Chief Information Officer to “Inside Jobs”
Hear what Americans have to say about their jobs.
Thaddeus Howze (@ebonstorm) : Former Chief Information Officer/IT Director
Nobody ever loved their job like I did.
This was a job that was NOT made for the love side of the menu. Thankless, long hours, crazed levels of complexity, a community of dedicated hackers who have no interest in the world except bringing your network to its knees, a mad Mandelbrot of issues, constantly weaving in and out of view. This job (and its related technological cousins) destroyed many people I knew personally over the three decades I performed it.
Starting from the bottom of the technology food chain nearly thirty years ago, one of my first gigs had me accidentally fry a number of motherboards due to a faulty installation.
After that, I decided rather than run, I would focus and become the best computer technician I could be. My boss docked me and he and I worked together building computers for his small company for another three years. After that, I learned everything I could as fast as people could write books about it and I could sit down to learn it.
The computer industry back then was a moving target. One you had to chase. In a four wheel-drive. On a rough mountain road. At night. Shooting from behind the wheel. With a crossbow.
I never got enough of it.
No matter how insane it sometimes seemed to be, the computer industry and my autistic, detail-oriented nature were made for each other. It offered a variety of challenges, both technological and sociological. When dealing with computers, one had to be able to handle the intense level of complexity required whenever you were dealing with a client.
- What did they need?
- What did they want?
- Were these two things congruent in any way?
- Could you even make what they wanted happen?
- Could they pay for it even if you could?
- How do they feel about technology?
- Was their technology adequate to the task?
- What’s their technical aptitude?
- How far behind the technology curve are they for their industry?
- Can you (or should you) try and bring them closer to the bleeding edge?
- Are they vulnerable to infiltration?
- Can you protect them without going broke?
- What is the least level of protection for their business?
- What is the least level of redundancy for their business?
- Can they afford either of them at the level they needed?
This was my job. Figuring out how to get rigid technological needs to interface with the organic nature of Human beings who have jobs they want to accomplish. Challenges such as:
- Dealing with their human foibles, age, technological adaptability, and personal issues with technology,
- Subverting their inherent resistance to or extreme love of technology: All tech isn’t bad while managing technology is not the answer to every question.
- Determining the Cultural fit in the company as to how well technology is being embraced.
- Dealing with other forms of company culture which might make embracing technology more difficult.
- Making sure they didn’t want more technology than they really needed. You be surprised how often that happened.
Merging these two clouds into a working network which spans multiple disciplines across multiple domains, and often significant real estate with thousands of employees, with a wide array of needs was the stuff of my Lovecraftian nightmares.
With monsters under every sheet, each issue fraught with internecine, internal politics, backbiting, and even self-destructive behaviors designed to undermine, slow or even cause projects to fail by those who could not embrace technology, my job was the kind of work suitable to geniuses or madmen. It helped if you were a bit of both.
Despite the challenges, I never missed a deadline or overspent a budget. Granted, I wrote an excellent proposal which would set things in a way where people gave me what I needed to do the job and if they were smart, they just stayed out the way and let the magic happen.
I know I have pissed off a person or two, but I always worked toward the greater good whenever it was possible. Almost every one of the technical installations I put in place still exists today.
I spent 30 years helping people take the awesome, phenomenal, cosmic power of mankind’s greatest invention, and put it into an itty-bitty living space on your desk, your phone and your laptop, while connecting you to the biggest networks on the planet.
I loved my job. I miss it still.
Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in non-Euclidean realms beyond our understanding. Once upon a time, he was obsessed with science and was in love with technology. Please follow him on Twitter or support his writings on Patreon.