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Musing on my Career in IT

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I just started a relatively short contract job today. It's pretty much on the level of the sort of work I was doing about 10 years ago, but these days underemployed beats unemployed, so I took the gig. And one day in I have to wonder how a lot of people occupying I.T. positions stay employed at all. I have a baseline criteria for evaluating a workplace: if my home network is technically superior, they fail. In some ways that is a fairly tough criteria since I run an enterprise-grade groupware system including a Blackberry server, host a couple of relatively popular websites that generate a few million hits a month each (and have both a development and production server) and a few other interesting things, which, because they are set up right and work are trivial to take care of. But in the last five years the only place I've worked that has actually passed muster was a multi-million dollar forest industry giant.

I've seen IT departments unable to change a IP subnet. System administrators who couldn't set a DHCP server. I recently walked away from a web development contract because the in-house system administrator actually, in all seriousness, referred to Linux disdainfully as "the L-word." I've untangled (literally) a pile of $50 home-grade routers masquerading as a corporate network for a multi-million dollar company. I've seen "servers" handling government-regulated sensitive personal information and financial transactions running off old beige desktop machines parked on the floor. I've seen server rooms with no cooling running at nearly 60 °C while equipment fails left right and centre. I've seen some of the most messed-up "security" configurations imaginable, like machines sitting in a DMZ, completely unavailable to the LAN, but exposed to absolutely trivial attacks from from the Internet. One real winner was the server room kept under lock and key with restricted admittance, but absolutely every bit of sensitive corporate data backed up to portable hard-drive connected to a PC on the copy room floor right next to a regularly used exit.

I could go on an on. The amount of epic FUBAR, even in billion dollar businesses staggers me. And each new job finds new ways to surprise me.

I liked computers when I was kid. This has turned into my curse as an adult.

I took this contract to pay for my wedding in October. I don't really care about the company or what I am doing. I can see a litany of problems, but this time around I am neither inclined or obligated to do anything about them, and that is kind of freeing at this point.

It's what happens when the contract is up that I'm fretting about. I'm looking at a course at UBC to acquire a bunch of pretty much meaningless certifications (almost all of the heinous I.T. blundering I have seen and been subjected to has been done by people with certifications) in order to keep on with this career. I'd be O.K. if it weren't for the constant onslaught of criminal stupidity that passes for expertise. I could stick with it if I could find a situation not already bogged down by ramifications of accumulated stupidity, laziness, emotional preconceptions, and fear and all the things that get in the way of I.T. work actually being about information and technology.

It's possible. That one place in the past five years that I mentioned was like that. But that place got bought out by a multi-billion dollar circus of stupidity, and "possible" does not mean "likely."

I've got more I'd like to say, but I have to get to bed now because I have to get up for work.

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