Tall tales of tech -- that happen to be true

Windows 7, cloud computing, and Droid vs. iPhone may have dominated tech headlines in 2009. But for techies, of perhaps more immediate importance were the crazy ups and downs daily life in IT brings. For instance, experiencing the classic -- and unavoidable -- "d'oh!" moments. Dealing tactfully with tech-challenged users. And navigating the dangerous waters of office politics.

Every week in InfoWorld's Off the Record blog, readers take advantage of anonymously sharing their tales from the trenches with IT peers, whether it's to tell a lesson learned or a humbling story or simply to vent frustrations.

[ Want to cash in on your IT experiences? InfoWorld is looking for amazing or amusing IT adventures, lessons learned, or war stories from the trenches. Send your story to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, we'll hide the identity of you, your company, and your colleagues -- and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]

We present a sampling of the more memorable stories from 2009 and look forward to the crazy tech tales readers will share in 2010.

Can I please just do my job? A common theme in Off the Record stories is the tension between business initiatives and, well, reality. Throw into the mix a poor manager and who knows what'll happen, especially if the IT admin actually takes that overdue vacation: "Saturday my pager went off. I called in to find out that the network was down and 400 collection agents were idling away their time because of the outage. I apologized to my wife and drove the 450 miles back to the office to find out that my backup server was gone. After an hour, the lone server was back up and running from a backup tape that was several days old. My boss demanded to know why the server failed -- and I demanded to know where my backup server was."

More "can I please just do my job?"

  • That orderly shutdown wasn't so orderly. Sometimes the best way to prove a point is to demonstrate the situation -- even if it's by accident.
  • Managers and bean counters get "business savvy" and cut operating costs. The result? A once efficient IT structure is reduced to chaos.
  • A boss insists on getting his money's worth from an outsourcer when the in-house IT staff could fix the problem quickly in "Vexed by VPN and interfering managers."
  • Project managers decide to roll out the development system, and one of the main servers is still called "test" -- probably a bad sign.

Caution! Professionals at work "Been there, done that" is often a reader comment to a story about an embarrassing situation. Take, for instance, the case of the missing network card: "My network teammate looked at me. I looked at him. I looked at the floor. I knew I'd installed four network cards! I counted again, squinting harshly at my densely packed rack. I figured we were both getting old and must have just missed it. No such luck. My teammate patted me on the shoulder and said, 'Let me know when you find it.'"

More "professionals at work"

  • "You're seeing a pink screen? I'm not. Hmmm..." An IT support staff member learns something about the pitfalls of remote troubleshooting.
  • Users miss the darnedest things, and let's face it: Channeling the tech-challenged can be downright scary. The trick is to not take anything for granted.

When life gives you lemons ... Sometimes the biggest IT challenge is learning how to cope with a, shall we say, less-than-ideal situation. During a massive datacenter migration, a techie is handed a problem Windows server that he tries to get rid of, but the managers insist is his problem: "[My attempts] backfired. The detailed migration plan was well received -- too well, as a matter of fact. It was heralded as a model that all other plans would be judged against. Great, I had met the enemy and it was me!"

More "when life gives you lemons"

  • Getting yelled at -- and later apologized to -- by an irate exec can certainly make for a bad day and provide a valuable lesson in customer service.
  • A region shutdown with monetary loss, an angry client, and a seemingly incriminating login trail seem to bode ill for the IT staffer. But don't discount how much "word of honor" is worth.
  • Lots of talk, few skills? The new network administrator decides to show off his technical expertise, but it became very clear that his staff knew more than he did. Sometimes, there is justice.

Related stories

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  • The 7 dirtiest jobs in IT
  • Even dirtier IT jobs: The muck stops here
  • Stupid user tricks: Eleven IT horror stories
  • More stupider user tricks: IT horror stories redux
  • Stupid user tricks 3: IT admin follies
  • Stupid user tricks 4: IT horror never ends
  • Dirty vendor tricks
  • The 2009 InfoWorld Geek IQ Test

This article, "Tall tales of tech -- that happen to be true," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Follow the continuing craziness of the life in tech in InfoWorld's Off the Record blog.

This story, "Tall tales of tech -- that happen to be true" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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