Monday, March 19, 2007


Big defense contractor buys a small company, and the small company gets a new IT boss just as work starts to integrate systems with the big outfit's infrastructure, reports a technician on the scene.

And though the new boss has no computer skills or knowledge, she's still the source of a steady stream of instructions for renovating the data center.

"This initially included installing a window into the data center," says the technician. "She wanted to be able to see into it as she walked in every morning and at every smoke break."

"It seemed strange, but I was happy if that meant I could keep her from actually coming into the data center and possibly destroying something."

A week or two later, the boss tells the technician to install track lighting over each row of servers lining the room. Then she requests dimmer switches to control the track lighting.

"Weird assignments kept rolling in -- knock out a wall here, paint a wall there, change the colors of the electrical outlet covers -- while I labored with co-workers to get the real work done," he says. "Meanwhile, I endured daily meetings with corporate managers to describe and explain any and all progress made from the previous day's labors."

Then comes a major project: replacing the aging network switches. "The Friday before we began, I let the boss know what we had assigned to us," says the technician. "She nearly had a cow. She immediately started calling everyone she knew at company headquarters, ranting and raving that this would be way too disruptive to the users and cause general havoc."

The project is pushed back two weeks, but then rescheduled. That Friday, the boss tells the technical staff not to make any changes, no matter what.

"It was then that I finally got the real reason for why she wanted the blinking switches to stay. She loved walking by several times a day and looking through the window in the data center to see the pretty green blinking lights. "That made her feel everything inside the data center was working well. The green activity lights let her know there were no problems, or they would have started blinking amber or red."

After our little talk, I spoke with the corporate folks and was told in no uncertain terms that if this project wasn't done that weekend, I would face serious consequences. I told them not to worry. It would be done by Monday morning.

Over the weekend, the tech and a co-worker make the changes and remove the switches. But they leave the old switch racks in place. "We installed random-blinking green Christmas lights where the switches used to sit behind the smoked glass doors," he says.

"To this day, my boss still thinks she won the battle to keep the blinking switches in place."

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