Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Am I fading into obsolescence?

I took the day off yesterday. I had to for the sake of my sanity. I called in and said, "I'm not feeling well," which was the truth although I was, for the most part, physically okay. The unfortunate part about it was that I am feeling the need to take these wellness days with increasing frequency.

But that's not really what this is about.

Monday was a really bad day for me. It started when I woke up. I realized what bothers me so much about the duties that have been assigned to me as of late: I have become a highly-paid secretary. And, yes, I meant to say "secretary" - you'll see why in a minute.

Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the secretarial profession but it's not what I signed on for. I am a degreed, trained and certified professional in the field of Information Technology. I have studied hardware, operating systems, networking systems and especially email systems. I want to work on computers but what do they have me doing?

I have become the "Migration Coordinator." As we work to migrate the campus from Lotus Notes and Novell to Exchange and Active Directory, I take user information from the field and transfer it, via I.M., to the people that actually do the work. That's it. There's nothing special about it. I could walk into any McDonald's in the United States, pick someone at random, and have them able to do this with the same proficiency I do with 30 minutes of training... probably less.

There's actually a little more to it than that. I also take trouble calls. If someone runs into trouble and the workstation behaves in a manner inconsistent with the documentation - which represents an ideal circumstance - they call me. To which I respond, "I'll let them know," and relay the information to the same team I relay the user information. I don't have the knowledge, training, access or tools to fix any problem they may encounter related to the migration process. I have only the power to suggest rebooting the computer and to let someone else know about it if that doesn't work.

To further my feelings of inadequacy, I have very little knowledge of how to diagnose and correct issues with the new email system. Under Lotus Notes, I have some seriously wicked troubleshooting skills.

You see, it all boils down to a toolbox.

Not long ago, the second level support team was asked to be a backup for the help desk (call center). To improve wait times, when the help desk reaches a hold threshold, they contact the EOP phone who then "activates" members of the call-center reserve. From what I can tell, it's usually not more than a couple of calls before the reserves can bow out.

I'm one of the reserves and I haven't had to take any calls yet - mostly because I'm usually waiting for calls to come in for migrations - and, frankly, I'm not sure I can handle some of the calls. The best I can do for many of them is simply report the problem. You see, my toolbox is chock full of tools that can fix a Lotus Notes email account, re-certify a Notes ID file, and update an LDAP forwarding address. I don't have any tools that reset a network password or update permissions on the network. It's not that I can't do these things, it's just that I don't have the tools in my toolbox.

Look at it this way. Imagine asking the cable guy to fix your phone. He has wire strippers and a set of crimpers but they're for a completely different kind of wire and a completely different kind of connector.

I feel the same way. I have tools, knowledge and access for Lotus Notes and I don't have tools, knowledge or access for Exchange, even though it is still an email system. This having only recently dawned on me, I do intend to start asking questions, gathering knowledge and requesting access. I feel, though, that I've been in the situation of, "I'm not asking any questions because I don't know what questions to ask or whom to ask."

For the time being, I guess I'll just continue to slip into obsolescence. I'll continue being a secretary, I'll keep applying for new jobs and I'll see if I can't get my toolbox restocked.

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