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The Secret Diary of an IT Manager Aged 35 ¾ (Part 2)

Now I've always been a bit of a whizz at computers. When I was young I was the kid that was wheeled out to get rid of the virus on the computer, setup the home network, or give some advice as to latest and greatest piece of technology.

Now I’ve always been a bit of a whizz at computers. When I was young I was the kid that was wheeled out to get rid of the virus on the computer, setup the home network, or give some advice as to latest and greatest piece of technology.

What I didn’t know about computers wasn’t worth knowing and everyone respected my seemingly immense technical skills and knowledge.

Obviously this gave me a great amount of pride and self worth and its probably one of the main reasons I decided to pursue a career in IT.

You dont know the half of it

Entering into an IT career in a corporate environment I soon realised that things were quite a bit different. Well, at least, quite a bit more complicated. You soon realise that knowing a bit about a lot, while being very valuable as an IT manager, will only get you so far.

You see, even smaller businesses use some very involved technology these days. Microsoft Exchange, SQL Database, Active Directory for example are all commonly used in small and medium sized businesses, and they are so complicated that people build whole careers in just being specialists in one of these technologies.

When I worked up to the role of IT Manager I found myself in charge of managing these technologies. While the 10 year lead up to me being promoted to the role gave me a solid understanding of how these technologies worked, I could never call myself a master of any of these techs and there could possibly be situations where something went wrong and I would, if I’m being entirely honest, be out of my depth.

The IT Manager has to be a Generalist and Specialist

Its hard to translate that problem to upper management. I think quite often they in some way saw me as the kid that was a whizz with IT, and didn’t understand that it is impossible for me to know everything about every piece of technology in the business that had to be managed. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that it didn’t hurt my ego to admit that I was out of my depth in some areas too.

However, at the back of my mind I always had a nagging anxiety about that wobbly Active Directory structure that I had inherited and what would happen if that were to break. That anxiety was too much for me to bear and I eventually summoned up enough courage to ask the management for help on that particular piece of infrastructure.

I’ve got your back

Inevitably, one day, the worst happened and an issue had occurred in our Active Directory that prevented users from working. Saturday morning, about 8am, I checked my email to find a critical alert ticket in my inbox, that was logged at about 4am. I leapt out of bed, logged onto the server, to find one of my outsourced engineers happily clicking away.

I called him up to ask what the situation was and how long it would take to recover the system obviously panicking about how long our systems would be down. What’s going to happen when no one can log into their PC’s Monday morning?

‘Oh about a couple of hours’ replied the engineer. ‘We can work on it together if you like, but if you’ve got other things to do this morning please feel free to leave me to it’.

It wasn’t an issue I’d come across before and if I had been trying to fix this on my own who knows how long it would have taken me to get Active Directory back and working.

Outsourcing meant that I didn’t have to explain to management why I didn’t have the skills to fix our systems and we are going to be down for days. A lot of my IT manager peers have expressed the view that outsourcing will do them out of a job. In this instance, outsourcing might have just saved mine!