IT dept. is dead

staticz

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I started working for my employer in January of this year. I'm still in school so I am not working full time but I am the only person in the IT dept. Management decided that they were calling their consultant way to much and that it would just be easier and cheaper to hire a college student and have them work part time. So here we are and I am bored out of my mind, their consultant really didn't do a great job of setting things up so for the first 6 months I was redoing some things / working on new projects / working with management, but now their really isn't much work to be done. I've come up with a lot of projects on my own and seemed to have impressed management, but they are not giving me any projects to work on.

I definitely do not want to say that I have nothing to do, I work for an aerospace company that is currently laying everyone off. I'm on a shoestring budget so any big upgrades/changes aren't going to happen.

My question to you is how slow is your department? How do you cope with the slow days? I hope that it is not like this in every company or I got into the wrong field.
 

swatbat

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For slow days hit up hulu with some headphones or something.
 

Vermillion

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During slow time I do a lot of VM work to learn new things or try out things that wouldn't be good to do on the production system. ;)
 

Fint

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slow days are a chance to better learn the network, or start to find little areas to make (free, or low cost) improvements to stuff (router firmware upgrades, clean up cables) or just break out a book and learn something new.
 

gimp0

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Slow days and no projects going:
VMware vsphere testing
Test / Learn new operating systems (server 2008 R2 and Excahnge 2010)
Plan new software roll outs and upgrades
Read up on new and upcomming products / technology
Surf web
 

|CMF|SoulAssassin

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read read read, I read my favorite book (The Unofficial Guide to Ethical Hacking) and Security+ Book, play around with Windows7 ,Server 2008 and Untangle. Etc... Organize and keep track of all our software Expiration dates and router firmware upgrades, clean up cables,
 

Keiichi

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Keep in mind that when it's slow for you that mean you're doing your job. Other than that I agree with all the others. and that you should be learning, maintaining your current skills, acquiring new skills. The one constant thing about IT is that you always have to upgrade your skills.
 

staticz

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You in the state of CT? (aerospace)

quakelive.com for the slow times! :D

Actually I'm in KS. Thanks for all the replies guys. VMware is something I should probably play with a bit more. I never thought about reading, I guess I just assumed it would be looked down upon. I can say that Hulu and probably quake live are out of the question since I'm in a cube and not an office!

I want to at least get my A+ this summer so I could do some studying for that I suppose. I'm just afraid to do to much non work related things for fear of being laid off (I'm the only one that has missed the furloughs so far, since I'm part time)
 

TechieSooner

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My question to you is how slow is your department? How do you cope with the slow days? I hope that it is not like this in every company or I got into the wrong field.
Means you're doing a good job. The less visible the IT Department is, the good job they are doing.

I really don't have slow days. For me this economic layoffs has been good, because it means less people to screw with and break stuff. I know that sounds terrible, but facts are facts :p

On "slower" days where I really don't have anything pressing that needs done, and I really don't feel like digging into a less-important project on my own, I usually either start to cleanup the server room, make sure updates are applied on all our systems, and mainly: CHECK SERVER LOGS.
Also I do stop in here at [H] if I've got time. Can learn so much from other people's problems.

Checking server logs is really a PITA, I know, but the main thing it will do for you is get you familiar with what errors are OK and what's "standard". That way when you have a problem you know what's regular and what' irregular.

I'm kindof in a similar boat, though. There are some projects that need to be done that I'd like to do, but economic times has those on hold... So I've kindof got to live with what I've got for now.

For slow days hit up hulu with some headphones or something.
Like THAT won't be you fired :D
 

Brak710

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Do some security testing. As long as management is okay with the idea, teach your self how to penetration test and hack your own network. Find all the employees with bad passwords, etc...

And of course, virtualization is always fun like others have mentioned.
 

dx2

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study for certs....if you can build a comp, install the OS, get it on the network, and install the latest drivers, are familiar with basic file system functions you can pass A+ with your eyes closed....although i think they updated it.

After 4 months of server work server+ was a joke as well....linux+ was another story -- as tinkering around in linux != having enough knowledge to pass that one.
 

The Spyder

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I quit.

I worked for a Aerospace firm, the owner never wanted to spend money on IT. Same shoe string budget.
I would however stick in there as long as you can until you can find another job. I went in to work for periods of weeks at a time wondering what the heck I was going to do. I made my own work, got a monitoring system setup, spam management, and documented everything. You can always make work.
 

dx2

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I quit.

I worked for a Aerospace firm, the owner never wanted to spend money on IT. Same shoe string budget.
I would however stick in there as long as you can until you can find another job. I went in to work for periods of weeks at a time wondering what the heck I was going to do. I made my own work, got a monitoring system setup, spam management, and documented everything. You can always make work.

That's a thought.....use all that time to refine the resume and post it all over dice and monster haha :p
 

schizrade

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It comes in bursts. That is the way of IT. You will learn to fill the time.
 

Ockie

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I can't keep up with work. It's super hectic and things are always coming up. I would right now kill for some free time :)


As for your question, if you have downtime, use it for something else (cough quakelive, etc) or catch up on your movie check list :)
 

calvinj

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When things are slow for me it's cleaning up the load of emails I have in my inbox, reading up on forums that I'm a member of, also reading on new / updated technologies out there and just trying to keep up on the things that users rely on my for.
 

blk95civicex

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KS eh? I'm guessing Wichita. /wave

As for down-time, documentation is always something that seems to be needed. Either creating it because it doesn't exist other than in someone's head, or because it is not up do date with your current procedures/practices. Also, as others have said, if you have access to any test beds, you can use virtualization to have test labs, try new products, etc.
 

xenios

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Work on personal projects or forums/hulu/whatever else. We are quite easy going in this office, we sometimes have quake3 matches(with the boss) when its super dead.
 

swatbat

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Actually I'm in KS. Thanks for all the replies guys. VMware is something I should probably play with a bit more. I never thought about reading, I guess I just assumed it would be looked down upon. I can say that Hulu and probably quake live are out of the question since I'm in a cube and not an office!

I want to at least get my A+ this summer so I could do some studying for that I suppose. I'm just afraid to do to much non work related things for fear of being laid off (I'm the only one that has missed the furloughs so far, since I'm part time)

Simple thing to do is read some ebooks or do other online training. That way you are looking at your monitor and it looks like you are working.

Like THAT won't be you fired :D

Depends on how his monitor is facing but it is doable. One of my friends always had is ipod on him saying he listened to music while he worked and used it when he had to go into the server room as the noise was annoying. He would then sit at his desk and hook the headphones into his pc to watch movies.
 

geiger

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Depending on the field look into database optimization. PHB's love eliminating unneeded resources. Research ways to optimize reporting, There are always goons that do nothing but reconfigure reports into Excel to make management understand the data, cut out the middlemen and look like a hero.
 

DarkOne_BW

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I'm throwing in a second for documentation.

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to consult for a small firm that didn't have any type of doomsday file. If you really might be on the way out soon, at least do your successor the favor of documenting root passwords, network layout, etc. to be stored in a sealed envelope in the owner/president's safe. It will show initiative, which is always good for management to see in their employees.

Other than that, you might spend a little time evaluating workflow issues that IT could fix. It's a slippery slope to suggest new solutions, though, as you may find you never have a free day again because you've created TOO much work for yourself.
 

NetJunkie

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IT goes up and down. At times you get in a maintenance mode. Take this time to decompress..to learn...to fix those little things that never got fixed before. No one has perfect documentation, so work on that. Maintenance time isn't sexy or fun (usually), but when things kick back up again you'll be glad you put that time to good use.
 

alext5

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The best thing to do when you have free time is to show initiative. Very few IT dept are perfect. Not all my suggestions may apply to your case but it's still a good start.

Some people already mentionned most of my points but still, the best way to keep your job is to know the importance of giving your boss your 100%.

Here is a few suggestions:

Implementing:

Problem tracking system (Ticket tracking system) - Depends on the size of the enterprise.
Monitoring System (Nagios, Cacti, Zenoss, Zabbix, etc.)
Verify if the network respect best practices, wireshark to detect crap going on...
Document your network

Even if your dept. doesn't have a penny you can still work to improve it.

You can also test new products, ie: vSphere. Study for certifications, in order to be more valuable each day to your employer.

Quake Live or Hulu isn't going to add value to your position, improving your knowledge will in the long term.
 

moose517

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hey, maybe you could use you free time after doing what everyone else suggested to learn a programming language. who knows one day it could come in handy
 

mmtom

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Be proactive. Go to the boss or whoever and and say "hey, check out what I can do for the company with this new technology!" Even if they decide there's no use in it, at least they know that it's on your mind and that you're looking. So many innovations and new processes have come up at my company from one person saying "I'm gonna give this a try." We have an in-house e-faxing solution, predictive dialer, IVR system and more. Most of those things were just ideas that people tried. I realize that my company is in most cases an exception, but I think if more people took the proactive approach, IT would begin to lose its "expense" status that it has in many companies.

(I'm not saying anybody in particular is just an expense. This is mostly observation from talking to friends in many other IT departments at different companies)
 

NetJunkie

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Be proactive. Go to the boss or whoever and and say "hey, check out what I can do for the company with this new technology!" Even if they decide there's no use in it, at least they know that it's on your mind and that you're looking. So many innovations and new processes have come up at my company from one person saying "I'm gonna give this a try." We have an in-house e-faxing solution, predictive dialer, IVR system and more. Most of those things were just ideas that people tried. I realize that my company is in most cases an exception, but I think if more people took the proactive approach, IT would begin to lose its "expense" status that it has in many companies.

(I'm not saying anybody in particular is just an expense. This is mostly observation from talking to friends in many other IT departments at different companies)

Don't just go to them with technology. Go to them with a business solution and a ROI calculation. Hey, we can do X with Y, and if we do that we'll save $Z over the next 3 years. If you don't know how to calculate a good ROI/TCO now is a great time to learn. Nothing is getting sold/implemented right now without selling it on the financial side first.
 

mmtom

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You won't always know that, though. Sometimes, you just need to spend the time and money to dedicate a resource to something, put it to a pilot group and see how it goes. If it works, great. If not, you take what you learned and continue on. You won't be able to put a dollar amount on everything.

I don't think it should always be about cost savings. Too many times in IT, we focus on cost savings instead of figuring out what we can do to enhance the business (making your sales force more productive, for example).
 

NetJunkie

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You won't always know that, though. Sometimes, you just need to spend the time and money to dedicate a resource to something, put it to a pilot group and see how it goes. If it works, great. If not, you take what you learned and continue on. You won't be able to put a dollar amount on everything.

I don't think it should always be about cost savings. Too many times in IT, we focus on cost savings instead of figuring out what we can do to enhance the business (making your sales force more productive, for example).

Making the sales force more productive is a cost savings. You are doing more work for less. If you aren't either saving the company money, or making it more efficient and therefore making more money or costing the company less, then you shouldn't be doing the project.

That's why you do a ROI and/or TCO analysis. For small things, sure, you can get away without it. But don't expect to get a serious project moving without one. If you can't estimate a ROI/TCO why should management move forward?
 

TechieSooner

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Here's the deal...

Yea, for big money projects: you need to have an ROI to help the check-signers happy about it.

But I can assign software cost, hardware cost, and labor cost to something, and the actual cost still end up different.
I can get servers on sale at different times. Depending how long management takes, the costs might go up. Software company might be willing to cut you a deal to close the books that quarter, if management sits on your proposal: deal might be out.
Obviously labor costs, you don't know those until you actually start the project. Tons of unknowns. For MAJOR software rollouts, (like replacing your entire ordering system with a new software), you really cannot "pilot" test with anyone much more than just "does it work"? You have an entire situation of if it ends up being an improvement over the original or not.

My point is: ROIs might be a good baseline, but they can easily be off by quite an amount. And it's also not always feasible to just up it by 20%, as that 20% extra might cause Management to not pull the trigger at all.
 

NetJunkie

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Here's the deal...

Yea, for big money projects: you need to have an ROI to help the check-signers happy about it.

But I can assign software cost, hardware cost, and labor cost to something, and the actual cost still end up different.

My point is: ROIs might be a good baseline, but they can easily be off by quite an amount. And it's also not always feasible to just up it by 20%, as that 20% extra might cause Management to not pull the trigger at all.

Then you need to do a better job assigning costs. Why is hardware different? Prices fluctuate, but usually not 20%. Same with software. Labor shouldn't or someone didn't do their job. I do a LOT of ROIs these days..the key is making sure your input numbers are solid. If not, you are wasting your time. Then the next time you bring a project to the CIO you won't get far.
 

TechieSooner

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A combined 20% :rolleyes:
Depending on the promos going on at the time, server costs can fluctuate by more than 20% even...

Labor obviously doesn't fluctuate, but you'd be a moron if you don't think you'll have unforeseen problems.
 

NetJunkie

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You can't get it down to the penny, but if you get it close you're better off. Again, if you want to buy a couple of servers and spend $20K that usually doesn't require an ROI. But if you want a new backup solution and spend $100K or $150K or more I do ROIs on those all the time. Same for storage system upgrades/expansions. I do VMware/VDI ROIs pretty much every week. If we (as the partner) and the IT staff can't show a good ROI, usually in the 1 year range right now, the projects don't get done. People are just holding on to capital too tightly otherwise.

But, I've had some $1M and $2M deals go down lately where the IT staff never thought it would happen. We work with that staff to get real numbers based on THEIR environment and put the ROI/TCO together. Show how the solution pays for itself in a year or two and then saves them another 7 figures over 4 years.
 

pug

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Slow days?

Well in less than 90 days I've gotten:
A+, Network+, and Server+....I am working on and will take Security+ already...These are all mute points since I got my CCNA in May 2008.
 

staticz

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Wow! Thanks for all the responses. Sometimes it is just easier for someone else to suggest things, at least for me. There are several things from your suggestions that will keep me very busy. These may or may not include some hulu and Quake Live ;) , but I do agree with alext5 in that those will not help me gain much knowledge.

I have really tried to improve the documentation within the company, but it could use some improvement. Studying for certs is also appealing and is a top priority for the rest of the summer.
 
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