24 Hours in the Life of IT Professionals

Monday Mar 17th 2008 by Eric Spiegel
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5:30 AM: Dragged to consciousness by alarm clock. Pulled out of wonderful dream where Vista desktop upgrade went without a hitch. 3:30 PM: VP of Sales stops in office to show off new iPhone. Wants IT to support it.

If you've ever watched the hit TV series “24” on Fox you may understand the direction I’m going in with this article. If not, let me clue you in. The show follows the events of some dastardly terrorist attack and the intrepid federal agent Jack Bauer’s attempt to foil the bad guys. But these events always track within a 24 hour period and neatly wrap up in the final hour of that day.

IT professionals only wish they could nicely wrap up all their project work and the fires they must extinguish within a 24-hour period. As in “24,” technology can greatly enhance our ability to resolve difficult tasks quickly. However, technology can also wreak havoc because of security intrusions, viruses, poorly trained personnel and overworked, tired IT workers trying to accomplish too much in too little time.

Despite all this technology at your finger tips, do you ever feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day to get to even half of the tasks on your daily to-do list? Well, join the club. Today’s IT worker is truly stretched to squeeze every valuable minute out of every hour that races by each day. With short-handed technical staffs working in a global environment, the stress levels of IT workers are being pushed to extremes.

I thought the best way to illustrate this was to walk through a typical day of an IT manager. This may or may not resonate with other IT professionals, but hopefully it will illustrate how 24 hours can rocket past anyone working in IT.

05:30 – Dragged to consciousness by alarm clock. Pulled out of wonderful dream where Vista desktop upgrade went without a hitch. Back to reality and off to the office.

06:00 – Check the Blackberry while waiting for the traffic report to see if any system status alerts went out overnight and if the offshore development team in an opposite time zone has sent in their deliverables. Good news: no traffic issues. Bad news: a slew of system alerts and no deliverables in the inbox.

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06:30 – Can’t find seat on subway. Balanced between the masses and manage to send an email to offshore counterpart to see what the hold up is. While waiting for response, dig into backpack (no respectable IT professional carries a brief case any more, do they?) and pull out latest IT trade rag.

08:30 – Roll into the office later than usual thanks to a subway snag. Receive email from offshore manager explaining that build didn’t work. Now testers in US office will get to surf the Web all day. Must quickly prepare for 09:00 staff meeting. Shouldn’t have read the trade rag on the subway.

09:00 – Start staff meeting with bad news. Budget cuts have killed a pending software purchase that would have saved the team many hours in predicting and troubleshooting network issues. This means more after-hour support calls from irate users complaining about slow applications. End meeting on a positive note by announcing retirement of our biggest pain in the rear end-user. Everyone agrees that this helps offset the software budget loss.

10:30 – Meet with CIO to discuss business intelligence initiative. Selected vendor was recently purchased by Oracle after team just finished migration of all databases to Microsoft SQL Server. CIO asks if the contract can be voided and wants an answer by end of day. Time to call in the lawyers. Had plans to meet a friend for lunch. Plans cancelled. Having lunch with lawyers instead.

12:30 – Review contracts with lawyers over lunch in office. Determine contract cannot be voided.

13:30 – VP of Sales stops in office to show off new iPhone. Wants IT to support it. While explaining reasons for standardizing on Blackberry, VP of Sales downloads a new ringtone and then states he appreciates the support team making an exception for him. He nonchalantly strolls out of the office blaring his new ringtone.

14:00 – Deliver annual review to underperforming employee who pulls out a salary survey to show how underpaid she is.

14:45 - Lunch of cardboard-like pizza plus dizzying lawyer speak, and a soured annual review leads to every IT person’s favorite afternoon snack: Tums.

15:00 – Do research on BI alternatives on the Web just in case lawyers change mind. Web access sure seems slow. Network monitoring software sure would have been nice.

15:30 – Person on-call goes home with flu. Ask for volunteer to cover tonight. No takers. Assign on-call to team member who feels underpaid. Just because.

17:00 – Finally have time to check email. About 125 new emails since morning, not to mention five new voice mails. Cherry pick messages to respond to and pray nothing important was missed. (Helps that the CIO’s emails are highlighted in red)

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18:00 – On way out of office, “jokingly” called a slacker by one of my colleagues. After amazingly settling into a seat on the subway, pull out laptop to work on weekly status report for the CIO. Had to put away laptop after a few minutes to give up seat to pregnant lady. (I wanted to show IT people have a heart too!)

20:00 – Home in time to have wife hand cranky baby over with a “She is all yours.” Turn on noise machine (the lovely sound of artificial rain falling helps baby – and sometimes adults – stay asleep). After finally rocking her to sleep, a deep, very loud buzzing sound comes through the noise machine. Baby starts crying. Darn Blackberry GSM noise interference!

21:00 – Woof down frozen burritos. Conclude microwave is better invention than Blackberry.

22:00 – Conference call with offshore team to figure out what happened with the build. Some typhoon has hit the offshore office. Realize disaster recovery plan didn’t have contingencies for that team. Another day of Web surfing for the testers tomorrow.

01:00 - Head hits the pillow! But before blissful sleep can end the day, a realization flashes across the strained brain that the weekly status report is not finished thanks to being nice to the pregnant lady. Start to rationalize it can be done on the subway, but no guarantee of a seat. So back down stairs, open the laptop and crank out the status report.

02:00 – Sweet dreams. Unless of course the dreams are about tomorrow. Or maybe dream about being an intrepid IT manager and saving the day?

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