Tom Rule knows that avoiding panic over IT problem is an important part of his job at the school where he works as a teacher and IT manager. This second installment of Rule's journal focuses on how patience is a virtue and how a back-up plan is vital.
This week, IT Manager Republic is featuring the daily journal of Tom Rule, an IT manager and teacher for a private school in Macon, GA. This journal entry describes Rule's work on Tuesday.
As soon as I arrived, I heard that magical question, ”Can we print today?” I explained that we were close. I only had to finish yesterday’s setup of the HP Inkjet printer in the student computer lab. I hope I can make it happen. We need 180 reading reports printed today.
Again, our day begins with a variety of problems. It looks like today will be “Printer Day.” Brenda Timms, who is the other IT manager for the school, is dealing this morning with a recalcitrant laser printer in the large student computer lab.
The problem is that our students read the morning announcements on a closed circuit system, but the announcements arrive from the faculty via e-mail, so no printout means no morning announcements!
The problem printer jammed. Then it started outputting reams of hexadecimal. After a reboot, the printer’s driver paused for some reason, so nothing could get through. Brenda caught this and got a good printout just in the nick of time.
Keeping cool under pressure, especially deadline pressure, has got to be an IT job requirement. We’ve found it’s easier to keep cool if you have backup procedures.
In this case, we would have held off the morning announcements and directed everyone to view them on our other closed circuit channel. This channel runs a ClarisWorks slideshow that summarizes the announcements.
And all of this before homeroom was over.
Did you miss Monday’s journal?
"Journal of an IT manager: Juggling tasks is part of the high school curriculum"
Brenda gives a test in the beginning C++ class, which means she will have a pile of programming papers to grade this week.
My Web design class is finishing up the soccer schedules. I divided the class into two-person teams to get the job completed today. We came close, but it is a challenge to keep everyone busy at the same time.
I spend my planning period hooking up video to the Macs I just set up so we can do some basic digital video work in Web design in a few weeks.
I also work on the HP inkjet. Sadly, the test page quit printing with a communications error. Maybe a fresh driver downloaded from the HP Web site will fix it. But that will take a while.
In the meantime, I move over to my mystery PC with the dead IDE bus from yesterday. I need the machine to work, but I also need Office on it. I took the Office disk to the CD server in the library with some trepidation. I rarely have trouble installing Mac software from the CD server but have never been successful on the Windows side. Fortunately, for once something works as it is supposed to, and Office installs.
How to manage a problem
Like many IT managers, Tom Rule solves a variety of technical and personnel problems. In today’s journal, he works on jammed printers and broken Macs. When tackling a problem, no matter its size, Rule follows these guidelines:
- · Identify the problem.
- · Talk with those directly affected for more information.
- · Discover the problem’s cause.
- · Discover the effect the issue has on workflow.
- · Find possible solutions through brainstorming, talking with other techs, or a vendor.
In class, we talk about networking, IP addresses, and domains. I ask the students to think of a word in the dictionary (nothing raunchy!) and see if there’s a dot com for it.
Most kids find something, including www.something.com as well as www.nothing.com. This starts a classroom dialogue about the need for the .biz top-level domain (TLD).
A faculty member in the most remote building on campus tells Brenda that his old Mac 5200 LC is crashing every time he fires up Netscape. It is added to our Wednesday to-do list.
Brenda has begun installing software on the iMac we fixed yesterday. We use a lot of different apps on our campus, so it takes some time.
Another teacher came by asking about using the iBook wireless lab. Brenda went to the other building to see if there was an active hub port available for the Airport.
While she was there, another teacher asked the easiest way to transfer files from home to his machine at work—but he has an iMac. Probably in this case, an e-mail attachment would be easiest, but we may have to purchase a USB floppy for him.
Brenda also found out that he wants to use Office with the iBook lab. We have the license to do that, but I haven’t been able to finish the installs on the iBooks.
Yet another deadline that looms our way!
Editor’s Note: Today’s journal entry is abbreviated due to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
How do you remain cool under pressure?
Patience is a necessary virtue all IT managers should have. When things in your shop are tight and deadlines are imminent, how do you keep your calm? What strategies work for you? Let us know by sending us an e-mail or starting a discussion below.