CXO

Diary of an IT director: Tom Ranalli (Friday)

In the final installment of our diary from a law-firm IT director, Tom Ranalli wraps up his week by handling personnel issues and offering his advice for IT pros who are considering a management position.


This week, IT Manager Republic is featuring the daily diary of Tom Ranalli, director of IT for Lyon & Lyon, an intellectual property law firm in Los Angeles. This is the final installment.

6:05 A.M.
I awaken a little worried about the discussion I’m going to have with my intern who is graduating from college next week. Instead of working full-time this summer as he had done in summers past, he decided to take off for eight weeks, wanting to return in mid-August. I find that a little unusual, but it’s his decision.

Unfortunately, I have a budget for a full-time intern and I have a college student candidate who would be great for the position. I just don’t know how he’ll respond to being told his employment is ending. He’s a good technician, a nice kid, but I have to run a high-demand service department.

7:30 A.M.
The Blackberry has been strangely silent most of the week, quite unusual indeed. Many times, I’ll be in running e-mail dialogues with a number of coworkers and staff on the train ride into work, frequently not looking up from the LCD screen until the train stops at the end of the line.

Read what you missed!
Get caught up on this week’s diary: Monday: Working and commuting
Tuesday: System upgrade woes
Wednesday: Working with consultants
Thursday: System snags and solutions


Instead, I catch up on my reading. The last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading a primer on C++, a language I’m not conversant in. I’m already comfortable with it, though, because of my familiarity with C and I’m pleased at the improvements from the older language. I’m looking forward to C#…from what I’ve read, it will be even more improved.

8:45 A.M.
I asked the intern into my office for a heart-to-heart. I praised him for all of his hard work, congratulated him on his accomplishment of completing his four-year degree, and then let him know that we will be processing him out since he does not want to work the summer with us. He doesn’t seem too upset about it (for which I’m relieved), and we settled on a termination date. I gave him some career counseling, drawing from my own early experiences out of school with a computer degree. It’s sad to see him go, but I’m happy that he’s about to start a new chapter in his career.

9:30 A.M.
I call the help desk candidate I interviewed earlier in the week to make a verbal offer and she readily accepts. We’re both equally pleased with her decision, I think. We settle on a start date and I promise to get the official offer letter to her early next week.

I then call the replacement intern and make him a verbal offer, and like the first candidate, he accepts quickly. Again, the start date is confirmed and the offer letter is promised. So far, this has been a good morning.

10:50 A.M.
I enlist the assistance of two of my technicians to find someone who can ready the mysterious data “cassette” tapes I received from an attorney yesterday. They make calls to all their contacts and eventually hook me up with one of the most likely outfits that can do this for us. My initial thoughts are confirmed by this vendor—like any other electronic “discovery,” it could cost thousands of dollars to be able to successfully extract meaningful data of unknown origin or format. Satisfied with the answer, I leave the requesting attorney a voice mail to break the news, suggesting that he talk to his client.

11:20 A.M.
I meet again with the admin who worked with the financial system consultant, this time to hear any final conclusions that they had come up with. He expressed his pleasure that the previous two days were so productive, and he felt more comfortable about many parts of this system than he had since he took over the system. We agree to bring the consultant out again in a couple of weeks as a follow-up after the admin completes several steps on which they decided.

2:15 P.M.
I get a return call back from my sales contact at the financial system vendor. After conversing about the aborted upgrade, the lack of responsiveness, and the system degradation resolution, she finally blurts out that there was no upgrade scheduled this week in the first place and that our finance people misunderstood that this was only to do prep work for the eventual upgrade. I also discover that the person who has been ducking us all week isn’t the upgrade manager at all but one of his staff. I realize that this project can’t go this way again the next time. I conclude the conversation with the sales rep, who promises me that the upgrade manager—the big kahuna himself—will be contacting me directly. We’ll see.

3:00 P.M.
We have a small surprise party for the intern to celebrate his graduation. I’m pleased that a good number of people show up to wish him well. The intern is well liked and I can see that he is pleased with the turnout. He deserves all the kudos that he receives.

3:55 P.M.
After we clean up the residual mess from the celebration, I return to my desk to complete the Web site updates that have been sitting in my inbox all week. I complete the work, updating biographies with new text and pictures, and then clean up my desk for the long weekend. I’ve decided to take Tuesday off as a vacation day. Wednesday is my wedding anniversary and I decided to extend the long weekend so my wife and I can spend more time together. The departing intern is leaving as well, so I grab a ride back to the South Bay with him (he lives near me) and surprise my wife by an early arrival.

Epilogue
This was just a typical week in the life of a law-firm IT manager. I wrote this to give other IT managers something to compare with their own industry, as well as to give those contemplating IT management a view into that world.

For those who aren’t in management, perhaps you have a better grasp of what is really done in the corner offices—whether or not you respect management any more than you did remains to be seen.

One last point: Because technology has afforded me methods to do work from remote locations, particularly communicating with my staff, you didn’t read the sad and traditional tale of a manager who works 16-hour days, never sees his family, etc. Though this week was anomalous—I left early for two personal obligations, plus I’m taking off an extra day for a four-day weekend—I think that this journal shows I’m getting a lot accomplished. The thing is there is always work waiting for you and the best plan is to recognize you’ll never get it all done, at least not today.

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