Now THAT'S a job interview!

It's the 1990s, and this network admin pilot fish is being interviewed for a job at a manufacturing plant -- and he's curious about who he'll be replacing.

"After interviewing with a few managers, I found out that the current network admin was actually hired to be a programmer, though he had a very extensive background in PC repair and had network certification," fish says.

"They called the network admin and he came to the interview room and took me on a tour. That included a visit to the computer room, where he showed me they had 10 rather large servers. I noticed none of them had brand logos on them, and I asked who manufactured them. He laughed and said he built them -- and my jaw dropped as he explained why."

Net admin tells fish that all purchase orders at the plant must be approved by the purchasing manager, who told the net admin on his first day that they had "too damn many" computers already and that he -- the manager -- could run the entire company on a IBM PC using a spreadsheet.

So each time the net admin tried to order a new server it was turned down. And after countless meetings didn't help, he was told to "get creative." So he did.

Since all PC purchases had to go through the network admin, he began to do some horse trading. If a department ordered five new PCs for the shop floor, the net admin would say, "I have five perfectly good PCs sitting on a shelf. I'll give them to you if you order me a server case -- and you'll save $1,500!"

That purchase order would be approved because it was ordered by a non-IT department that said it was needed for manufacturing. And once the case arrived, the net admin would keep trading until he had enough top-of-the-line parts to build a server.

"He showed me one he was building and, honestly, it was built better than some of the servers I had ordered in the past," says fish.

"I took the job. Shortly after that the purchasing manager retired, and his replacement let me order name-brand servers. I was concerned my predecessor's feelings would be hurt, but he agreed with my reasoning: If a server failed, I'd rather say 'I don't know why my Dell server failed' instead of 'I don't know why that home-built server failed.'

"On the other hand, those home-built servers never went down the whole time they were in use."

Got interviews? Tell Sharky about 'em. Send me your true tales of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt every time I use one. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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