The Accidental IT Administrator
I never wanted to be in IT support; now I am - at home
Back in my undergrad days at M.I.T. there was a saying that I heard way too much: Everyone eventually goes Course 6. At M.I.T., the majors - like all the buildings - were (and still are) numbered. Course 1 is Civil Engineering, Course 2 Mechanical Engineering and so on. Course 6 is Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the largest department at the ‘tute. So, the implication was that, even if you were not a Course 6 major, you’d either become one or land up doing that kind of work, eventually.
Whatever, I thought. I wasn’t Course 6; I was course 14 (Economics) and I wanted no part of Course 6. The closest I got to Course 6 was Course 18 (Math) - a multiple of 6 - which, actually, I quite liked. But, Course 6 as a major or a career? No thanks.
Naturally, after getting my B.S. in Course 14, I landed up spending 15 years as a programmer. Touche, nerds!
I mention this all because I’d like to introduce a corollary to that statement, which would apply to everyone (not just M.I.T. students) in today’s world of smartphones, tablets, iPods, digital cameras, etc. Here it is:
Everyone - or at least one person in each household - eventually becomes an IT support specialist.
One of the most important roles I now fill in my family is being the IT support guy, all the way from desktop support to network administration to phone system maintenance. So now, in addition to the tasks that your average suburban dad usually handles like mowing the lawn, getting the oil in the cars changed and grilling lots of meat I now have to do (or worry about) things like:
Network support: We have your standard wireless network via a cable modem and router.
Server administration: We use a Time Machine for Mac backups, an older NAS device for older random junk.
End user support: Backup, upgrade and troubleshoot issues for three MacBook Pros (and one very ancient HP laptop which we need to ditch), two iPhone 4Ss, two iPhone 3GSs, one non-smart cellphone, one iPod Nano.
Printer support: Make sure my tweenaged daughters can print out Justin Bieber lyrics wirelessly on a whim.
Telephone support: We still have a landline, which is served through the cable modem.
Digital data preservation: Backup and save (preferably redundantly) all of our digital pictures, videos, music and important files and documents. This one keeps me up at night more than heartburn.
I’m not even counting the cable box, DVRs, the Wii, digital picture frames, or my in-laws’ wireless network (a whole other set of tasks) but you get the idea.
As much as I never wanted to “go Course 6” I DEFINITELY never wanted to be an IT administrator. Those folks, god bless them, have tough jobs and none of the rest of us, just about, could do our jobs without them. Through my years as a programmer, much as I relied on the help of the IT support staff (many of whom became good friends), I never, ever wanted to do their job. But, now I do it. For free.
And it’s about to get better: the 12 year old wants (and will probably get) a Kindle Fire HD for her upcoming birthday. Thanks, school BYOD policies!
Any other accidental IT administrators want to chime with their experiences? Please do, so we can commiserate.