Involuntary career advancement.

This is going to be long and boring to anyone who doesn’t really care about my work life so I’ll be putting the bulk of it under the extended entry section. The rest of you can skip over this to read whatever I happen to post about next.

Most of you who stop by on a regular basis are already aware that I make a living as a professional geek with one of the big three automakers. My current official job title is Systems Administrator, but the more detailed description is Second Level PC Support Administrator. Even that is a bit of a misnomer because in the building I work in I and the other PC support guy handle all of the first level, second level, and much of the user account administration for the entire building of around 350 or so people. Small in comparison to some of the buildings around us, but this building is a special case in that it houses the software development teams that create some of the software The CompanyTM uses to design and build it’s cars with. That means a lot of developer software and other tools installed on the workstations. There’s quite a heavy UNIX workstation presence here as well and we had two second level UNIX support people in here to handle that side of the fence. I say ‘had’ because one of them was hired out of our “support department” and into one of the internal departments of the building so he could be applied to special projects instead of standard support and his position was never back-filled leaving us with a single UNIX support person.

When I originally hired in I was hired by one of the departments in the building as the building had been responsible for providing it’s own support staff for years prior to my arrival. I’m not real clear on the history, but from what I understand the Official Company-Wide Support Department dedicated to supporting PCs and UNIX workstations had been deemed by those who controlled this building as being inadequate for the needs of the users here so they had taken it upon themselves to hire and maintain their own private support group. The building had it’s own problem ticket and workstation tracking system and had developed its own methods of supporting the users here independent of what the rest of The CompanyTM was doing.

Shortly after I was hired in the Official Company-Wide Support Department convinced The Powers That Be here in the building that they were now capable of meeting the needs of the building and could do it at a cost savings if the building was willing to transfer it’s current tech support specialists and the budget for our head-count over to the OCWSD. The building agreed as long as they were promised that the building would continue to have four dedicated support people onsite. That was around 2 years ago, roughly six months after I hired in, and things have been puttering along pretty much as they always had prior to the change. I say “pretty much” because it slowly dawned on The Powers That Be at the top of the OCWSD that our building did things our own way instead of the “official” way as decided by the OCWSD. Our users submitted problem tickets to our internal ticket system instead of using the official national help desk, for example, and so they set about trying to standardize our building. Some of the stuff they wanted to do was warmly accepted, such as replacing our own custom DHCP server with an approved solution, and some of what they wanted to change wasn’t so warmly accepted such as the aforementioned official national help desk. We still use our own internal problem ticket system at this point mainly because the national help desk is largely regarded by many in this building as being staffed by mentally retarded chimps. Time passed and our building came a little more into line with the standards being developed by the OCWSD and life was, for the most part, pretty good. Then someone in the higher levels of management had an Epiphany that launched a total reorganization of the OCWSD.

Before we get into that, however, allow me to take a moment to mention that I love my job. I make a living doing what I love to do, which is work with computers, and I make pretty good money doing it. When I get up in the morning I don’t dread going to work and it’s not often that I come home from work totally stressed out. I wouldn’t mind making a bit more money at it, but for someone who never finished college and is largely self-taught I don’t have a lot to complain about. I know guys with college degrees who aren’t making as much money as I am nor do they love their jobs. One of the things I love about working here is that I am dedicated to a single building. I know the people, I know the infrastructure and I know the history. I know which machines have been problematic and what cubes seem to be a part of some very small and isolated Bermuda Triangle and which users are my problem children.

With this new reorganization of the OCWSD, however, all of that is about to change. First and foremost I won’t be a second level technician any more. My job title is officially changing to Site Management Zone Planner. Impressive, eh? What the hell does that mean, you ask? I’m still not sure. All I do know is that I won’t be directly responding to problem tickets anymore, I will be responsible for supporting 10 buildings instead of just one, there’s a lot more meetings and paperwork involved and there is no increase in pay. It essentially sounds like a project management position without any real authority where I try to satisfy the demands of a multitude of customers by calling other people and asking if they’ve done their jobs yet. Stuff like the annual software audits will fall to me to handle.

I’m not real happy about this and neither is the building I work in. Of the three remaining support people here two of us will be made into Zone Planners of which one of us is the only UNIX support this building has. Down to one PC guy with no real UNIX support background and he’s going to be expected to provide support to 6 other buildings as well as this one. The OCWSD has decided to break up all of The Company’sTM buildings in south-eastern Michigan into geographic regions with “centers of excellence” from which support staff would be dispatched to various buildings as needed instead of having dedicated support in each building. This is similar to how one of the other Big Three Automakers I’ve worked for in the past did things and I can tell you that most of the people who had to make use of that system of support hated it with a passion. The national help desk for that company was commonly referred to as The Helpless Desk. I’d go up to a user at that company and fix a problem in ten minutes that they’d been on the phone with the help desk with for a good three hours prior to my arrival. I was so happy to come to a company where they had dedicated support in each building only to have this new home decide that it should emulate a competitor’s lousy way of doing things.

Worse, they’re moving me into a new job I don’t have a clue how to do and don’t really want. Ironically the email I received informing me of this change said the decision was based on my input (I was neither asked for nor did I provide any) and my past planning experience (of which I have little to none). I started sending emails and making phone calls in an attempt to figure out what this all meant and let them know that I was not at all certain this was a wise move on their part. No one could really tell me just exactly what this new job would entail, but everyone I spoke with assured me that they were positive I would be perfect for it. Meanwhile the building I work in caught wind of this plan and started to push back as they were about to lose two of their three remaining support people. That pushback is part of why I haven’t switched over to my “new” job yet.

Over the last few weeks it’s become clear that this is likely to happen regardless of what I or anyone outside of the OCWSD wants or thinks about it and I’ve come to resign myself to my fate. Being the sole income provider with a job market that is far from ideal for people in my field at the moment pretty much rules out quitting my current job unless I’m damned sure I have a better one to go to. So the site manager I’ll be working alongside of has started inviting me to meetings so I can get started on meeting and familiarizing myself with people from the other buildings I’ll be supporting. This is new for him as well as he’s also taking on several new buildings. He figures between the two of us we just might be able to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to be doing in this new role and as he was already my supervisor as a second level tech he’s happy he at least gets to continue working with me. I just hope I don’t let him down.

I finally decided that the factor that seems most likely to be the reason behind the decision to make me a planner has to be the fact that I tend to get along with most people pretty well. I’m personable enough that I don’t piss too many people off, at least at work, and this new job will involve a lot of dealing with people who might have reason to be pissed off. Especially if I have to say no to some request they have. I think it’s more my people skills than my technical skills that sealed my fate and a perception that I am not living up to my “full potential” by staying a support tech. That may be true, but what if I’m happy as a support tech and not happy as a planner? Wouldn’t you rather have a good support tech who’s happy with his job over a miserable planner who’s not sure if he can even do his job even if that meant he wasn’t living up to what you perceive to be his full potential? At the very least I’d bump his pay a couple of bucks to sweeten the deal a little.

I guess that’s why I’m not in upper management already.

4 thoughts on “Involuntary career advancement.

  1. Sounds like typical big business to me—as in “get as much out of your employees for as little pay as possible”.  I’m sorry this is happening, Les.  Unfortunately, they won’t realize what a bad idea it is until things start falling apart, if ever.  Hopefully it will work out so that you are able to do what you love and continue enjoying your job!

  2. I take comfort in the fact that things change and often for the better. If this ends up not working out to my satisfaction I will eventually pack up and find something else to do.

  3. Update you resume and start fishing around. You might be surprised. At the very least you will be prepaired.

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