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What should be my top concerns for being the only IT person?

By vmjosh ·
Hello Everyone,

I have a phone interview tomorrow for my friend's company. I have met a few of his coworkers who all like me on a personal level, and then realized that I was in IT, and realized how much they don't like their only IT support staff. He is just a difficult person to get along with from what I understand. Having people skills is just as important in having computer skills.

Currently, I have a good job as a helpdesk tech. I have lots of learning opportunities, I get along with everyone, not just my other fellow IT colleagues, but the user community that I support. But, the ability to move up is not so likely. I wouldnt want a management position, nor am I qualified at this time. But my company is expanding, so it may be possible for other roles and positions to become :

How are these remote locations connected to the central office?
What VPN is in use, if any?
What remote utilities are in use, if any (RDP, Dameware)
Do you have a local exchange server/domain controller/file share/DNS/Blackberry server or is it outsourced?
What is the current hardware refresh policy?
is there a standard laptop/desktop and iamge?
Do you have a PBX or do you use VoIP or is it outsourced?
How are data backups performed?
what kind of encryption is being used to secure personal health information?
what is the physical network like or do you have wireless?

I can't think of everything that goes on in being a one man show for a company, but i wanted to ask the community what their thoughts are, and possibly some other concerns that i should have that i didnt think of. It would be a good thing to accomplish for career growth if i can do it well, or i could be shooting myself in the foot for not doing well, and also leaving a good job. Thanks for your help, i really appreciate it.

-josh

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All Answers

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It's both very good and very bad

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to What should be my top con ...

Good points
Loads of stuff to learn and do, a great deal of implicit authority, you can really put your stamp on the place.

Bad points.
You never know enough, rarely any explicit authority, learn how to say no constructively, you become indispensable, always on call, expected to respond immediately and management will resent you like crazy.

I learnt more doing it, and did more than any other point in my career, they binned me without a second thought as soon as I trained up a suitable replacement to keep the job ticking over, once I'd got systems in place for just about everything.

As well as learning how to say no, find ways to say yes, soon. Automation, preventative maintenance, get efficient.

I really enjoyed setting things up to my own satisfaction, I jumped up and down on a lot of toes to do it though, and the limping f'kers paid me back eventually.

Key point if you go for it, make sure they'll let you do the job, if some MBA type twonk is going to be seciond guessing you all the time (feel free to rephrase at the interview )
don't touch it with somebody elses...

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Well the obvious I suppose

by OH Smeg In reply to What should be my top con ...

That management will allow the setup of a Suitable System or have a Suitable Budget.

The current Guy/Person may be limited in what they can do by Management.

The easiest way to get a Bad Rep by the Staff is not doing what they want. If Management Prevents the IT Person doing what the End Users Want you'll not be in any better position than the current worker.

But as Tony mentioned above I would expect a position like this to be very short term and rocky.

Col

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Depends

by Cudmasters Los In reply to What should be my top con ...

I am the only it person at my company. when i first started i only knew how to map drives, fix a printer here and there. but now, being able to work by myself, with no one watching over me, possible being kept from working on certain projects. We have gone from 1 location, to 5 locations, i am still the only it person. Logmein.com, life saver. Since i have started, i have set up a terminal server, domain controller,ftp site, set up 3 cisco 1800 routers, installing sql server 2008r2, updating servers to r2, working on installing exchange server, have a site to site vpn, and like the post before, put a stamp on my entire network community. All from Trainsignal.com, buy the videos, teaches alot.
What bothers me the most is i do not speak the it language. So speaking to an IT person, it could be thought that i don't know what i'm doing, but put me inftont of a computer, that's a diffrent story. Tony Hopkinson definately explained the overall reality to a tee. I just got lucky, my suggestion, take it, you instantly have something to put on your resume, and i can not put into words how much you will learn, BECAUSE YOU WILL BE FORCED TO, WHICH IS A GOOD THING!!!!! Meaning you will want people to know that you know what you are doing.
I have a good personality, but you have to be carefull, people do not understand IT, they think if your IT, you are supposed to know every single thing about every dept. because they don't understand how complex computers are, they are perfect, and they should NEVER have a problem. Like i wrote before, on what i can do, if i can't connect a laptop to a projector quickly, knowing that every manufacturer syncs up diffrently, then in the employees eyes, you don't know what your doing at all in your feild. Frustrating!!! I can go on and on about the negatives, but in the long run, my knowlege is becoming greater and greater. It's a good assumption that the employees views will never change, i.e. alot of GOOD doctors "don't know what they are doing in patients, family and freinds eyes".


Hope this helps.

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Reponse To Answer

by 2rs In reply to Depends

I'm the only workstation support & very fortunate to accept the tutelage of the person who built the network. so, haven't accomplished as much as you - kudos! What I really wanted to comment on was the last paragraph regarding the assumption that you surely must know about every techie gadget! Yes, even though they don't know either (why are they asking you??) I do feel that I'm being seen as ineffective.

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thank you

by vmjosh In reply to What should be my top con ...

I appreciate the feedback. Being a one man show is a learning opportunity, but i value the learning opportunities i have from my colleagues currently. Learning a little bit of everything is great. but we have people that excel at different areas right now. So yes, i am a jack of all trades, but not an expert in any. i like the thought of helping the company to expand in a healthy manner. i dont want someone to replace me and think what the **** was he thinking? So i am nervous in accepting a role (if it comes to that) because i think about what happens in the previous positions i have worked in. (first company had 60k employees, 5k IT, now i am in a 500+ site with 7 IT employees). Thank you for the feedback, i appreciate it. any other concerns i should bring up on the interview tomorrow?

-josh

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O/S and Beyond

by sslevine In reply to What should be my top con ...

Basic Info I'd Ask for (similar to Site Survey)
- HOW MANY USERS will be supported (industry standard is 1 tech to 50 - 100 users)
- map of network (should include connection types, i.e. DSL, fractional T1, etc. & bandwidth)
- ISP (internet provider)
- what type of router, switches, firewall will be supported
- how many nodes (PC, laptop, printer, misc. devices) are to be supported
- O/S server platform (version & service pack)
- client O/S & service pack (XP? Win7? Mac OSX?)
- list of applications and versions supported
- what functions do the different depts. do
- what measures are in place for disaster recovery (backup you mentioned; antivirus/internet filtering are important also)
- is there vendor support in place for proprietary systems
- is there budget $$ for additional consulting support ( you will need this at some point)
- will YOU have some control over your budget
- how much user training will you be expected to provide

So much happens in a one person show. I am "IT" right now for a complex law enforcement environment. I've also done site surveys as a consultant, and you can never get too much info before taking on a job. Get a good description of the duties you will be expected to perform, and ask what the biggest challenge is currently - or, if there are plans for any major upgrade.
Forewarned is forearmed. the company culture is important also - pick your friend's brain as to what the heirarchy is and how knowledgable the users are. This is only a start - go with your gut. I did an interview for a peach of a job (supposedly) and interviewed with the manager and a minion, both exhausted, distracted, and on edge. That's all I needed to see to say no.

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Reponse To Answer

by 2rs In reply to O/S and Beyond

wow - great list! Thanks

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A Good Organization

by cdhscott In reply to What should be my top con ...

I was the sole I.T. person for a law firm consisting of a medium sized group of generally terrible human beings. I worked for 10 years there and I was on call every day except for 1 week (my honeymoon) It was a nightmare obviously.
Since then I've moved on (law firm merged with another) to an organization where I am once again the only geek on property. The organization here is world class and what a difference in my life it has made to come here. We have a budget! I can get training! If I don't take my ridiculously generous vacation or a myriad grab bag of other delicious benefits, management worries about me.
So to sum it up, it's where you work that will make your life as the lone geek survivable or not. I still have more stress than the average I.T. guy, but it's expected that not all the answers will be in my head. Money is there for outside help if needed. That is a huge must have if you're sailing alone. Good organizations also frown heavily on I.T. Guy abuse, a crime endemic in offices everywhere.
How will you know if you're going into a good environment? Asking to see their benefits and policies is a good start. Have they won any awards as good employers? Take the receptionist aside and ask probing questions. Receptionists are chatty.
It's more than possible to stay sane in a single geek environment as long as they have respect for you and your value to the team. If they don't, being alone is going to hurt. Trust me.

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This depends as much on you as the job

by nwallette In reply to What should be my top con ...

I worked as the sysadmin for a datacenter by my lonesome for a couple years. I loved it. The only reason I'm not still there is because the contract ended and the project was dismantled. Technically, we did have one additional helpdesk guy, so I wasn't the only "IT" person, just the only admin. This was the perfect situation, really. With that difference in mind, here's my advice:

This situation has two primary influences: Your technical abilities, and the work environment. All the rest of the stuff (budget, software, hardware, etc..) is details. I'll explain...

You are going to be *the* authority. This is awesome and horrible all at once. The good part is that you will never get stuck with some hare-brained process or convention. It's up to you to get the machine running smoothly, both figuratively and literally. For me, this meant: Keep the cabling clean and well-labelled. Document logins and passwords for service accounts, administration, vendor websites, etc. Get your backups in order. Document warranties and service contact information. Figure out where your software media is kept, and organize it. Save all your hardware configs somewhere safe, then study them.

This is your lifeblood, and will inevitably be in bad shape when you start. You'll need a good month to "catch up" before anyone makes any (substantial) demands. That's a proviso you should discuss during the hiring process. If people start requesting changes on day one, you're going to appear inadequate. Anyone would. This is reality.

You will be the only expert, though. This is tough when you don't know the answer. If you have support agreements in place, there are resources available. Use them.

Be honest with yourself: Can you research a problem and find the solution, or do you more commonly need to rely on a more experienced tech to solve problems? Don't get in over your head TOO deep, but if you learn quickly and understand the concepts as well as the steps, you'll surprise yourself how much you can accomplish. If you're the type of geek who spends time at home tinkering with things, that's a good sign. If you "get away from computers because you work with them all day", you may not be cut-out for the one-man show. Nothing wrong with that. Know it up front.

Now, the environment.. Some of the comments here have touched on this, but you can tell everything you need to know by taking a tour. Look at the employees. Attitude is everything. If your management suffers from any personality defects, it'll be miserable for you.

Watch for: Obsessive intervention; inability to delegate control; micromanaging; inordinate stress; total ambivalence to employee well-being... My boss said to me: "I believe in giving everyone just enough rope to hang themselves." By that, he meant, "This is your baby. If it works when I need it to work, I don't care how you do it." I kept things running, and the management was supportive, satisfied, and generally good to work with.

But, you have to be able to organize your time and priorities, and see what needs to be done and do it without someone telling you how/when/why. If you need someone to point things out for you, don't take this job.

All the individual questions from the previous posts can be ascertained by looking around. Check the age of the hardware. Is it cobbled together from scraps, or is there obvious attention to lifecycles? This doesn't make or break a job, but it can be a source of stress. Analyze how you feel about it.

Look at the software environment. If there is a lot of specialized software, that's going to take time to learn. Not a problem most of the time, but be conscious of what you'll have to balance in the meantime. If you have to learn a bunch of proprietary stuff, you don't want to nurse a network back to health at the same time.

Prevenative maintenance is the key here. You want things to work smoothly while you're away, so you can BE away. I had evenings and weekends to myself (most of the time -- power outages and off-hours maintenance notwithstanding.) I could leave for a week and expect things to keep humming along while I was gone. My management respected vacation time and tried to ensure I got it.

On that note, if your business is 8-5, you probably don't have to chain a beeper around your neck. If it's 24/7, so should be the support. Know which it is and set your expectations accordingly.

That's about it, I think. I walked in knowing Windows, a touch of Linux, and had a general understanding of networking principles. I left knowing Windows, Linux, Solaris, FibreChannel, Cisco IOS and PIX/ASA; and having a good understanding of datacenter technology (ISPs, HVAC, monitoring, etc...)

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Reponse To Answer

by 2rs In reply to This depends as much on y ...

also a great answer! I always learn something just by lurking & reading. I really appreciate how much knowledge the TechRepublic members share. Thanks

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