"So, what exactly do you do here?"
AnthonyEnglish 270000RKFN Comments (3) Visits (4474)
It wasn't a hostile question from a bean counter looking to cut costs. It was from a visitor - a school student on work experience (a week or two of trying out life in "the real world"), and I was asked what I did. How could I answer that? "AIX"? Too vague and obscure for someone who's not in the industry. System administration? So does the guy who supports the laptops. How about "I manage stuff that no one understands"? How do you justify your existence in 30 seconds?
I looked over my day, and thought about how to answer. I tried to make myself sound intelligent (but not overbearing), and to make the work sound important (but I always had time for a friendly question from a visitor on work experience) and even urgent (but not so much that I left the impression that I wasn't prepared for it). In the end, the visitor left as confused about what I did as I was.
After a few nanoseconds of deep reflection, I had to admit the day included a few less glamorous jobs. Like crushing cardboard boxes. Sure, they had contained the latest and greatest equipment, but the boxes did need to be crushed and carted downstairs.
What else? I thought of saying "troubleshooting" but then that sounded like there might be a lot of trouble to be shot. "What sort of trouble?"
So what exactly did I do? Can I justify my pay packet in 30 seconds?
How about these?
And I chatted to someone whose AIX 5.2 legacy system with dedicated adapters and processors is about to be extinguished and tried to assure that person I wasn't just hanging out for the hardware the very moment the LPAR gets shut down.
Whose idea was it anyway?
I'm not a conspiracy theorist (usually) but I have to wonder whose idea it was to go asking people throughout the organisation what they did. I mean, techies like me are either going to be stumped for a way of summarising the job or enable the verbose flag and then bury the questioner with detail. If I was looking after the organisation's social media strategy I would have been ready for the question and I could tweet the answer, but instead I'm a techie.
When it comes to giving your job description out, it may not be all that exciting, at least in parts. It's hard to make it sound interesting, essential to the organisation, unique and yet not mysterious or suitable for eccentrics. Perhaps I should have stuck with the troubleshooting answer. Or maybe the cardboard box one.