in a situation where managers are not held accountable to their duties, then something is wrong. If you take 20 IT workers, and try to run a department without management, though, it doesn't work.

    I've been in the frustrating bad-management positions before: The manager in charge of the IT guys makes shitty decisions, doesn't listen, doesn't care, yet limits what the IT guys can do. In turn, the IT guys are the ones who are given shit when things don't go the way the manager's boss wanted. Had I had teh experience I have now, I woudl have taken the other IT guys, and talked directly to the boss.
    Of course, in a huge company, this probably won't get you too far.

    Also... on the topic of salary. I'm sure you've heard the phrase 'The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.'. That holds true at work too... You shouldn't take a job unless you accept the terms of employment, and are satisified with them. Just because you found out someone else makes more than you is no reason to suddenly be bitter; you accepted the job.
  • Oh yeah.
    Of course, it's true that a great many people were made 'IT Managers' by their bosses because they appeared to know more about computers than the boss, and the boss trusted them, because they were friends, and neither of them are 'experienced' at running companies.
  • by jslag ( 21657 )
    . . .I like to always be trying out new stuff and be tweaking things. This is a really bad trait to give into as a sysadmin

    Nonsense. These are great things for a sysadmin, as long as trying new stuff and tweaking isn't happening on the production systems. New technology is constantly appearing and wanting to be implemented (at least for the systems I administer), and it's much better to make all your stupid mistakes in advance on a noncritical system.
  • Actually his example works perfectly, its called research. Most many of your best doctors work long hours experimenting with new
    procedures. This grant funded research makes organ transplants, cancer treatments and other medical advancements possible. In
    essence it is the same thing, no I'm not saying I think it is say important the human race as hacking a piece of code.

    Mother's voice: What are you doing in there?
    Voice behind door: Nothing Mom, I'm just combing my hair!
  • Dot-coms failing because of poor business models have absolutely nothing to do with the work ethic of IT professionals. Using the dot-com bust as a general-purpose sledgehammer to beat on everyone who has more creativity and technical expertise than yourself is a bad way to go about making friends. And money.

    Every time someone suggests that creative, motivated, and flexible people are an asset, there's some wanker like you to stand up and shout "Somebody's gotta pay the fuckin' bills." Thanks, Captain Obvious, and apologies for having interrupted your masturbation session in front of Quicken 2000.
  • Sorry, when I posted before I missed the fact that you were trolling. My bad, you've got the right idea.
  • You probably weren't interviewing for a position as a Java coder were ya? :)

    See, that would be the type of answer I'd love. It shows a wide range of experiences, knowledge that a hammer isn't the right tool for every job, and also shows that you weren't just going to kiss up to someone to get a job.

  • Except sometimes there's no room for "cute" people. If you have a hard deadline in 30 minutes and something breaks, you need someone who can quickly find the problem and fix it. You don't need someone who needs his/her hand held.

    Also, some people who are competent but not curious aren't really "professionals". They're more like clock-punchers. They come in, do their bit, but instead of being motivated by career or money, they're more interested in getting out to have a beer with buddies after work or something. Sometimes that's fine, but they often don't make the best managers, unlike the "professionals".

  • Yes, she had used all the technologies, but only that. It sounded like in the past she had only followed directions and never experimented with anything. It sounded like she had used the technologies but had no curiosity. I guess when I said "she seemed to understand the technology well" really meant "she knew the names of the IDEs she had used, and the name of the databases she had used". Her understanding was very narrow, but she seemed to know certain things well. She said he had worked with XML, so I asked her what parser she had used and she said "I don't know, the one my husband gave me".

    This was only one answer but the answers to the other questions were no better. Basically it sounded like she had experience programming but no experience doing anything that wasn't specifically assigned to her.

    Now sometimes it might be ok to hire someone with experience in the right technologies but no creativity, curiosity or interest in the technology, but not around here. We have only vague deadlines, vague requirements, and almost no supervision.

    Basically my office is like Junkyard Wars. We often get vague requirements that we can solve however we see fit, often in a really tight timeline. The folks who seem to do best on junkyard wars aren't the certified mechanics or PhD's, they're the "car hackers", the guys who are toying with blowtorches and wrenches for fun.

  • Lemme guess, you work at Microsoft?

    All kidding aside, you don't need passion to do a job. But in most jobs having a passion means you can do it far better than someone without. This is especially the case with jobs that require a lot of thinking. But it applies to coal miners and janitors too. If you're a coal miner and you just operate the machines, that's great, but what if you really pay attention to the mine walls and think you see a large coal vein? Or if you're a janitor and you work thinking "what I do is important. keeping things clean makes the people who work here happy and that makes me feel great". I'd rather my janitor thought those thoughts than "if I can get this job done quicker I can go have a beer sooner".

    I would be wary hiring someone with no outside interests -- afterall they'd probably have trouble fitting in socially... but if you were hiring someone, wouldn't you prefer someone who was passionate about a job rather than someone who just wanted beer money?

  • by Merk ( 25521 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @01:03PM (#267548) Homepage

    My company (which incidentally is in Canada) is currently looking to hire some Java developers, and as a guy who knows Java I was asked to sit in on an interview today and ask some questions. I asked a few technical questions, tried to get a feel for how well the jobseeker knew Java, OO principles, and that sort of thing. What I heard was pretty good -- she had used all the same technologies we use, and seemed to understand the technology well, but she didn't seem to have much passion about it.

    I took the opportunity to ask her what she really liked doing, and what she thought were the exciting things happening in Java... and she didn't have an answer. All she mentioned was how Java's lack of pointers and garbage collection makes it more forgiving than C++. Because of her lack of real interest in the technology I really couldn't recommend her.

    I think to most "geeks" this is all pretty obvious. The more you play with computers, the more you learn, and the more diverse the experiences you can draw on when solving a problem. Most of the time managers understand this -- the exception seems to be big companies that seem to value predictable programmers over their creative (but sometimes more unpredictable) peers.

    I've always been able to produce my best work in companies where I had the most freedom to be myself. Sometimes I have a bad day and produce almost nothing. When it's one of those days I often don't even try to program. I know that if I did I'd invariably have to go back and fix it. On the other hand when I'm on a roll I can go through lunch and stay late without even realizing it. Mostly I can get away with that here -- my boss understands because he's the same way. But unfortunately the non-geeks don't always get it. When I have a bad day I still have to show up and look like I'm working, just to keep up appearances. The main problem is that while the IT types get it, the rest of the company doesn't.

    So my question is: if we all know that the best coders do it for fun, and are hairy, unpredictable people who have bad days, how do we convince the non-geeks to let us do things in our chaotic way?

  • > Why Java? I don't think you can do much exciting products for the consumer with it.

    You'd be surprised. My company's major product is written almost entirely in Java. I can't go into too much detail--insert standard "I don't speak for the company" disclaimer--but it's sort of a Swiss Army knife of tools to integrate various telephony equipment with databases, speech recognition environments, and so on.
  • > Damn, I converted my girlfriend to computergames [...]

    What's the exchange rate on something like that?
  • Yep - that's why I panic when I hear them. It doesn't happen often, but whenever it does, it means something is about to screw up big-time.

  • I took the opportunity to ask her what she really liked doing, and what she thought were the exciting things happening in Java... and she didn't have an answer. All she mentioned was how Java's lack of pointers and garbage collection makes it more forgiving than C++. Because of her lack of real interest in the technology I really couldn't recommend her.

    What exciting things happening in Java? Its (a) all been done before, and (b) doesn't live up to its own hype.

    Besides that though, I've had a candidate that I couldn't recommend because the answer to every question I had went something like this:

    * You say on your resume that you did X, Y and Z... how did that work out? Was it a good project? What did you learn?

    "Well, I worked hard, and learned a few things"

    * Ok... well.... which kind of code do you like to work on?

    "Oh, I'll work on anything you tell me to. I'll enjoy it."

    * Yes... ok... (maybe he didn't understand me)... but given a preference, what kind of code do you prefer? Are you a user interface programmer? Or a database programmer at heart? Do you like visible instant feedback, or are you at home writing the guts and plumbing of a system?

    "Oh, I like all of that. Just tell me what to work on, and I'll do a good job".


    ... and after a few more questions (which ended up along the same lines), I passed him onto the next guy in the queue, did a write up, and the upshot was that there was no way in hell that I was going to hire this guy.


    Well, he was applying for a senior engineer position. At that level, you should pretty much have your preferences worked out. Some people do well on integration. Some people live for UI (it's the feedback). Others like doing the guts of an app, and don't mind writing test harnesses until they're blue in the face. Still others are script hackers and admins.

    And then, you've got the quiet ones who literally can do anything and everything -- but even they will express a preference on the kind of code they like to write, and even if they don't have one, they'll tell you explicitly that they're at home working on different things, and like to learn about new areas. Or they'll hype up their strengths.

    Anyone who tells you "Oh, it's fine, I'll do anything" -- without expounding on it, without explaining anything (and especially if you've already probed, poked and prodded and gotten the same answer to whatever you asked) -- is someone you have to be wary of. Because something's rotten there.

    I get similar chills down my spine when a Producer or Marketing guy looks at the latest specs, schedules and demos and says "Yes, everything looks absolutely great! That's all I wanted to see. Good work! Keep going!" and doesn't want to change anything. -- they're either (a) asleep and don't want you to catch them at it, (b) late for a lunch meeting, or (c) braindead.

  • I won't hire developers who lack passion either ... there is little value in the productivity of a drone - slow, forward, unmotivated movement is rarely the best thing for a product. Dispassionate developers result in adequate output at best, and not the sort of thing that has incredible quality (or other attributes).

    Developers without passion generally stagnate in their learning (only learning the least amount required), they are not as committed to quality, they don't think about product problems endlessly ... their cranial output is limited. Software is rarly akin to industrial production, and more often a sort of craftmanship (there are exceptions, but in the general case) - a craftsperson needs to strongly desire to learn/do more ... it is part of who they are.

  • Too bad you didn't think of it first! At my previous job, we had servers named "IT" (pronounced "it" not "eye-tee"), "What", "ThemThar", etc.

    It became a fun game to say "Hey, IT's down!" "What?" "It!" "You talking about ThemThar server??" =P And we had way too much fun with the Faith No More lyrics "What is It?! It's IT! *What* is it??!"...

    I got in a lot of trouble for naming those servers, but we got laughs out of playing the bastardized "Who's on First" game. And my argument to keep them that way was that no one had to really care what the names of the PDC or WINS server were except for the MIS team.

  • I was interviewing for desktop support a while back and I interviewed quite a few people. One candidate kinda knew what she was doing, however when I asked her my trick question: "What's the most recent computer-related thing that you did or learned that you're really proud of?", she couldn't answer. When I asked her a technical question, she responded in a very aloof manner, as if she were just reciting the begat's from the Bible.

    At least in a dotcom, it isn't just work or being able to Do The Tasks - it's more about whether or not you're *passionate* about what you're doing. If you don't have that passion, you'll never be able to work those 60-70 hour weeks. You'll lack the drive to multitask and do more and learn more. I've seen people who just Do The Tasks and I don't want them in my team. I want people who care about what they're doing so much that they can't sleep on the weekends because they want to know why that one remote office connection is losing packets. Those of the kinds of people who I will put faith in and want to have in my company and team. That passion means that it won't be just a Job but their life and joy.

    (I finally hired someone who responded "Oh, a couple weekends ago I built a new dual Celeron machine from scratch and overclocked it to....".)
  • You have no understanding of what a sysadmin does do you.

    It's more than just breaking things when they fix. It's security, system upgrades, patching thigns as they need. It's also dealing with attacks from the outside and making sure your network runs smoothly.

    It's more than just hardware. There will always be a need for people who know the system really well. Maybe help desks will go away (which I doubt) but a unix adminstrator will be around for a long time since your secretary can't learn all that.
  • Do you mean like the Surgon that loves his trade so much he volenteeres at the free clinic on the weekend and after work? Spends all of his time reading trade papers? Works with the people pushing back the bounds of medicin? Yes, that is also what I would like to see in the poeson that takes care of my servers and mans the hell-desk.

    You're right he does need a better example ...

  • Hilarious.

    I can't tell you how many times I've told people how to put their stupid printer back "online", even though the answer was taped to the printer. We've got at least 50 more years of suffering through people who view it as their god-given right to be computer illiterate. I haven't found many secretaries who could handle a simple install. In fact, I got canned from a temp job once because I changed the screensaver, which meant I was doing Very Very Dangerous Things. Too bad she married into citizenship; she'd really be much better off cuttin sod. Make computers foolproof, and the fools will keep breaking them.

    I've seen the other side, too. To my mind, "IT" stands for "barely brighter than the idiots they're helping" or else "too lazy to learn real administration and programming." I've suffered under plenty of petty motherfucking dictator assholes from hell who don't know shit about anything, but know enough to tell me how to "fix" the installation I made, then fuck everything up completely, then tell me that I'm not allowed to install IDEs, alternate web browsers, PhotoShop, DreamWeaver, Homesite, or Image Ready, even though I was hired to do web sites, and had everything up and running without their help. Trust me if I could remember that dumb cast mem^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H fuck's name I'd be publishing anon right now.

    But, hey, keep trolling. When you make a coherent point I'll reply.

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

  • Now to convince the PHB that Linux is the biggest of the big toys...
  • Since we deal in a technical world, I think the key is for people to have some intellectual curiosity about what is going on.

    Imagine a mechanic who doesn't like to tinker, and doesn't care about what makes a car work. You sure don't want him tinkering while you're paying him, but you sure do want him tinkering on his own time, so that the amount of time you pay him is reduced, because he knows what he's doing.

    I've seen too many who don't have that curiosity, and want to be spoon-fed.

  • I believe he's referring to the court deliberately dragging its feet and then leaving literally a few hours for the recount to complete. This was a deliberate, calculated attempt to cheat by the Republican members of the Supreme Court. According to some reports, Gore would actually have won. The analogy with a sports game is invalid because there during time out the game clock is paused.

  • "doing nothing useful at all"

    Ahh, so your in management eh? I used to love driving you types nuts by looking lazy, just to see how high I could get your blood pressure. One of my favorite amusements, especially since I could get away with it. I was a systems operator/fire-stomper/problem fixer for US Steel and if I wasn't doing anything, there were no problems in the department.

    A perfect shifts meant about 20 minutes worth of work out of every 8 hours. Finding projects to play with on the system was a productive way to pass time, learn, and keep sharp; enjoying them and driving management nuts were just added bonus.

    (I know you're trolling, but I felt like responding anyways. ;)
  • > The future of IT is as a part-time hassle for non-specialists. Soon enough, the secretary will be able to handle 90% of the sysadmin's job, and the rest will be farmed out. At the cost of a few hours of overtime for the secretary every month, things will run just as smoothly as they do now.

    Right up until the point when something happens that Clippy can't help her with, and the secretary blows away half the filesystem.

    Then you'll be on the phone to the nearest headhunter, begging for the opportunity to pay $500/h for a sysadmin to come over now, because the SEC is breathing down your neck if your firm's annual report isn't filed on time, and your secretary didn't realize she needed to make the backups.

    You don't need a full-time sysadmin per computer. But you sure as hell do need at least one per organization. Organizations forget this at their peril.

  • > [scare tactics] only works on rubes, and laymen are becoming increasingly sophisticated about computers.

    An excellent point - but it requires that laymen become sophisticated about computers. That ain't happening, not from where I sit. If anything, it's getting worse.

    I'll grant you that if the secretary's enclued, and the OS is well-designed, she won't blow things up.

    I just won't grant you that Joe Sixpack is gonna get enclued over the long term.

    The increasing level of abstraction in today's PC world has led to less clue, not more, at the user level.

    Although Joe Sixpack isn't putting two floppies in the 5.25" drive ("because the manual didn't tell me to take the last one out!"), that doesn't mean he's learned anything lately. Ask him where that spam came from and he'll read you the From: line. Ask him why his mail server is bogged down and he'll say "My machine's just fine" (sure, but the mail server's bogged down because he just got hit with Hybris). Ask him what kind of CPU he has and he'll tell you it's a Dell. Ask him what operating system he's running and he'll say "Office".

    > With no perceptible peril at all, organizations have long since forgotten their need for blacksmiths, elevator operators, typists, dispatch riders, and archers.

    ...and mechanics will become obsolete when cars become so easy to operate that anyone can run one.

    We don't need to know how to turn the crank to start the engine because we have starter motors. We don't need to downshift before entering a curve because we have an automatic transmissions. But somehow there's still a market for mechanics.

    The scariest moment of my life was when a cow orker told me she'd never changed the oil in her car because she didn't know where the dipstick was.

  • > at least people are competent enough to turn on the computer, open up the desired office (or open source deriviative) application, and print it out.

    Don't get me wrong here - I'm all for usability. It's great that you don't have to grok CONFIG.SYS and set your FILES and BUFFERS stuff to run WordPerfect 4.0, or all that Lotus/EMS stuff for 1-2-3.

    But the ability to use a computer should not be confused with the ability to administer a machine on a network.

    I'd love it if people enclued themselves to do both, but in general, they don't. They enclue themselves only to the point that they can accomplish the desired task.

    That's not a slight against the secretary - she's not paid to make sure that her RedHat box is running a current version of BIND (or better yet, that it's not running BIND at all - does her workstation really need to be acting as a nameserver? An FTP server? identd?). There are, after all, only eight hours in the typical workday - is she being paid to write 8 hours of memos, or 3 hours of memos, and 5 hours of reading CERT advisories and applying patches?

    As long as most users don't need to know what's going on beneath the hood in order to accomplish their goals, they won't learn it. The trend for the past ten years has been increasingly towards insulating the user from the nuts-and-bolts stuff. Therefore, just like we still need auto mechanics 85 years after the Model T, we'll continue to need sysadmins for the forseeable future.

  • would you really want to hire a highly-experienced code-grinder who ...went to KKK rallies on the weekends?

    I'm unsure about the US, but in Australia its illegal to hire or fire someone based on their political beliefs, and knowing the general trend against free speech and for political correctness in the US, I'd be surprised if similar legislation didn't exist there.

  • Isnt this the same simplistic old creative vs. productive view? There will always be the creativly reckless finding new things that the productive can clean-up, make friendly, market etc.

    The fringe always provides choices for the mainstream to choose from.
  • We both would have passed the A+ cert without any studying whatsoever

    I used to work for a large VARish type place that required everyone in a service type role to have the A+ cert. I went and took the exam one afternoon when it was slow in the office, took me 20 minutes and I got some rediculous score like 97% or something (couldn't remember the switches for smartdrive). Another guy I know managed to only miss 1 question on both exams. That thing is a joke, or at least was 6 years ago.
  • Wow, I'm trying to respond without flaming here, but you sound like a really poor interviewer. I hope for your company's sake that it develops some kind of interview training or "norm"-ing process to counteract views like this.

    If a candidate has knowledge that applies to the problem, then I say, by all means, hire her! "What exciting things are happening with java" sounds like a pretty nebulous question anyway, like something you'd find in a Sun press release or a hunt for buzzwords maybe. You even said she had used all the same technologies we use, and seemed to understand the technology well, it seems like she's got all her buzzwords in order.

    Just because a candidate is maybe not someone you'd hang around with on weekends and might not share your hankering to install the newest whiz-bang gadget or GNOME revision, doesn't make him/her any less qualified to do the job at hand. Sure, curiosity and eagerness to learn are important, but those manifest themselves in other, more subtle ways as well, not just "geekiness."

  • by Puk ( 80503 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @01:06PM (#267589)
    Am I the only one who misread the story title "IT" as "it"? I thought maybe the Americans for Purity [] had gotten a Slashdot story. :P Scary.

  • I work with a bunch of them now. To them, work is an awful chore. Computers are just there because it pays. They have a three-year old PC at home for websurfing, and it never gets turned on. They hate UNIX because it requires more skill than shoving a mouse around. I have no backups from their servers for several months running, because no matter how many times I ask them to send me the troubleshooting logs from servers I cannot access, they ignore it, as if fixing problems is beneath them. Some of them are my bosses.

    I hate those people. They have taken a job a a company that was already fucked, and made it a royal nightmare. And lucky me, living in a town where thousands of people have been getting laid off every week from dying telcos and dotcoms; I am unable to find a new job because employers hire people without jobs so they can pay them terrible salaries.
  • but it's not the same as doing nothing useful at all, which is what most IT people do.
    Sounds like someone who has never had a IT job. Yes, somedays I have absolutely jack shit to do so yes, it does look like I fuck off all day, but then other days I work from about 7a to 9p or more fixing problems. It depends on the day and how many machines decided to go "*pbbbt* I'm not working!". How many 'professionals' are called into work on vacation by some luser^W co-worker saying that their printer isn't working? I deal with all kinds of shit that nobody in their right mind would do, but I do it because I enjoy doing working with computers, and I enjoy having play-time at my job when a new shipment of goodies^W equipment comes in. So go basically, go screw yourself and don't talk about something you obviously have little to no knowledge of. Thankyouverymuch.
  • by spagthorpe ( 111133 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @12:37PM (#267610)
    I work with a bunch of guys, that are as far from the traditional geeks as they come. They all act like they're 10 years older than they are, don't find amusement in a neat hack, hate nerf anything, don't buy geek toys, could care less about the latest greatest gadgets. I'm about five years older than all of them. What they do, is write quality code, develop innovative hardware, and usually do it under budget and ahead of schedule. While I don't like being the only real geek that works here, I do get a lot from the professional experience.

    WWJD -- What Would Jimi Do?

  • Next time I go on a long flight, I'll make sure the plane was designed and maintained by people who "played amongst beautiful things" instead of learning their jobs. ... Of course it's necessary for creative technical people to play with ideas, but that's got nothing to do with printer repairmen.
    I don't know about you, but *I* want mechanics that take everything apart just to see what it looks like inside. If you don't play with the tools of your profession just for the sake of playing with them, you're nothing but a drone with meaningless classroom learning. (BTW, nice trolls. Much better than the usual lamers.)
  • by StandardDeviant ( 122674 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @02:15PM (#267618) Homepage Journal

    I run into this in the sysadmin field (it's one of the things I can do and have done to bay the bills). By nature I like to always be trying out new stuff and be tweaking things. This is a really bad trait to give into as a sysadmin, where stability, caution, and slow-moving perfectionism are the ways to excel. Being a programmer gives me more freedom to cut loose (although not as much as I am with my own code, fast-and-loose is no way to run a project somebody is paying for).

    News for geeks in Austin: []
  • Lets just make gross generalizations some more.

    I wear slacks and a nice shirt always. Always nice shoes.

    I keep my appeareance clean and well groomed always. Thats just me. I work in a professional place of business I like to portray that I am a professional. Thats me. I AM a geek with apps I wrote for myself on the palm, just cause I can.

    I have more computers than I can remmeber I have. I have hubs and switches stacked up int he closet. I have my own LAN and used Linux before it was cool. (Think pre windows 95 and before all of these terrible emulate-95-98-2000 WM's came out) I still use twm or a slightly more advanced variant for my window manager just cause it gets the job done. I have read books about regex for the sheer fun of learning to write the equivalent of a miniature program in one line (as far as most people care)

    Appearances mean absolutely nothing except how you wish to appear... DUH! When the bottom line hits and you perform and get your work done quality like I dont care what your wearing as long as its done.

    I work around professionals and deal with a million dollar code base. I am around clients all day (not interacting, but exposed none the less) we have a dress code and it doesnt hurt me to follow it. Yeah I sneek in a Linux or FreeBSD T with slacks on Fridays but come on folks, how you dress doesnt indicate anything about someones coding ability.

    You can line up the best developers out there by the hundreds who dont dress with lots of facial hair and geeky t's

    Just whatever, I like to keep it professional.


  • ...that actually give a shit about the customer and want to see them more productive, for less, now and in the future.

    Back in the day, most engineers had the credo "I'm going to do my job so well, I'll put myself out of work".

    I've been disillusioned by the industry. Managers who control, rather than assist...coworkers who don't, and just want to get a check and say "I'm so cool making money with a 'puter"

    There are times when I just put my head down and tell people to BACK THE HELL OFF, I'M FUCKING CREATING HERE!!!

    ...fortunately, they do...

  • You'll lay him off and laugh when we (programmers in general) get it right. There's no reason for backups to be a problem, and there's no excuse for crashes at all.

    Amen. You speak the truth, brother. Once we manage to write that last, perfect piece of software there will never again be any need for a software upgrade, or the accompying hardware upgrades, or the installation of new systems or functionality or security.

    But just how long will it be before that perfect software is written, and all of use programmers and system administrators and hardware manufacturers can pack our bags and go home, secure in the knowledge of a job well done? When, exactly, do we get to the point when we never have to install new software ever again for as long as we live? I'm not putting any doubt on your claim -- it most certainly will happen, and soon. But I want to cash in my vacation time before I'm out of a job.
  • by plover ( 150551 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @12:57PM (#267645) Homepage Journal
    Would you trust a surgeon who went home at night and liked his job so much he spent evenings and weekends operating on the family dog and neighborhood kids?

    "Hey, Martha, I've got this new spleen-hack that regenerates tissue at twice the normal rate!"

    "That's nice, dear, but would you please remember to load the dishwasher before you come to bed?"

    Maybe you need a better example...


  • A machine with no moving parts should never break,

    What do you propose for data storage, then? There's no solid state storage medium that can even touch magnetic platters in terms of cost/GB. What about cooling? There's not many processors out there that don't require active cooling. Besides, even solid state parts are prone to wearout due mostly to thermal effects. Thermal expansion and contraction cycles as its load varies over time can wear out solder joints, and then there's stuff like electromigration down at the micron level. You simply don't know what you're talking about.

  • Unless this is just a contracter for a small job, I think he's a great interviewer... if we had more applicants I would have been stricter. Anyone can learn most of this technology - it's not rocket science. The real art is staying on top of it - constantly learning.
  • by Golias ( 176380 ) on Tuesday April 24, 2001 @01:21PM (#267662)
    Look at it this way: How many people employ a full-time driver/mechanic for their cars?

    You have to have a lot of cars before hiring your own mechanic is cheaper than taking them to the garage.


    Now, to apply your logic, how many people employ a full-time sysadmin for their home computers?

    Not many... However, any company with a serious reliance on information technology owns the equivalent of one (1) Shitload of cars.

    Just as somebody who runs a fleet of busses or taxis employs full-time mechanics, a company that relies on doing lots of math in a short period of time (i.e., a financial company) desperately needs a staff of IT professionals who know they're doing.

    For a large segment of the corporate world, their data is their product. An insurance company that loses their data and can't restore from backup in a timely manner is a bankrupt insurance company before the month is over.

    By the way, I do exactly no (0) system administration work in my job. I'm just a programmer, so I really have no vested interest in the debate to bias my viewpoint. (Our sysadmin spends most of his day swapping files on Napster, and we are all very happy that things are running smoothly enough for that to be the case, but there is no way in hell we would ever lay him off. Less that 50 large a year allows us to never worry about backups, crashes, or system upgrade decisions. We just sit around writing code and let the IT department take care of itself.)

  • Are you kidding? Many, many studies (sorry, none at my fingertips) have shown that the most productive workers enjoy some level of "play time" in their jobs. If you feel that your job is just a job, and you have no real interest in its "fun" aspects, remind me not to hire you!

  • Well, alot of folks seem to have this idea that work should never be fun. Obviously, Work can be fun.

    There are at least two different cultures, however.

    One is the corporate culture where the company has been running the same system for ages, and the guys are grooved in to pumping out comapny reports, and other business functions, be it across the wan, or whatever. You get good at what you do, and learn all kinds of shortcuts, etc to getting the job done, regardless of how screwed up the system gets when someone messes it up

    Another is the Linux/unix wizard who is able to create things on the fly etc. But note that this is not the same as a project with finetuning for multiple years on end. (Take an extreme example of this long term fine tuning the programming for the Space Shuttle) This is where projects are generally short term. Days, weeks, and sometimes months.

    Each one is a different personality

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

  • It's true - without an interest in IT beyond making quick bucks in an inflated market, you don't stand a chance. Most of what I know I've learned through playing with software that I really don't need, but I wanted to see what made it tick. Always eager to learn new stuff - wether or not it's related to what I do at work. Many times, my "toys" have come in handy when a work-related problem needed solving.

    You don't get that "edge" if you simply learn what you need to stay employed, and you don't have any interest in computers beyond that. A true IT workers day does not end at 16:30.

    Believe it or not - even reading Slashdot has been a great help for me professionaly, as I pick up on new "toys" to play with that in the end turn out to be a great help when solving work related problems.

    An unhealthy side-effect, of course, is that I have become an anti-social geek, addicted to Redbull, and nobody want to talk to me anymore. But hey, it's a small sacrifice ;)

  • Geoffrey James translated Yong Yo Sef when he wrote:

    Thus spoke the master programmer: "Though a program be but three lines long, someday it will have to be maintained."

    Looks like you'll continue to pay the sysadmins $50,000, even in the future.

    The way I see it, if a sysadmin is lazy, you have a good sysadmin. What should [s]he be doing? The best sysadmin will automate it all the way, and hold the keys of the structure in his or her head.

    What, would you like your sysadmin to be pedaling a bicycle? A good system administrator is like a security guard, making sure your data is safe. Guards doesn't "do" anything but stand there and protect you against danger. Sure, a certain amount of keeping up with the latest security updates and installations is important, but for the most part, the best should be able to automate quite a bit, and then just sit on the keys.

    I'm not saying that to become a good system administrator, do nothing. A sysadmin should know the tools and tricks of the trade. But once a fort is secure, they shouldn't make themselves look busy just to appease you.

    Again, you will always need system administrators because no system, out of the box, is tailored to your needs.

  • "I hope I am not the only who didn't get the above post; however, I understand this topic very well. I graduated from a medium sized regional university. With the exception myself and a handful of other people, no one in the program really cared about computers in the sense that we did. We enjoyed it and couldn't get enough of it. We learned more from ourselves than we did from the instructors. The rest of the people were in the program because IT careers were supposed to pay well and be readily available. (I guess they didn't realize that you had to be good at it also.) The differences in attitude and personality showed in the grades also. Compares A's to C's,D's, and retakes. "

    I don't know maybe it's a function of crappy teachers and despair.

    Or Both. When I did my Computing degree, I sat on the course committee in my final year (token student member) and at the time there where a massive number of drop outs in the course. The answer was to raise the TER entry score (similar to SAT's). It didn't fix the problem, because it wasn't the people with lower TER's that where dropping out, it was the ones that had the Higher TER's and where getting frustrated and bored with the teaching. These people could go anywhere with their TER, they didn't have to put up with it. Those who stayed did so because they wanted like Hell to get their degree, for what ever reason

    "They can't seem to understand that sometimes I do my best work at night so I sleep in and come to work a little later."

    I to, am a night owl. which is perfectly accepctable within Computing and/or Computer Science but IT is the Business side of Computing. and in the Business world you do as you are told and do not ask questions. This is why there is so much stress I suppose

    "I can understand how the attitudes and behavioral differences can seem odd, different, or annoying. However, it is one of those things you have to deal with. Trust me, someone who acts like a kid with a big toy will be far more productive than some one who does it just for a job. "

    I have a hard time thinking that way with the things that I write since they are usually stupid little programs that are more for the academic waste of time and probably never will be useful. CS has the problem that all areas have and that is they rarely actually give you some idea and maybe some projects that might be similar to ones that are often encountered in industry.

    The "kids with toy's" idea isn't new, but it does imply somebody who has a passion, the want to do what they are doing because they enjoy it. But being from a Computing degree, I to noticed that the assignments that we got somehow seemed to be a unproductive waste of time, but sometimes it was fun to play around with.

    Playing with toys really isn't something that I do and I very much doubt that it would make me more efficient. I see programming as a person doing battle. The problem is I often have the evil soldier battling me and pinned to the ground. There is little room for imagination or creativity with stupid things like data structures or random acts of prearranged coding and there really isn't any use for it because then you have problems pleasing the compiler gods.

    Ohhhhh, I so play with toys, helps me when I'm stuck in a rut, spill the lego out on the floor and start creating. but lego is such a logical toy and helps me get my mind into a logical frame, which you need for programming. But programming, as mentioned above, doesn't always allow creative outlets, people don't want something creative, they want a tool. that is all. and they done apreciate the effort that you, the programmer, put into it. If I asked for a Hammer and I was given a Pink one with purple pokla dots, I would question why, but it would still function as a hammer right? I guess it has to do with the world still viewing anyone in IT as nerds.

    In conclusion I would welcome a systematic process that would work over a process that would most likely be done in an area that actually could use something like that. However there are more useful things. Maybe a nice Wagner opera or something but usually it's just cold miserable calculation and grief.

    It would be nice for a systematic approch to work, but numbers are evil.

    PS. I had a professor who acted like everything was just a big game to him. Jackass couldn't even bother to teach right and just plowed right through the course material without bothering to actually address anything properly. Took 5 chapters in two weeks or work and then proceeded to make the wost presentation of all the worst complexities of object orientation (this was a cs1 class). He obviously knew information but damn if he wasn't going to let that information out to anyone in a comphrensible way. Yeah playing around is really so terribly useful that it is indespensible. Sometimes it's better to shut up and teach something properly.

    The problem is that Universities hire people on the skill that they have, not their ability to teach, 99% of the lecturers that I had where quite gifted in their chosen field, luck if 20% of them had any idea how to teach something though.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that Computing/CompSci/IT is so individual to us all. does it really matter what somebody's motivation is as long as they do the job, from the buisness side, no, and that is where most of the money comes from, but if you can find yourself in a job that you love, and you get paod well for it, then best of luck to you, isn't that what we all really want?


  • My cousin has been a LAN administrator at Nynex for a long time now, yet he has no computer at home, and uses AOL for internet access when he does bring home his laptop from work. His idea of a good time is working in his yard or playing golf when it's not snowing in upstate New York.

    From what I've seen, he's a great IT worker, runs everything well, is always on call. He just doesn't take the job home with him, and is not terribly interested in computers, despite graduating with a degree in Computer Science.

    The hardest part of his job is keeping up with the changing company name. It was Nynex for a long time, then BellAtlantic, and now Verizon.

    The most interesting part of his job is the subtle nuances of "the union," of which he is not a part. As someone unfamiliar with unions, it was strange to hear tales of what union workers at his company will do (and especially, what they WON'T do). Kind of sucks when they go on strike, since he gets to take up all their slack for 13 days straight. (When the union strikes, non-union folks who dare cross the picket line get to work 13 long days before taking one day off ahead of their next 13 days.)

    Not sure why I just told you all this.
  • Most applications can't actually break your computer. But if there were one that could, it would be the notoriously shitty napster client.
  • Other IT jobs like making web sites, setting up networks, and administering networks. Those jobs are so easy. I could probably get any of those three jobs right now, and I'm a first year CS major. People who want to be one of those only have to get a degree in IT so someone will hire them. I knew everything there is to know about networking years ago.

    I couldn't help laughing after reading this. Kid, no offense, but you have a LOT to learn. And I'm not talking about technical stuff, either.

  • A couple of months ago, I speculated aloud about whether the "play" factor in IT (think: setting up a PC or network, getting a RAID controller to work under Solaris for intel, Unix sys admins tasks, database admin) might explain at least partly why women seem to make up a small number in certain segements of IT.

    I have met very few female System Admins, Database Admins, Assembly Programmers, while quite a few females in System/Business Analysts, Application Programers, Support, and Technical Writers.

    I think I called it the "gee-whiz" factor, of playing with a new toy. It seems to be more common to find women in the analyical roles, which might be more abstract than hands-on (Helpdesk and Support are the exception).

    I also have found fewer women in "heroic effort" teams, where the team works in death march style repeatedly, due to poor planning or poor management.

  • Any "clueful geek" who "knows quite a bit" is not trying hard enough if he can't get a "geek job", even if he is "self-taught". One of the best consultants I've ever known was completely self-taught and pulls down probably 15 times the theoretical maximum wage in a factory job. Eric S. Raymond [] actually brags about having no computer science education in his resume.

    Why not get your name attached to some high-profile projects? Why not even get a menial "web page design" job through a local temp agency, and then work your way up? High-school students turn jobs like that down! Even "PC technicians" at mass-makret retail stores can find employment in a more interesting and profitable sector of IT eventually.

    Honestly, it's very hard to believe that -- if you're really that good -- you're stuck gutting fish or operating a forklift all day as your "geek satyagraha" seeps out from your atrophied wrists.

  • The majority of IT geeks love their toys, however I've seen many companies who've went under for financial reasons, and one can wonder how many of those companies went under from the overspending on 'toys`.

    Hell yea we want our toys, whether its a Clariion storage device, SunBlade, etc., but in reality little thought is given by the typical geeks when ordering equipment, so blame both the geeks for not settling for your average based equipment to get the job done, then blame management for not watching the geek, and while your at it, blame those idiots in purchasing who couldn't get a better deal buying things.

    Want root? [] (unf Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider!@)

  • How many people employ a full-time driver/mechanic for their cars?

    Very poor analogy, I'm afraid. How many People have a full time PC Tech guy for their home PC? You should be comparing the sysadmin to the fleet mechanic, which are employed full time by any sizable fleet operator.
  • I understand this topic very well...We enjoyed it and couldn't get enough of it. We learned more from ourselves than we did from the instructors...Now I work as a sys analyst/programmer under the very same conditions...People complain because I get to come...
    Trust me, someone ... with a big toy will be far more productive than some one who does it just for a job.

    Does this have something to do with that recent story on people moving from IT to porn?
  • They hated me when I went to Tech School (in 1982-84). The whole curriculum was structured around a 100 point Multiple choice (5 choices) test that was given every Friday. The instructor would try each week to get through that week's material. I had been a hardware freak since childhood and was into the electronics. So I'd ask questions where I really wanted to know the answer. Inevitably after asking one of my questions one of the other people in the class would ask 'will this be on the test on Friday?'

    I went into the 'Biomedical/Instrumentation' elective thinking we would actually talk about Metrology and Instrumentation (we memorized anatomy and medical terminlogy so we'd understand the doctors when wheeling around the carts of equipment at the hospital.)

    I went into the 'Communications' elective thinking we would be talking about RF Theory (we learned how to pass the multiple choice FCC test and trivia about troubleshooting CB Radios).

    For the ComputerII elective one of our projects was to statically display a word on the Hex-display bar on the 6802 based 'trainer' boards in the lab. I was bored, so my display instead scrolled 'Eat at Joe's Bar and Grill.'

    Tech school was hell.
  • /.ed means : Windows NT error number 2 occurred.


    here's a mirror. []

  • Doesn't maintain code?
    80% of my job (when I started) was writing code to maintain NT (the linux side was already taken care of).
    It's not the programmer whose line lights up when a customer/employee has a problem with th program, it's mine.
    I walk them through the problem and review (read LINE by LINE) the code which caused the problem, and then fix it. Or, I detail the fix, and ask the programmer to fix it... IF we are lucky it's an internal fix (config&&make&&make install), otherwise, guess who's job it is to distribute the new program to our customers AROUND THE WORLD, that's right, it's mine!
    I wish I coulda' gotten hired as a programmer, but, with multiple OS/programming skills, and a lot of knowledge about security (yep, I read such greats as BUGTRAQ EVERY MORNING!) I got hired as the sys admin...
    Anyway, before you decide to make us sys admins "obsolete" and have the secretary take over her job (thank the gods for that voice mail system), think about (and try learning about) what a sys admin really does (if you really wanna see a sys admin at work, try stopping by at 3 in the morning, when he's recovering the PDC and a web server, because a "programmer" like yourself {that is M$ programmer, probably VB} writes this "cool" automation program that decides to take the servers down!
  • One great thing about engineering and computer science jobs is that they are filled with people who love it so much. I am having a lot more fun now working as an EE with people who love there jobs then I did in non-engineering jobs with people who hated their work.
  • I hope I am not the only who didn't get the above post; however, I understand this topic very well. I graduated from a medium sized regional university. With the exception myself and a handful of other people, no one in the program really cared about computers in the sense that we did. We enjoyed it and couldn't get enough of it. We learned more from ourselves than we did from the instructors. The rest of the people were in the program because IT careers were supposed to pay well and be readily available. (I guess they didn't realize that you had to be good at it also.) The differences in attitude and personality showed in the grades also. Compares A's to C's,D's, and retakes.

    Now I work as a sys analyst/programmer under the very same conditions. I prefer to wander around and think when I am in a rut than sit in front of monitor and surf the net; however, I am viewed as the lazy one. (one other shares my same post, we are equal in title and pay alone - same situation as above) People complain because I get to come in whenever. They can't seem to understand that sometimes I do my best work at night so I sleep in and come to work a little later.

    I can understand how the attitudes and behavioral differences can seem odd, different, or annoying. However, it is one of those things you have to deal with. Trust me, someone who acts like a kid with a big toy will be far more productive than some one who does it just for a job.

    So yes, I would have to say that the "kids with big toys" mentality produces better work/affects work in certain arenas (definetly not those were imagination and creativity is stiffled, give me a stick in the mud for that).

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.