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I was living a happy life as the sole developer in a manufacturing company when, out of the blue, my boss the IT Manager decided to leave. I was semi-promoted to his position (sort of), but I'm having a very hard time getting into the role.

For starters, I never really much cared for the state of the network and infrastructure. I just immersed myself in a sea of code and database admin tasks. Now, I am responsible for both software projects and keeping a healthy infrastructure. On top of that, I have to attend support call 7x24x365, mostly when some dark, black-box application (not created here, but by some remote corporate department across the globe) does not do what it's expected.

It's just the IT/Infrastructure specialist, the new developer, and me. All critical support issues come through me.

Anyone with the same background? Could anyone provide some advice on how to better become involved and interested in the infrastructure side of things? Any advice on how to keep my sanity?

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find another job. –  tony roth Aug 30 '11 at 3:34
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closed as off topic by John Gardeniers, Shane Madden, Wesley, Chopper3 Aug 30 '11 at 6:21

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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

What to do as a newly-crowned IT prince:

  • Decide if you want to do this job.
    If you do:
    1. Get the job formalized (change of title, etc).
      This can be "effective immediately" or "Provisionally for 6 months" and should come with some percentage salary bump to reflect your new, higher level of responsibility.
    2. Gather the troops.
      • Discuss the state of the environment
      • Update your documentation, diagrams, etc.
      • Decide what needs to be addressed, and start working on a plan to address it.
    3. Establish sub-projects and milestones on your plan.
    4. Prepare a proposal and present it to those above you.
      Be prepared to fight a short uphill battle (or a long one if we're talking lots of money) to execute your plan.
    5. Execute the plan.
      Report your glorious success to management.
      If your title was provisional, get it made permanent.
      Consider asking for a raise.
    6. goto 2.

Side projects that will make themselves quite evident when it's time to address them (or that you should work on whenever free time makes itself available):

  • Lowering the support call volume if it's insanely high
  • Documenting all those "black box" software components, and who to call when they blow up
  • Documenting all your procedures, etc.
  • Implementing (or improving) monitoring systems

As for keeping your sanity, forget it.
Best I can advise there is keep a bottle of good scotch in the bottom drawer of your desk, and never drink from it alone.

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+1: "Best I can advice there is keep a bottle of good scotch in the bottom drawer of your desk, and never drink from it alone." -- In my short years I've learned that there's nothing quite like a good scotch and an even better friend to share it with to smooth over the woes of a day gone awry. –  kce Aug 30 '11 at 7:09
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Couple of extra practical points:

  • Spend excess time making end users happy.
  • Make checklists - weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually - for things like verifying security policies are in force, firewall rulesets are sane, etc
  • Get a ticketing system if you don't already have one. Bugzilla works fine.
  • If you're in a compliance-driven role - SAS-70, PCI, whatever - spend extra time early on making sure you understand your documentation requirements to prove compliance. This is expensive and maybe impossible to fix if you get it wrong.

Lots of other good advice in other answers as well.

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+1 for ticketing and compliance bits. I would also recommend RT (bestpractical.com/rt) as an option for ticketing: A bit more complex than Bugzilla to get started, but very extensible. –  voretaq7 Aug 30 '11 at 14:09
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