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.


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All Answers

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May I see your network's hardware and software documentation?

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

There's a great question for an interview, and if they do have something to show you (most won't) the logical follow-on is "How close is this documentation to the actual network and IT infrastructure today?"

All of the preceding questions were excellent, including your list. But this one sounds so innocent - from a presumption that every good organization has documentation about its infrastructure, and will often expose a major shortcoming in their organization. For you, the less they know about their own organization, the more leverage you have in negotiation.

If you're going in as the new-hire to run the IT operation, they should be able to discuss it during an interview. And if they don't have an answer, or are unwilling to discuss it, they already know they have a nightmare - that will belong to you upon accepting the position. Be sure that the compensation is commensurate with the long hours, headaches, and battles you will need to fight for resources to deal with <u>their</u> nightmare, <u>before</u> you inherit it.

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You Are IT

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

The biggest downfall I have found in my many years as the only IT support in several businesses is you are IT. And you are expected - even if not officially - to be on-call 24/7/365.
I remember taking Annual Leave that was accrued, owed to me and my right as an employee, and being told to have my mobile phone on and be able to return to work if needed. Alas, I found myself out of mobile phone range for the holiday period and searching the jobs ads on my return.
The role also finds you doing unplanned late night and weekend work - possibly with no extra pay if you are on salary.
Another big no-no is having the IT managed by the Finance department as quite often happens due to natural progression. The dpeartment needs to be reporting directly to the same managment with direction from the top, which is overseeing all other departments, and can prioritise to best benefit the company as a whole, rather than individual departments.

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lots of info, thanks

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

The phone interview went ok. and like you said, they know it is a nightamare. most of the questions that I asked didnt have answers. It sounds like support and budget will be there. Their current IT person is a bad stereotypical IT person, who holds all the keys, and knows it, and does not interract well with others. They do want someone that they can bring to the executive staff to speak with others, and they can't do that with what they currently have. The company is a non profit organization, so a lot of their computers are old and struggling. This is what the HR director told me. She is not sure how data backups are performed, or even if they are. documentation of the current network seems light, if any.
And i have my doubts about my abilities to deliver. like someone had mentioned before, going into the mix, they knew xx and yy and now know the whole alphabet. i am comfortable with exchange, and ADUC, i know a decent amount of server 2008, and its uses, and then all the day to day little things. i don't think they are going to be needing anything too intensive for hardware. They are also in the middle of going paperless for their customer information, and need to make sure they have someone that can work with outsiders being brought in.
on top of all that, it would require me to move. cost of living is different, so the comparitive salary, is decent, but does not sound worth it from my compensation currently at this time. (i haven't tried any negotiation yet. i dont want to ask for money, unless i feel comfortable that I am a good match for them). Again, thanks for all the feedback.

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Reponse To Answer

by 2rs In reply to lots of info, thanks

Josh, I also work for a non-profit that is slashing the budget for the 4th year in a row. I keep being assured that I don't have to worry, but in a company where bringing in business to contribute to the bottom line, I'm beginning to feel that my job may be the next to go....It took 3 years of convincing management that once all of the hardware was brought up to date, the worker bees could actually work more efficiently. I guess it depends how much you depend on a steady paycheck... Good Luck in whatever you decide.

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

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....

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Are you ready to be a leader?

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

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.

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I see you've never done one man shop

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

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.

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Leader in a nonprofit

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

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.

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growth beyond this company, and thanks again

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

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.

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Your career can grow, if you don't attach it to

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

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...

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