Data Management

Diary of an IT manager: Mark D. Gonzales (Monday)

Working for the emergency management department provides new challenges everyday. Meet Mark D. Gonzales and learn how he juggles his busy schedule.


This week, the IT Manager Republic will feature the daily diary of Mark Gonzales, IT manager for the department of emergency management with the county government in Pueblo, CO.

7:30 A.M.
I get to my office and prepare my notes for our Monday morning staff meeting. My position is IT Manager for a small department, which really translates to being responsible for anything electronic, including the VCR.

Some may argue that this is harmful to a career in IT because you never really get to be an expert in anything. Others disagree, saying that being locked into a position such as programming only qualifies you for a small part of the computer industry. I enjoy having my hands on a little bit of everything. My days are rarely typical; that is what makes my job so interesting. One day I need to be an expert at LAN/WAN environments, and the next I am a software-training specialist.

7:45 A.M.
Staff meeting begins. We have a small department (17 people in all) and, as usual, our director starts the meeting with his calendar for the week and his goals, which takes almost half an hour. I can see that everybody looks a little bit restless.

I look at my notes and decide to keep my discussion concise. I cover the following topics:
  • Our new CSUs/DSUs (Channel Service Units/Data Service Units) are scheduled to arrive in about a month. These units will give us SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) capabilities.
  • Testing of the microwave WAN to one remote site has been completed. The remaining remote sites will be tested as soon as we can coordinate a time with the other site administrators.
  • Rewiring of our offices with fiber and enhanced CAT5 is scheduled to begin in a couple of weeks.
  • Automatic archiving of data for a few specific users is now being performed nightly.
  • Our online resource database needs to be backed up manually for now. I ask my computer specialist if he can get with the person in charge of that data to see if nightly backups are still necessary.
  • I confirm schedules with some of the staff members for new carpet installation. I need to ensure that the computers and peripherals are out of the way for the installation.

In addition, I mention that I’ll need to wear my Microsoft Access database admin hat today to normalize some data and run error reports.

Just when I think the meeting is over and I am safe, someone brings up the fact that there are a few people that are not happy about our GIS (Geographical Information System) department having access to our new database. We decide this conversation can wait until our scheduled database meeting on Wednesday.

(To fill you in, our GIS department was able to link [via SQL Link] our Microsoft Access database to an ArcView session. In short, with a mouse click on a street address, we can view aerial photos of land and/or building structures in our community.)

9:00 A.M.
A concerned staff member stops by to discuss sending information out via snail mail to residents in one of our smaller communities. She asks me if we can use our new database to print address labels. The answer is, “Yes—we can do that, but we need to build a few queries first.” Luckily for me, this particular staff member is familiar with Microsoft Access and can create the queries on her own. Whew, that saved me some time.

Then I receive another office visit. This time it is someone who has been working on a few of the problem records in the new database. I answer some questions and then finally get started on what I had planned to do promptly at 9 A.M., namely, get some of the data normalized in our new database. I also need to generate some error reports to get records that do not match up with our GIS ArcView database records. I work through the errors and complete what I had set out to do this morning. It’s lunchtime; I can’t wait to get outside!

12:30 P.M.
As I sign in from lunch, the account technician stops me at the door. The hair on the back of my neck starts to stand up. Questions are coming in so fast, and she doesn’t give me time to answer any of them. Finally, after being given a chance to address her concerns, I’m in a daze. Where’s the door?

Then, my computer specialist stops me in the hallway to update me on the computer hardware and software in our signboards. It sounds complicated, and I am glad that I have him to keep them up and running. You’ve probably seen signboards like this before on your streets, telling you that your exit is closed and it is going to take you an additional half an hour to get home.

1:15 P.M.
I check my snail mail. Wow, I have so much that I have trouble getting it out of the plastic divider. I get back to my desk and start to toss the junk mail and read a few of the more important items.

Later, my computer specialist comes to my office. Looks like the account technician has gotten a hold of him too. We work through some problems with a couple of purchase orders. He updates me on the status of hardware that has been ordered and its expected delivery dates.

2:15 P.M.
I assist with the installation of ArcView and the set-up of the SQL link to the new database. We get the drives mapped and the application running. I step away for a moment to help with a fax machine problem. I come back to launch the new application and it seems as if the network is running slow.

Although I need to look into what the problem is, I don’t have time because the fax machine has now become the priority. Our information officer is expecting a fax, and can’t receive it. The moment we find a temporary fix, my phone begins ringing. I am expecting a call from the developer of the new database concerning some security issues that need to be fixed ASAP.

The developer and I walk through some steps over the phone with the hope that we can fix the database without having to shut it down and send it in for repair. No such luck. I zip the file and upload it to an account that the developer has on the Internet. He is going to work on it overnight so that we can have it first thing in the morning. I hope this works. In the meantime, I send an e-mail to the staff explaining that the database is down for repair.

4:10 P.M.
I just realized what a crazy day this has been. The new database has taken up most of my time. I still need to check my e-mails and voicemails for the day. Fortunately, the 14 e-mails and six voicemails waiting on me are nothing earthshaking. I can get to them first thing in the morning depending on what time the new database developer calls.
Mark enjoys wearing many hats on the job, though he recognizes the career risk that comes with being a generalist. What’s your strategy? Is it a burden to be viewed as the person who has to fix everything—including the VCR? Or is it more fun to have variety in your work? Post a comment or send us an e-mail.

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