The Early Days: Part III

It was January of 2009 and I was looking for a job. I knew that my sister had worked for this particular company and might have some influence to get me an interview with an entry-level position in billing department for a Revenue Cycle Management company. Luckily, it paid off and I interviewed with the EVP of Billing Operations. This person had been a huge fan of my sister and saw some of the same qualities in me. Suffice it to say I got the job as administrative assistant to the EVP of Billing Operations. I was going to school at that time for something completely unrelated and was only able to work part-time. I quickly became known as the go to guy for computer issues in the billing department when the desktop support department refused to assist in a timely manner. As I previously mentioned I had some skills when it came to troubleshooting computer problems. I was by no means an expert I just came with this sort of tenacity to never quit until it was either working or needed additional resources in order to get working. For example, someone was having trouble adding a new printer and the appropriate print drivers. I had never done this previously but, decided what the heck I’ll give it a try. First thing I did was open the printers and faxes menu from start menu that is linked from control panel. Mind you this was a Windows Server 2003 R2 operation system because the company had not investing in upgrading the OS. I clicked add a printer and followed the wizard for network printer. Since I knew nothing about print servers I choose find a printer in the directory and clicked Find Now. I asked the person next to me what is the name of the printer. They replied it’s the DM printer. Luckily, whomever setup the printer on the print server put the initials DM next to the actual name of the printer. I clicked on that printer and since someone else on the terminal server already had the drivers installed it was ready to go and I set this printer as the default for this person. That person was so grateful that I helped. This would we the beginning of my career into information systems.

I quickly grew a reputation for fixing things around the billing department. Word spread to the actual desktop support department who then, instead of being furious that I was doing their job, I was given more tasks. This time I needed to open XMLs in a text editor like Notepad ++ and find problems with certain fields in the XMLs. When, I found a problem, fix it and resubmit the XMLs so that the system can load the values into the database. Well, as it turns out I got really good at this task. Soon I developed a relationship with the support department. The systems administrator used to say quite frequently that I could work in the IT department because of my obvious skill sets. This would come to fruition sooner than I ever anticipated. A member of the help desk team was out on medical leave and as such needed assistance in the department to close tickets, answer phone calls, escalate trouble tickets etc. The CEO of the company came to me with the manager of help desk with that very proposition. This would be the description that shaped my career.

Soon after, I began working in the help desk department, and on my very first day about 10 minutes into the shift I was instructed to answer the next call that came in. “No sweat, I got this,” I said to myself. The phone rang and I answered it. The client on the phone began talking about something as if knew exactly what was being said. I didn’t panic, I just simply asked if I could put them on hold. I put the phone down and scrambled to the other help desk person next to me and began to repeat the exact phrases the person on hold told me. The help desk person told me what they were talking and how to fix it but, I would need to get on the phone and ask them for more details regarding their issue. I repeated exactly back to the person on the phone what the help desk rep told me to say and then, I got a whole new slew of information I knew nothing about. Finally, the issue was resolved by me changing something in the application the user had been experiencing the problem in, the phone call was over. After the phone call I had like a hundred questions I asked the other rep who was kind enough to explain it to me. From then on every phone call was like this until I began to understand enough about the systems I was trying to support. After about 6 months of this I was really good at troubleshooting almost any case that came my way. Then, I got my big break.

After about a year as a support representative the former help desk rep that initialed helped me transition his way to system administrator. But, after doing that job for 6 months the systems administrator quit and I was left to pick up the pieces. Fortunately, I knew the system and infrastructure pretty well by that point so, I wasn’t too worried. Until, the CIO decided to hire a systems administrator with no real experience other than an MBA. Right? What does having an MBA do with systems administration? Anyways, I ended spending about two months trying to get the new systems administrator up to speed when that person left for a new job. That’s when the system started crapping out and I could no longer fix anything without adding additional hardware to the virtualization platform we were using which was vSphere 4.0 at the time. I could only do so much but, we were over provisioned on CPU and Memory and our production servers crapped out multiple times throughout the day. Our clients were pissed off and threatened to leave us. I went around the CIO because he didn’t want to listen to anything I had to say, and told the CEO what we needed. More ESX hosts. We have 4 brand new ESX host at our DR site but, this site wasn’t even active yet for failovers. I suggested that we bring back at least one ESX host in order to help with load balancing because we were over provisioned on both CPU and memory. The CEO listened to me, even against the CIO’s decision not to listen to me. We shipped back on IBM x3690 X5 so that we now had two of these ESX hosts. The problem was I didn’t know how to bring it online. We consulted with a company that assisted with our Dell Compellent SAN to help bring this ESX host online. It took the engineer, the CIO, both of our old systems administrators and I 6 hours to bring this ESX host online. We worked until 2:00 am to get it done. The next day was another engineer from the same company came by around 9:00 to do a full system analysis. The engineer was the Matt Damon Goodwill Hunting of networking. He sat down at my desk and began to create the entire topology of our system in about 2 hours. In that time, he figured out exactly how our systems works. This took me several months to figure out and I don’t’ think the other previous systems administrator ever figured out how our systems works. This person changed my life.

Over the next several months I worked with this engineer to resolve all of our networking, system, and virtualization problems. I learned more during those months than I ever thought possible. During this time, my boss the CIO finally appointed me as systems administrator except that he didn’t trust me still. He even changed the tile to be infrastructure administrator because he felt like in knew more about infrastructure than systems and networking. Turns out when we were trying to get this host online a few months back, the old system administrator convinced the CIO to allow me to be the “infrastructure administrator.” So, from 2012 on that’s been my role. I eventually got my title changed to systems administrator which took a lot of convincing. In 2013, the CIO was transferred out of the information technology department and placed into the department that was most fitting, sales. Turns out the former CIO had a background in selling computer memory and he bullshitted his way into the VP of Information Technology by another individual that knew even less about technology. From the time I first became the “infrastructure admin” until the day the CIO transferred out of IT, this individual tried to make my life a living hell. I guess I deserved a lot of it because that’s what happens when you know more about how the systems works than what the CIO claimed to know. I’ve wasted enough energy talking about this individual, so I’ll leave it at that. Now, I am running two data centers and things are working as they should. I’ve learned an incredible amount of knowledge regarding systems, infrastructure, storage, and networking which is why I’m going to be posting articles that have helped me configure VMware, Dell Compellent, IBM X systems, HP networking equipment and Cisco hardware. Hopefully, my knowledge and experience can help others in situations like mine. Keep coming back for more content.

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