Tales From IT: How I got paid to play World of Warcraft for 3 months

Upset customers, complex systems, poor documentation, high-pressure situations, bizarre legacy choices.  Working in IT is hard work.

Except when it’s not.

Watching installations / patches run, interminable meetings, deciphering manuals (“What does ‘Klaatu barada nikto’ mean?”), hanging around for a change window to open;  there can be plenty of waiting around.

evildeadnecronomicon
“I found the regular expression documentation!”

But waiting around for 3 months with a client that had nothing for you to do but refused to let you leave?  That’s a pretty unique situation…

I’d reached the end of a long migration project.  Most of the client’s server and desktop estate had been refreshed over the course of more than a year.  I’d designed and implemented the Exchange and Active Directory infrastructure and the new systems were working well.

Job done, right?

Well, the problem was that the IT department really didn’t want the new infrastructure;  they were happy with the old system but had been forced into the current decade by their management.  Due to the age of what they had previously there was quite a bit of re-training required and they were not keen.

We’d factored this into the designs though;  most of their old tool-set could still work against the new servers so we hoped it would give them plenty of time to ease themselves into using the new stuff.

Yeah, yeah.  Naivete doesn’t even begin to cover it 😀

Obviously they never learned the new systems because the old ones were still ‘good enough’.  But what if some of the new systems required serious work?  Disaster recovery, performance optimisation, application integration etc.  All of these required deeper knowledge.

So… I wasn’t allowed to leave.  I was farmed off into a room on my own and left there “just in case”.

Mage_Iceblock_example
“In case of emergency, break glass for consultancy”

On the bright-side the implementation I’d put in was pretty solid;  nothing went wrong that required my attention.  On the down-side though it meant I had nothing to do.

At all.

After I while I gave up trying to get IT to read documentation, attend training sessions with me or get ANY experience with the new system.  I wrote some code, trained on the new Exchange version coming out and played World of Warcraft.

I’d started raiding at about that time and raiding then was quite a hefty time-commitment.  My complete lack of anything productive to do during the day meant I could perform all that tedious material farming that raiding required without having to be a complete hermit at home.  Also I had alts left, right and centre.

You’d think this was a pretty cool way to spend 3 months but it got very dull, very fast.  I’d occasionally get asked to do some design work for  other customers and I’d fall on it like a teenager provided with an infinite source of cat videos.  These were all small, trivial pieces of work but I over-engineered the hell out of them just to have something to do.

better-mousetrap
“Any ideas on how to deal with a mouse problem?”

Customers that wanted a brief guide to backing up their files would get bullet-proof DR solutions.  Others that wanted a little guidance on mailbox maintenance would get comprehensive work instructions covering everything I could think of, including bizarre edge cases they’d never consider in a thousand years.  When I was giving co-workers fully documented comparisons and breakdowns when I was asked “what mouse do you recommend” then I knew it was time to move on.

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