First IT job

What are some things that you don’t learn in school that you’ve picked up over time?
One im quickly learning is that you need to look like your working in front of the bosses even when you’ve rapped up the project you are given, and not to get pulled into office drama

Better option than looking busy: Instead of looking busy, ask the boss for more work.
If you have the time, read the company documentation. Ask questions if you see a discrepancy between what’s written and what’s being done.

Not getting pulled into office drama is definitely a good one.


Don’t shit where you eat. Office relationships can be a mess. Especially in crowd facing IT positions.


Temporary means semi-permanent if not permanent. That temporary hack you do will seem utterly stupid and pointless when it’s in production years layer, and cost more to replace then than if you had done it right in the first place.

You’ll still do the temporary hack sometimes, though.


Because its contract work, and we are ahead of schedule the looking busy is really more of double, triple, etc… checking everything. I have asked for more and am now helping out the local FTE IT staff.
I really like working, but I really miss going to school.

You will not get a promotion for keeping your head down and doing good work.

You will get a promotion for doing good work and then making sure management knows you did that work, and what improvements resulted from your work. Your boss is too busy to personally advocate for you and everyone else on your team. You must advocate for yourself, and that means speaking up about what you’re doing and how awesome it is for the company (in concrete, measurable terms).

I have never been promoted for doing my job. I have been repeatedly promoted for finding work that’s outside of my job and being neglected by whomever is supposed to be doing it, and then taking over that work, improving it, and then bringing an updated and documented new improvement to my boss. Every time I’ve done this—four or five major times across several jobs—that new thing becomes part of my expanded scope and I’m able to shed responsibilities I don’t care about in order to take it on.

Boring example: back at Boeing, we ran the Altiris management suite (the company is now owned by Symantec, but this was in the 2003-4 time frame). It had two major components: the Deployment Server, for packaging and deploying software to clients and doing other remote management tasks, and the Notification Server, for reporting and tracking things. We had DS working, but nobody had ever really bothered getting NS past basic deployment—the client was out there on everybody’s computer, but it wasn’t being used for anything. So, in snatches of spare time, I pestered the admins into showing me a bit about how it worked, and then I started running reporting—looking on user computers for unlicensed nonstandard software, games, music collections, and other stuff that the company expressly forbid. After finding a fair amount of pirated games on a bunch of computers, I put it into a formal report and wrote it up for the IT manager, putting it in terms of potential company liability (like, possible dollar amounts per violation, and the potential impact it might have on our eligibility for federal contracts). As a result of that, I got scooped up for 50% of my day out of desktop support and attached to the full on sysadmin group in the afternoons—and, of course, that quickly turned into a promotion to sysadmin.

Shit, man, I ended up becoming the full-time storage administrator for the houston site because i was walking through the cafeteria at the right time and saw one of the senior admins hanging out with someone I didn’t recognize who turned out to be our primary EMC account rep. Nosed my way into that lunch meeting and ended up over the course of the next few months being responsible for the site’s SAN.

tl;dr: Opportunities will not come to you. You will not be rewarded for doing your job. You must advocate for yourself, and you must create and then take the opportunities you want. Nobody’s going to give you shit.


WOW great advice!! I will keep it in mind, its kind of what im doing with the local IT boss at the site im working. Thank you for sharing!

Agreed. That’s how I got promoted from Tier 1 Helpdesk to Tier 2 to Americas Coordinator in two years, and to Metrics Analyst a year and a half later.


As Saint House the Addict said, everybody lies.

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That cant always be true…

It’s as true as saying Sith only deal in absolutes. :slight_smile:

People may not lie per se, but there’s a lto of embroidery of the truth or providing incomplete information in most IT.

Some things I’ve see

  • Outright lies. “I didn’t do anything.”
  • Lies to themselves “I don’t need the thing I really do need and can live without it. (So I’ll call you next week to do it.)”
  • Lies to try to get something free: “You didn’t tell me it didn’t come with this option!” (Yes I did, it was on the doc I sent you a month ago.)
  • Lies of incompleteness. “I need X”… “I need X+1”…“I need X+2”
  • More Lies of Incompleteness: “I need X, Y, and Z” User actually wanted a turtle, which requires X,Y, and Z, and would have gotten better response if they had asked for what they really wanted.
  • Lies to protect others: “My boss said this is the situation” (Your boss wouldn’t know the IT situation if he was downloaded into it like in Tron.)
  • Lies of Laziness: “I don’t need a ticket for this.”

For example, right now I see a lot of Incompleteness and such. People ask for something simple, then add to it, trying to keep it all on the original ticket.

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Always be a good sport. Suggestion turned down? See if you can improve on it, or accept it will not be. Never mope. Someone makes a little mistake? Help them. Someone makes a big mistake? Tell management and then help them. Practice the same smile that the porn actor/ress has; the smile that’s warm and inviting (although I advise against going full on sensual at work) even after six hours of everyone faffing around and screwing you over (if they’re doing this literally, report them to HR).

I agree on the lying part. Balance’s explanation is spot on. Also Keep’s way of looking at things. I have no certifications (well 2 but they are expired and weren’t much to begin with). Everything I learned I learned by being nosy and wanting to know how things work. I started at the desktop support level and now I do system engineer work from designing the physical rack space all the way up to the networking. That’s including Windows, Linux, storage (including backups both tape and file), monitoring, scripting and automation and some nifty software specific stuff (Tanium is nice when it works). It’s all been me trying to figure out how it works. Usually in an effort to make my job easier but still…


On certifications:

  • I like to mention that I am A+ certified. However, I don’t mention that I got mine before it had an expiration date, which means I think the exam still mentioned ISA buses and such. I also had to ‘forget’ a few things, because I knew weird exceptions like (yes) there were SCSI printers but they tended to suck and be horrible.
  • I do have current Cisco certs and my current gig liked them and was appreciative that I actually had them current. In general, there’s some value to showing you can do the tests, especially if you are working fro an employer that might need X amount of certified people to maintain partner status: I recently saw a job where a vendor-specific cert was asked for and applied anyway because after looking it up, it was the Dell cert that basically says you can do troubleshooting, swap parts, and sue their web tools, and I’m pretty confident I could get that if I needed it.

I dislike talking about myself (ignore the blathering about myself, above) and I have to admit it has probably caused some lost opportunities. I’m generally happy to sit in the corner and work and don’t need a lot of attention, but I do need some. It’s one of several ways I’m not unlike a cactus!

Insert your own ‘prick’ joke here.

Yup. Certifications are nice. I’m A+ as well but really just because I do gobernment work. They are helpful to get past the HR people and talk to the real workers that know that experience usually trumps test-taking. I’m toying with boot camping my MCSE but it will require 9 days in FL and I don’t have the time at the moment. If your place offers it though, milk it for all it’s worth.

On lying, don’t ever do it. Not even little white ones. Deflect, demure, and diffuse anything you can’t tell the truth on. If there is blame to catch, jump in front of it, hopefully with a solution. This doesn’t mean to admit to everything that comes by, or even volunteer something that no one would notice. But this should help you when something isn’t your fault and the blamelanch comes your way.

It can also make you look incompetent if your boss is vindictive.

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What do you guys know when it comes to stability? I am doing a contract job and have been told repeatedly that the budget may get cut and the team may all be cut(talk about nerve wreaking).

Frankly, it comes with the territory in my experience. IT seems like it’s constantly under-fire. Unless you’re in someplace special, the IT department does not make money. We might save money but more often than not it requires spending money. So you get the finance guys who see us as only a black hole that sucks all the profits up and that puts a target on your back.

What do I do? First I keep my resume up to date at all times even when the going is good. And I read any job opportunities that come across my email. I usually don’t answer my phone when recruiters call though unless I’m actively looking or it’s something really good. And years ago I changed the way I thought about my job. This job is training for my next one. I’d like to stay someplace for more than 3 years, but I haven’t found the perfect fit. Probably never will. At least my salary always goes up.

Paging @Force10 for that one.

Personally, I worked forever at the same place… And it was a mistake. In my time at $OldJob I saw:

  • High turnover due to the end of the tech boom as people took jobs with startups. Sometimes paid more, but often based on theoretically cashing out big after an IPO or acquisition. Occasioanlly worked. I stayed with ‘stable.’
  • $OldJob went public, but was big enough that peons weren’t really taken care of. We could buy stock, I guess.This led to a lot of undesired behavior, like…
  • Annual layoffs. They still happen, I hear. Your group not meeting goals? Hope you aren’t planning anything big for December-January as you might have a sudden unplanned unpaid vacation.
  • Outsourcing IT. Then bringing it back in-house. Then outsourcing it again! Last time took me with it, which led to 9 months with a $MajorTelco then active job hunting.
  • Working at the Office of the Damned. Basically, the office I supported was always on the edge of being shut down. Couldn’t get it moved and upgraded, but didn’t close. It got old.

I realize now I stayed there at least 5 years too long. It was stable and comfortable, but moving to anything else was hard. I have since been a contractor in a slightly weird arrangement: My “customer” is a large parent-company to several contracting companies, one of which is technically my “employer” which is certainly confusing.

It’s been a good couple years, though. It’s not perfect: Commute sucks, I work evenings a lot, I rarely get massages from supermodels at my desk, etc. But nothing is perfect.

At the point you’re at, it’s no big deal if a gig or two is short lived, as long as there’s not news articles linking you to the company’s bankruptcies or anything.

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Wow that is some great advice. I think I said this before but I am taking this all to heart, so thank you.