I have been working in the Information Technology trade (yes, I refer to it as a trade) for well over 25 years. During that time, I have worked for many companies from small startups and MSP’s to Fortune 100 companies and government agencies. I have worn many hats during this time including helpdesk, SQL DBA, network engineer, system administrator, project management, ops sec and IT management. Oh! I forgot to mention, cell phone support, audio-visual coordinator (finally putting AV club skills to use), building door and security camera security system supervisor, cyber security advisor, pen-tester, and ERP system administrator. In my current role as an IT Manager here at TX RX Systems (a medium sized company), all my skills are used, quite often daily, which leads me to the meme in this article “Everything the light touches….”. IT people love to communicate with memes. Heck we even carry-on conversations ONLY in memes and animated gifs. The level of sarcasm in memes often mask the truth as any IT person will tell you (Yes turning it off and on is real! it solves issues 95% of the time!). In this case, this is not sarcasm or exaggeration but the simple truth. We as IT professionals must adapt and learn new systems to support the companies and people we work for. “Everything the light touches…” or should we say, “Everything that is electronic…” or “Everything that touches your network…” is now under our purview. Our companies look to the IT department not just for help (Did you open a ticket?) but also to advise, research, and when the time comes, implement, teach, and support a new initiative be it hardware or software or some other project. This my friends are where we truly become an asset to the company, I mean who else is going to do it correctly?
Recently in a board of directors meeting where I was talking about the noticeable changes my team has made over the past year and the money we saved, you know, all the stuff that directors love to hear. At one point in this meeting, I was asked “How do you know how to do all of this? Where did you learn it?” my answer was simple, “In every small and medium company I have ever worked for, IT is the catch-all for ANYTHING electronic, we are forced to”. Little did I know that I sparked an idea in the company president (insert *sigh* meme here) that would take me down a path into yet another role to add to my repertoire (just so we are clear this is not a bad thing in most cases. This is how we grow!). So, about a week after this meeting when I had forgotten about my soliloquy on how awesome their IT department is, my boss calls me into the director of marketing’s office and they proceeded to tell me that they really liked when I said “…IT is a catch-all…” and they asked me, if I thought that there are other IT managers or system administrators who are the same as me. I said “of course, this is the way” (Insert Mandalorian meme here). But I did get serious and tell that this indeed is the way of things in small and medium companies. We must wear multiple hats, mostly because these companies cannot afford to hire “teams” of IT people for each discipline, that is reserved for those large companies and government. All that most people in my position have maybe one good helpdesk or system administrator and some good support contracts for hardware and software. Often, we are the lone wolf, alone with only the skills we brought with us to survive in the harsh wilderness (Insert animated gif of shadowy samurai). He then proceeded to ask me if I would be willing to work with our company’s marketing and sales department to learn more about our products to see how they impact IT departments. Further, armed with that information seek out and people like me, dealing with an LMR project that just got dumped in their lap because “Everything the light touches…. by now I know you can hear James Earl Jones voice!)” and see how our company and more importantly how I can assist them? Yep, that was exactly what they wanted me to do. On a side note, and not related to this touching story but, you know you are working for a leader and not a manager when they help you step out of your comfort zone and into something never done and give you all the tools you need to be successful, it’s like they want you to grow and succeed. Now back to our story.
They wanted me to find a way to help those company IT departments because we do have complex equipment and it is a niche market and let’s face it, how many IT people do you know who understand the nuances of Land Mobile Radio Systems? Now while I understand the products our company manufactures, and our market, I never investigated how they were implemented by our customers or more importantly who was tasked with implementing and maintaining our products. I blamed myself for a moment about this part of the business but then I realized that there are only so many hours in a day, and I had been focusing on cleaning up the messes left by the previous system administrator (insert dumpster fire meme here). So armed with all the resources I need, and I marched off to learn about LMR systems, implementation and management related to the IT department. What I uncovered was the startling realization that IT and LMR systems and networks have similar, requirements and risks. Even more startling, but not surprising, is the lack of information on the internets (I know you just heard G.W. Bush saying that!). Now the other part is how do I convey this to my peers in IT? Then it hit me, going a little old school and write a blog about my research.
This then, is the first of many articles focused on Land Mobile Radio systems and how IT departments can integrate them into their infrastructure as well as how to deal with the task of support and maintenance. I have done a lot of research in this area and like I said, there is not a lot out there, I mean if it is not on Stack Overflow, it really is niche and unique. But what I have found is good and over the next several blogs I will go into detail of what I have discovered. I hope you will join me for this adventure.