Typical calls…

Since moving to my new team, here’s a short smattering of the kinds of calls I’ve been getting…

“Hi, I don’t know if I got the right group but… (proceeds with the Lord of the Rings in length version of her password problem)”

“Hi, I have a major incident, I can’t log into $program all of a sudden”

“I need a new monitor for my computer”

“Hi I need to reset my password”

Bear in mind, ours is the very last option on the call tree and very clearly states that we only handle major incidents affecting multiple sites, states, regions or the whole country, and not problems with individual computers or user issues. People up the food chain have sworn up and down  since March that they will remove our number from the help desk call tree, but have yet to do so, and on a hunch, I called in a few times to one of the other options and the shortest wait time I was quoted was 90 minutes. And when I tell these poor souls they have to call somewhere else, I’m usually met with a mix of indignation, resentment, resignation, requests to be transferred (which we can’t do since our phones have no transfer button), and outright anger since they confuse our inability to help them with an unwillingness to help them. In fact, some local IT shops specifically tell the users to call us directly and avoid the other options entirely, even though we have no way to help them due to our lack of access to many systems.

And yet, between this, the new management that has little to no clue what their doing, the utter lack of direction, being pulled in a half dozen different directions to do things I was never trained to do with programs I didn’t even know existed, the complete absence of anything resembling SOP’s, call lists, or any other written policies on how to perform this job (as well as many other things I haven’t mentioned), it’s no wonder most of the people in my group are actively looking for outside positions, dusting off their retirement papers, or otherwise loooking elsewhere for gainful employment.

The months of Hell

The last few months have been nothing short of baseball-bat-to-the-testicles hell at my day job.

Reason being, someone higherup the food chain than our division chief got it into theit head, without notifying us, clearing it with us, or even bothering to do much of anything else, that our entire department should be transferred from our current duties, and begin working major incidents. This all was because the contract for the people who were doin it previously wasn’t being renewed and they needed someone to take it over immediately, and hadn’t planned on anyone actually taking it over.

So you can imagine the chaos that took place. Literally, we all came in and discovered that the links to our normal dashboads were working with “Access Denied” error messages, we weren’t getting any of our normal email traffic, we couldn’t even log into our phones to contact each other. Our division chief gathered us together to let us know of the change the day after it happened, since no one ever bothered to even tell us (even our division chief until 9PM on the day it happened). So we were dead in the water as a department for a whole day before anyone even told us what happened.

And here’s the best part… the major incidents group was, and still is, a section of the Tier 1 Desk Monkey contractors that remained and were able to renew their contractors. So in essence, all of us who are full time employees working for the Uncle are essentially answering to contractors, ones who have proven time and time again that they have to rise multiple levels before we can consider them utterly incompetent. Currently, my direct supervisor is a contractor that’s been detailed to my shift, and he’s instituted policies which have been roundly groaned at. For example, every single call we get, we have to put a ticket in for it. The problem is, 99% of the calls we get, we have to tell the poor souls to call back into the Help Desk because they picked the wrong option on the call tree, all because these people want their passwords reset, they want a new mouse, their $hardware is broken, they can’t log in, and our team has no access to their accounts or to anything else at the local level.  The only reason they call us is because we’re the only people who pick up the phone in a quasi-reasonable amount of time, because local IT told them to, or because they think a password reset really is a Major Incident. But still, we have to put a ticket in for all of them, even if we just tell them to call the help desk back to pick Option 1, and not us. In fact, in the three months we’ve been doing this, call times to get passwords reset have gone DOWN to just over an hour. All because of the chaos that resulted from this whole contract kerfuffle.

And when we do get a call that is a justifiable major incident, whoever gets the call becomes the “Incident Commander”, even if they have 30 seconds left on their shift. And even though our team primarily consists of people who live in the Southeastern United States, the incident in question could theoretically be in Alaska, Guam, or any other US territory that has an office of ours. Oh, and did I mention that nobody even bothered to give us a list of anyone (or their contact information) that works for any of those other offices? And when our division cheif asked for it from the powers that be, he was told rather tersely to go find it himself.

That reminds me, we were literally given no SOP’s, no training, no lists of callbacks, no nothing on how to do our new jobs, and some of the issues we had to deal with have had a national impact, and in the case of one item I had to deal with just this week, cost millions of dollars in lost revenue, which doesn’t even take into account the sheer amount of overtime requred to get it back up and running.

This entire thing has been universally despised by our entire group, and two people have already quit. Three more are threatening to do the same, and another is in the process of retiring six months early. The only reason I haven’t left is simply because my side business isn’t making enough regular income to justify leaving just yet. Once I do though, I’ll be leaving with a quickness because this is definitely not what I signed up for…

Please let the door hit your ass on the way out… repeatedly

Found out today that effective this week, the FNG is no longer employed by our department.

The final straw began a few weeks ago. The FNG, quite literally out of nowhere, sent an email to the entire department, as well as $divisionChief’s boss, and their boss above them. He accused the acting supervisor and another staffmember of making racist remarks, as well as levelling an accusation of $divisionChief calling him an immature asshole, and “berating” him over the phone. Considering who the FNG CC’d on the email, the boss’ boss of $divisionChief ordered an investigation.

Almost immediately, the FNG’s own “evidence” came back to haunt him. The IM chat log the FNG pasted into the email… well, let’s just say there was nothing even remotely close to anything racist in the chat whatsoever on the part of the acting supervisor, the FNG simply blurted out that because they disagreed with him on some article he had read, then they (read: everyone else in the department) were all a bunch of racists, and launched into a tirade about how he was the smartest person in the entire department, how everyone else was beneath him, that we weere all jealous of his genius, and he shouldn’t have to follow all these rules $divisionChief and others were making him follow. You know, rules like standardizing our email signature, making sure we’re logged in on time, answering the phones, replying to emails in a professional manner, those sorts of things.

Quite a few people were interviewed as part of the investigation, and they had a tsunami of evidence against the FNG over the last 5 years concerning his behavior and general inability to do his job, including multiple cases of gross insubordination, deliberately ignoring rules, conflict of interest when he advertised his personal business in his email signature, refusing to do or not even knowing the basic aspects of his job, even AFTER he was told how to do it, and in one case, nearly causing the death of a patient. There were literally 5 years of chat logs, emails, reports of contact, formal reprimands, and otherdocuments that the supervisor and $divisionChief presented, showing that the FNG was, at best, completely incompetent. I and others presented further emails and chat logs, showing the FNG had no clue how to do his job, and when we tried to steer him in the right direction, he would frequently become difficult, if not outright beliggerent, and that the 18 certifications weren’t worth a crumped pile of soiled toilet paper. In addition, those interviewed showed that whenever he was on-shift, he frequently caused several of us to do more work because not only would we try to correct him, we would have to frequently go behind him in a ticket or email, and make sure he actually did that was asked of him. More than a few times, he’d disappear for hours on end, and not a soul could get a hold of him via email, IM or on the phone. When one of us finally did, the FNG would seem annoyed, as if we had interrupted him, and work was a distraction to whatever it was he was doing.

There was also some evidence brought to light that the FNG may not have been entirely honest about his work experience and more specifically, his time in the military. When he was asked about his time in the military, he got cagy, saying he spent 4 years as a medical corpsman/field medic, but couldn’t give basic details on even the simplest procedures performed by one when another staffmember (also a field medic) asked him. Even when presented with a video from a few years ago, in which the FNG was interviewed and himself stated that he washed out of Basic Training due to a broken bone in his foot, he refused to acknowledge the video’s existence. One of the people interviewed also told the investigators that he had previously worked with the FNG at a local facility, and that the FNG was frequently argumentative with supervisors and coworkers alike, would artificially inflate his numbers to make it look like he was doing more work than anyone else, would make unauthorized changes to systems, which sometimes caused them to crash, then deny ever making those changes despite evidence showing what he did and when. In one case, the FNG was asked to tape a note to doors on a medical wing notifying people that they were due for a computer update soon. Instead of creating just a single ticket to log the time spent, he put in a high-priority ticket for every…. single…. door that he put the note on, stating that he took several hours on each ticket. When his boss confronted him about that and told him not to inflate his numbers like that, the FNG became upset because he was already on thin ice for not working on enough tickets, only cherrypicking the easy ones. Oh, and the FNG’s coworker said, flat out, that when the FNG finally transferred out, the entire department went out to celebrate, and were only too happy to be rid of him.

All told, the investigation took only a couple weeks, which is blindingly fast for a gov’t investigation, and he was told that Friday was his last official day with us.

Obey Wheaton’s Law!

As some may recall, a few months back, I pulled the trigger on beginning my own IT cybersecurity company, and it started off rather slowly, despite my best efforts in advertising and word of mouth. In August, I was invited to join a business networking group in my area that met once a week for a breakfast meeting/conference and to pass along buisness, and which only allows one member per business field, meaning in a group comprising major lawyers/law firms, doctors, accountants, real estate agents, and several local and national banks, I was the sole IT person there. They were only too happy to have me aboard, and with very good reason from what I discovered soon enough.

Slowly, I began hearing horror stories that the previous IT company representative they had, who was the owner and head tech of the company… let’s just say he was a certified, Grade-A jackass. He overcharged the other members every chance he got, told them to get equipment that was either unnecessary, a horribly bad and overpriced mismatch for their business and then either refused to set it up or would set it up so badly, they’d be forced to call him back at extra $350 hourly expense, gave vague and contradictory advice, his schpeals every meeting were little more than “Look at me, rah rah rah” sessions with very vague info on what he actually did, and in one case, flat out told one of the other members in the chapter who’s the owner of a prominent accounting firm in the State, with customers covering a good chunk of the Western Hemisphere, and whose soda budget is bigger than half the member’s salaries combined, that he wouldn’t provde tech support for her company any more because her company was now too small for him. Needless to say, when the annual membership committee met, they gave this guy Das Boot, letting the other chapters in the state know not to bring this guy in.

In just the month I’ve been with them so far, they’ve referred some good business my way, and that’s just the beginning. I already have three more major referrals from them, two with the possibility of being $6k-7k each for cybersecurity pen tests, a third from the vice president of the state chapter to do his company’s annual PC cleanup, and yesterday, the lady who’s the head of $accountingFirm was so impresed that I got rid of all the bloatware the previous IT guy had put on her computer, making her computer usable again, she wants me to be her go-to IT guy from here on out and even asked me to do some reasearch for her on a new SAN/NAS system with a virtual AD server so she can store the 45+ years of digitized client files such that her employees are able to better access them, since the previous IT guy refused to take the job. And she told me yesterday as I was finishing up, that she would do everything in her power to steer more IT business my way, especially from some of her prominent clients that have businesses of their own, or who are in need of cybersecurity as well as some good old-fashioned tech support.

Just goes to show that obeying Wheaton’s Law has it’s perks.

Outside my scope of support

A few days ago, I picked up a call ane began with my standard schpeal. The lady on the line was a nurse located at a site somewhere in the Pacific Nrthwest. I only say that to emphasize the distance between her and myself, as I’m located somewhere in Sunny South Florida.

She called in because she insisted that it was “critical to patient care” that she receive a 2nd monitor, and so she can do her job. I informed her that her local IT folks would be responsible for it, and she replied that she was given our number by the local IT shop. Confused as to why they would do that, I explained to her that my group in The Matrix handles issues far more sizeable than a request for a monitor, and none of my group works even remotely close to her facility. Getting agitated, she insisted on knowing why I couldn’t just give her a monitor.

That’s when I began breaking it down for her. I told her first that we didn’t even have any monitors to give her, as we are not her local IT shop. Secondly, we were not in the habit of doing work simply because an IT team decided to be lazy.  Third, the travel costs from Sunny South Florida to the her office in the Pacific Northwest would be sky-high, and the travel and budget folks would have my head on a silver platter, and that’s even if I somehow got it approved, and found a monitor to give to her. And lastly, a 2nd monitor hardly qualified as being “critical to patient care”, and if I had to hazard a guess, one of her coworkers in the ward got a 2nd monitor, she saw how shiny said 2nd monitor was, and wanted one as well. I told her to call the local IT folks back and request a 2nd monitor, and if they had any trouble, to call me.

I never got a call or an email back.