Monday, January 10, 2011

Hook me up

I spent vast amounts of time at the end of last week and into this morning on hold with the desktop support helpdesk here at work and as of this moment I seem to have finally had a major breakthrough. Almost all of my non-busywork projects here at the agency have been on hold because they upgraded the servers that host the applications I’m responsible for, and then did not properly upgrade my machine to be able to access the new servers. In fact, they (“they” in all these instances is a semi-nebulous many-headed entity comprised of the various silos of IT responsibility, the details of which are largely unimportant) generally acted like they had no idea what it was that I needed in order to keep up with the upgrades in the first place. But long story short and at a techno-gibberish minimum, I now have what I need to do my job. Which is kind of a minor miracle.

It’s funny because just this past Friday I was having lunch with an old buddy of mine (the very one I’ve mentioned before who used to be a co-worker and fellow carpooler) and we were discussing the similarities of our career trajectories. We’re both fairly similar in our approach to work, namely that neither of us is terribly ambitious and neither of us feels that scaling the corporate ladder to dizzying heights would be worth what it would likely take out of us in return, and as a result we’re both willing to be humble cogs in positions which simply provide for us and our families in the (again, very similar) manners to which we’ve become accustomed. But at the same time we both realize that there’s an inherent danger in striking that particular attitude, namely that we run the risk of stagnating in our current positions … I guess becoming rusty cogs? If we aren’t pushing ourselves to take steps upward, or in any other direction for that matter, then if any external force should impact us we wouldn’t be very practiced in dealing with change and things could very rapidly become very grim. We were both lucky to ride out the current recession without a hitch. But any number of years (or even months) down the line we could get laid off or offered a dismal choice between quitting or, say, relocating to Alabama (no offense, Yellowhammer State!) and then we’d be adrift in the job market with resumes that boil down to “spent eight years doing not much of anything interesting in a government contracting job using antiquated technologies, because it was easy and paid the bills”. Or something like that.

OK, maybe not that antiquated.  MAYBE.
It’s tempting (in a certain light) to think that I could ride this gravy train for thirty more years and then retire, but it’s entirely unlikely. So there’s a more or less constant tension between my aversion to shaking things up and hunting for a new job and my equally strong aversion to allowing my inaction to slowly but surely put me over a professional barrel. But despite all that, what’s probably going to end up settling things one way or the other will be something minor. Metro will go further into the red and double their fares, and I’ll end up looking for a new job just so I can eliminate that particular irritant from my life. Or my current contracting boss will retire and his replacement will be someone who makes my life in the office totally (as opposed to partially) soul-crushing. The whole long-term-career-strategy thing makes compelling sense, but it’s usually too abstract to wrap my head around. Whereas “something is driving me crazy and the only way I can think of to make it stop is to change jobs” has appreciably more immediate texture to it.

And funny enough, while I was talking all of this over with my buddy, it did occur to me that the lack of technical support I was getting in regards to my missing software, and the general fact that it’s hard being the only techie guy on the team and feeling like no one is helping me because in a very real sense nobody can help me due to the fact that no one remotely understands how my job should be done … all of that had me nostalgic for the days when I worked for an actual technology company and showing up to work on day one with a machine provided that was fully configured to be able to do all the things I would need it to do was kind of a given. And it occurred to me that, just maybe, if I found a new job I could end up in that kind of environment again, and that would be a strong motivator indeed. But then my software problems finally got solved today, and equilibrium has been restored, and with it the inertia that will almost certainly keep me with the same employer for the near-term. Plenty of changes coming on the home front this year to make me extra thankful for a stable job situation, however stagnant that stability may be.

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