Questions

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

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

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
  • Clarifications Clarifications
    +
    1 Votes
    Tony Hopkinson

    Hostile incumbent as well?
    That's a damn nightmare all by itself.
    If you do think about it, you might want to get a professional security consultant in as well.
    No documentation, no procedures everything in one bloke's head, and he has deity level access....
    What would concern me, is this chap could have been you a few years ago. Without a drastic change in operation, as in documentation, procedures, key dependencies etc, which requires management backing at all levels, it could easily be you.
    This sort of mess occurs all too often, and a good few times it's an organisational failure. Having just one IT person doesn't mean you set it up so they can make you a hostage, not to mention giving them reasons to do so....

    +
    1 Votes
    it_help

    I wouldn't have normally commented except that you mention that this job requires you to relocate and a commitment like that deserves a comment from someone who's been there. There are 2 types of IT departments. Those that spend all of their time putting out fires, and those that spend (most of) their time developing new process/procedures. Usually, that is because the company that you're working for doesn't know what they need. They hire IT people like you'd hire a plumber (no offense to any plumbers!). Lowest bidder gets the job. They don't see that an experienced person can actually save them money in the long run. In every job I've had, I've recouped my salary for the company in less than 1 year by streamlining processes and bringing new ideas to old ways of doing business.
    You mentioned that you know a decent amount of server 2008, which sounds to me as though you'd be a great asset to any company as an assistant network administrator. Take a job under someone else until you know your trade inside and out and are ready to take over your bosses job. Then, after doing that with an assistant under you so that you have someone else to lean on, try running a department on your own.
    Develop your skills in budgeting, project management, leadership, conflict resolution. Can you sway an entire board into buying into your plans for the company? What grounds do you have to do so? What proactive measures should you take to ensure the safety and reliability of your network? How are your MS Office skills? Can you stay on the forefront of new technology, and keep this place running smoothly at the same time? If there's little documentation available now, does that mean that your predecessor didn't know how to do it, or didn't have the time to do it?
    Everyone in your company will rely on you for every little thing and needs to have the confidence that you can do the job. That requires a strong back, a quick mind, a gentle ego and a thick skin. You'll get yelled at - people are stressed when their computers don't work - there's a deadline and that means pressure for everyone! And yes, you should know how to plug in every projector that every user wants to use. It's the task you've accepted. And when they ask you do design a web page, you'll take that on to. It's part of the 1-man job. I often joke that I'm in charge of anything that plugs into an outlet. I have 14 virtualized servers, maintain our website, host Exchange, VOIP communications, remote offices on subnets, Citrix for those working at home, the works...but I still fix the printer, formulate excel equations and help people get their personal apps to work on our company phone. It's what they want. And as you're learning, if you won't do it for them, they'll start looking for the next guy. There won't be any parties thrown for you when you do a good job and their computers turn on in the morning. It's what's expected. And yes, fires happen (in my case it was a flood, but same difference). In a well run shop though, fires should be the exception, not the rule. My advice: Go to a shop where you can be part of a team and develop your career. You may get the reins at this job, but if you run it into the ground, it could ruin your career.

    +
    1 Votes
    Tony Hopkinson

    Stay at the forefront of technology...

    More like figure out how to get another month or two out of this here aging crap.

    In a one man shop there are only two ways to move forward techwise.

    The wheels completely come off, this will be viewed as a miserable failure on your part, your warnings of impending disaster will be deemed as not strident enough.
    They'll probably outsource to clueless cowboys, give you no oversight and you'll be left with a pile of undocumented low quality drivel to maintain.

    Or you piggy back via efficiency, resiliency, ie make use of the fact that you aren't really superman.

    There is no preparation for one man shop, it is always being thrown in the deep end, attitude then aptitude will be the way to go, and you'll never get the former as a departmental drone.

    +
    1 Votes
    oldbaritone

    Most nonprofits rely heavily on volunteers. Unfortunately the line between volunteer and professional staff can become blurry, especially when talking about expectations of the number of hours worked.

    If you accept the position, know that there will be a lot of extra hours and little or no extra pay. And as drwain mentioned, time off will be difficult, and if you actually take it (even though you have earned it) you may find yourself out of a job.

    Since you said, "Currently, I have a good job as a helpdesk tech ... But, the ability to move up is not so likely," you probably want to think a lot before you make a change. With a nonprofit, your potential for advancement is probably just as unlikely, if not more so.

    +
    1 Votes
    vmjosh

    True, obviously, being a one man shop, I am the IT Director, and the level 1 helpdesk associate. So the room for growth really isnt there. Is it wrong to view this challenge as a resmue builder? Are IT jobs still based on gaining experience and growing out of the company? Please don't take that as me being undedicated to my company. I worked at my last one for eight years, and moved my way up some ranks, got laid off, and then got this job, and I have learned much more in this IT position than in the last. But ten years down the road, I don't want to still be a helpdesk technician. Being with the company for ten years is ok. I am not even looking at other jobs, this one just kind of fell in my lap, and I can't make the determination in my mind yet if i am experienced enough to be what this company needs. Growth here or there seems to be the same. Money here and there seem to be about the same. I can get more guided experience here, I can get a larger variety of experience over there, but it will be me teaching me. Being the guy that does everything at the company, is the experience gained worth it on my resume? Am I in the wrong frame of mind just to look for employment as experience for the next place? Having been laid off before, and almost being laid off two other times, i realize the volatility of IT, and that nothing seems to last forever.

    +
    1 Votes
    Tony Hopkinson

    a particular employment / role
    If you aren't learning more stuff, ie being challenged, time to start looking, otherwise you end like one of those poor nerks who did dumb terminal screens in cobol for two decades and then got replaced by a young foreign chap who once wrote a web page...

    +
    1 Votes
    Shepdog28

    You said the current IT person is not very popular - the question that comes to my mind is why are they that way? Is it because they are overwhelmed by user requests and just can't keep up? You might want to check on how busy this environment really is before you jump in.

    +
    1 Votes
    vmjosh

    I spoke with HR manager about that exact question, and she gave me some answers. part of it seems like he got along with the old CFO, who was fired for overstepping his boundaries, and not including anyone, including the CEO, about what the plans were. So there is a lot of change going on. HR said that most days, he just sits there and plays solitaire. on her first day of meeting him, he had accused her of being incompetent. He is a retired Navy veteran, who is technically proficient, just socially inept.
    It doesnt seem like they are all that busy. i was able to look at a network map, and they have five remote locations with 2-4 workstations in them each, and they are connected with some WAN link to the central office. They have 180 employees, but no where that many work stations.
    to me, it seems that he may have had a self fulfilling prohpecy. He may be difficult to deal with because he feels excluded and unrespected amongst his peers. His exclusion is based on his inability to communicate well with others and not belittle them.
    But, on a positive note, i spoke with the HR director. The current IT guy is going on vacation shortly, and I suggested that she have one of her IT acquaintences come in, and survey what they have, and what needs to be done, and then talk to me, to see if i would be a good fit. She doesnt know what they need, just that I came with good recommendations from friends, who also don't really know what is needed in IT.

  • Clarifications Clarifications
    +
    1 Votes
    Tony Hopkinson

    Hostile incumbent as well?
    That's a damn nightmare all by itself.
    If you do think about it, you might want to get a professional security consultant in as well.
    No documentation, no procedures everything in one bloke's head, and he has deity level access....
    What would concern me, is this chap could have been you a few years ago. Without a drastic change in operation, as in documentation, procedures, key dependencies etc, which requires management backing at all levels, it could easily be you.
    This sort of mess occurs all too often, and a good few times it's an organisational failure. Having just one IT person doesn't mean you set it up so they can make you a hostage, not to mention giving them reasons to do so....

    +
    1 Votes
    it_help

    I wouldn't have normally commented except that you mention that this job requires you to relocate and a commitment like that deserves a comment from someone who's been there. There are 2 types of IT departments. Those that spend all of their time putting out fires, and those that spend (most of) their time developing new process/procedures. Usually, that is because the company that you're working for doesn't know what they need. They hire IT people like you'd hire a plumber (no offense to any plumbers!). Lowest bidder gets the job. They don't see that an experienced person can actually save them money in the long run. In every job I've had, I've recouped my salary for the company in less than 1 year by streamlining processes and bringing new ideas to old ways of doing business.
    You mentioned that you know a decent amount of server 2008, which sounds to me as though you'd be a great asset to any company as an assistant network administrator. Take a job under someone else until you know your trade inside and out and are ready to take over your bosses job. Then, after doing that with an assistant under you so that you have someone else to lean on, try running a department on your own.
    Develop your skills in budgeting, project management, leadership, conflict resolution. Can you sway an entire board into buying into your plans for the company? What grounds do you have to do so? What proactive measures should you take to ensure the safety and reliability of your network? How are your MS Office skills? Can you stay on the forefront of new technology, and keep this place running smoothly at the same time? If there's little documentation available now, does that mean that your predecessor didn't know how to do it, or didn't have the time to do it?
    Everyone in your company will rely on you for every little thing and needs to have the confidence that you can do the job. That requires a strong back, a quick mind, a gentle ego and a thick skin. You'll get yelled at - people are stressed when their computers don't work - there's a deadline and that means pressure for everyone! And yes, you should know how to plug in every projector that every user wants to use. It's the task you've accepted. And when they ask you do design a web page, you'll take that on to. It's part of the 1-man job. I often joke that I'm in charge of anything that plugs into an outlet. I have 14 virtualized servers, maintain our website, host Exchange, VOIP communications, remote offices on subnets, Citrix for those working at home, the works...but I still fix the printer, formulate excel equations and help people get their personal apps to work on our company phone. It's what they want. And as you're learning, if you won't do it for them, they'll start looking for the next guy. There won't be any parties thrown for you when you do a good job and their computers turn on in the morning. It's what's expected. And yes, fires happen (in my case it was a flood, but same difference). In a well run shop though, fires should be the exception, not the rule. My advice: Go to a shop where you can be part of a team and develop your career. You may get the reins at this job, but if you run it into the ground, it could ruin your career.

    +
    1 Votes
    Tony Hopkinson

    Stay at the forefront of technology...

    More like figure out how to get another month or two out of this here aging crap.

    In a one man shop there are only two ways to move forward techwise.

    The wheels completely come off, this will be viewed as a miserable failure on your part, your warnings of impending disaster will be deemed as not strident enough.
    They'll probably outsource to clueless cowboys, give you no oversight and you'll be left with a pile of undocumented low quality drivel to maintain.

    Or you piggy back via efficiency, resiliency, ie make use of the fact that you aren't really superman.

    There is no preparation for one man shop, it is always being thrown in the deep end, attitude then aptitude will be the way to go, and you'll never get the former as a departmental drone.

    +
    1 Votes
    oldbaritone

    Most nonprofits rely heavily on volunteers. Unfortunately the line between volunteer and professional staff can become blurry, especially when talking about expectations of the number of hours worked.

    If you accept the position, know that there will be a lot of extra hours and little or no extra pay. And as drwain mentioned, time off will be difficult, and if you actually take it (even though you have earned it) you may find yourself out of a job.

    Since you said, "Currently, I have a good job as a helpdesk tech ... But, the ability to move up is not so likely," you probably want to think a lot before you make a change. With a nonprofit, your potential for advancement is probably just as unlikely, if not more so.

    +
    1 Votes
    vmjosh

    True, obviously, being a one man shop, I am the IT Director, and the level 1 helpdesk associate. So the room for growth really isnt there. Is it wrong to view this challenge as a resmue builder? Are IT jobs still based on gaining experience and growing out of the company? Please don't take that as me being undedicated to my company. I worked at my last one for eight years, and moved my way up some ranks, got laid off, and then got this job, and I have learned much more in this IT position than in the last. But ten years down the road, I don't want to still be a helpdesk technician. Being with the company for ten years is ok. I am not even looking at other jobs, this one just kind of fell in my lap, and I can't make the determination in my mind yet if i am experienced enough to be what this company needs. Growth here or there seems to be the same. Money here and there seem to be about the same. I can get more guided experience here, I can get a larger variety of experience over there, but it will be me teaching me. Being the guy that does everything at the company, is the experience gained worth it on my resume? Am I in the wrong frame of mind just to look for employment as experience for the next place? Having been laid off before, and almost being laid off two other times, i realize the volatility of IT, and that nothing seems to last forever.

    +
    1 Votes
    Tony Hopkinson

    a particular employment / role
    If you aren't learning more stuff, ie being challenged, time to start looking, otherwise you end like one of those poor nerks who did dumb terminal screens in cobol for two decades and then got replaced by a young foreign chap who once wrote a web page...

    +
    1 Votes
    Shepdog28

    You said the current IT person is not very popular - the question that comes to my mind is why are they that way? Is it because they are overwhelmed by user requests and just can't keep up? You might want to check on how busy this environment really is before you jump in.

    +
    1 Votes
    vmjosh

    I spoke with HR manager about that exact question, and she gave me some answers. part of it seems like he got along with the old CFO, who was fired for overstepping his boundaries, and not including anyone, including the CEO, about what the plans were. So there is a lot of change going on. HR said that most days, he just sits there and plays solitaire. on her first day of meeting him, he had accused her of being incompetent. He is a retired Navy veteran, who is technically proficient, just socially inept.
    It doesnt seem like they are all that busy. i was able to look at a network map, and they have five remote locations with 2-4 workstations in them each, and they are connected with some WAN link to the central office. They have 180 employees, but no where that many work stations.
    to me, it seems that he may have had a self fulfilling prohpecy. He may be difficult to deal with because he feels excluded and unrespected amongst his peers. His exclusion is based on his inability to communicate well with others and not belittle them.
    But, on a positive note, i spoke with the HR director. The current IT guy is going on vacation shortly, and I suggested that she have one of her IT acquaintences come in, and survey what they have, and what needs to be done, and then talk to me, to see if i would be a good fit. She doesnt know what they need, just that I came with good recommendations from friends, who also don't really know what is needed in IT.