PayScale: Describe your IT job description. What are some IT manager job responsibilities?
Sole Charge of all IT, phones and electrical systems. Electrical is outsourced, but I negotiate the rates and suppliers. Telephone is partially outsourced, but I do all the day to day and run the IT side of it. IT has no outsourcing, except for purchase of business applications like Office and accounting. I build and maintain web servers and sites, and handle Google stats and web marketing. There is an IT company which I manage, which does outside work, too, that is owned by the parent company. I prepare quotes and do the work for this company, including web marketing. We use a lot of social internet for marketing: Facebook, YouTube, blogs, directories, Google, WordPress. We have two branches, which I support fully. Power quality is an issue in New Zealand, and I have spent a lot of time gaining improvements through monitoring the power using a UPS. I report to the managing director. I do a lot of summary reporting to the department managers and CEO, showing the impact of my web marketing on visitors (using graphs, etc. from Google), and of the status of my areas of responsibility.
PayScale: What steps did you take to become an IT manager?
I have tried many things, and found that my major strength, teaching, was thwarted by the culture wars. My Christian faith makes it almost impossible to work in the state school system, or any government job, due to the government employment contract details requiring agreement with various religious views I cannot accept. My first skill set, electronics, has withered on the vine in New Zealand due to imports of cheap Chinese goods, and I found farming, which I have tried, to be very low paid unless you have capital. I got a study scholarship through my church, and found computing easy to learn, mostly through knowing nothing about it. My writing and speaking skills have helped me to succeed in IT because most IT pros can't communicate well in any medium. My love of abstract topics makes IT easy, and my wide reading background enables me to write interesting web articles to attract Google and viewers. My somewhat deprived childhood, lived largely on the streets, helps me to appeal to many different types of people and capture their attention with my marketing ploys, resulting in increased sales for the company.
PayScale: What do you love about your IT manager job?
I write blogs to advertise our products and it's a buzz when people read them and visit our website, using the embedded links from the blog. Sometimes they spend 25 minutes reading our web pages and watching the YouTube videos embedded there too. As our sales have increased phenomenally during the period that I have begun blogging and YouTubing our stuff; it's exciting to know that I have contributed. What's more, people often come into the shops and simply point to a product, a big ticket item, and say. "I want that!" No amount of persuasion will deflect them; sometimes the salespeople try to find out if they really should get that model, for example, and the customers just repeat, "I want that one!" It's something we have not seen before, but I think they've watched the videos at home and decided they like it. Having filmed, edited, posted and monitored the blogs and videos myself, it's thrilling to see them working.
PayScale: What are some challenges you have faced as an IT manager?
Some staff, even senior staff remember the old days of computing, when individuals could write software, databases maybe, for the whole enterprise to use. It's a challenge retraining them to understand that those days are gone; no individual can write enterprise applications now, they're just too complex and the testing requirements alone are beyond even a team of three or four people. Again, some staff want things that are impossible from their computer, given the level of investment they have. I constantly educate our staff on the limitations of our gear, and make five-year plans to upgrade to gear that will do what the staff wish. When no money is forthcoming I say, "well, we can't do those things you wanted because we can't afford the upgrades." This approach has resulted in more money being made available for mission-critical infrastructure.
PayScale: What advice do you have for those interested in IT jobs?
Take every job offer that you can get, but quit if the jobs are no good. Be bold and courageous, because people like people who are like that. Study hard and get real qualifications; never say you are self-taught initially, but don't be afraid to say you have studied privately. Have the attitude that whatever you do, you'll do your best. If you don't want to do the work, quit, but don't do a bad job. People who are rich don't need qualifications, but they respect people who have them. The owner of the company sees you as what you are, not how you feel on the day, so always try to be cheerful and positive. Your peers in a company may hate you for the same reason that the boss loves you, but you work for the boss. You stand or fall by what you do, not by what you look like or what you say about yourself. Try to look like what you want to be - if the job needs art, look artistic. Read lots of books on the subject and memorize the important bits. When you're talking to the CEO, if you can quote a textbook on your topic, he'll believe in you.
You are being hired for character principally - if they thought you were a criminal or lazy they wouldn't interview you. Secondly, you are probably being hired for your skills, so be skillfull, learn your stuff, never stop learning. Thirdly, you may be a member of an ethnic group that your company is trying to woo, in which case you are mostly a sales gimmick. This can be depressing, to know that you aren't there because you are skilled or of good character. What are your prospects? Most companies are run by accountants, so you have to continually show that you are adding value to the company (dollars and cents, graphs, spreadsheets, five-year plans, profit) and that they are better off with you in-house (unless there are good reasons to be independent and contract the work back). Lastly, the owner/manager wants more money, so you have to look after his money as if it's your own. He'll notice this and look after you.
PayScale: Do you recall any crazy moments from your IT job?
I once spoke to school teachers at a workshop in a National IT conference on the topic I picked, called "How to get Free Software." I was preparing my stuff in an empty chamber and put handouts on some seats and fooled around with the data show. I heard some rustling and looked up - the whole chamber was full of people! They were really interested in the topic, and the helpers got more leaflets printed, which the teachers all wanted. The techie got me a better microphone, and the demo of downloading and installing the Gimp went well. People raved about the talk for days, and rang me up for more info. Then I began a weekly email to IT staff at schools which was a dialogue between a techie and a nervous teacher, and was supposed to be outrageously over the top, but was really just anecdotes mixed with IT content/skills. People began asking to receive it and often rang me or e-mailed saying how they enjoyed it, or what they had learned.
Another thing was when I got hired by a school district to support their choice of school database app. I asked about the app, and they told me some things, and I asked how many people were in the team who wrote it. They said the entire nationwide school database was written and supported by a home-schooling mother of six, in her spare time! I said they should get another program, or they would be in deep trouble. They said they couldn't re-tender, and did I want the job? I said yes. The program was a categorical disaster form the first week I saw it until I left the organization two years later. The database editor the woman used was discontinued by Microsoft, and she got another, but we found that none of the reports would work, and the data exchange between clients locked up. It was a distributed non-synchronous database. They ended up merging with a proper software company.