Look out below! A young techie is coming through

Asbestos and hazmat, fire drills and overhead spills -- they're just a few challenges in a new techie's early days on the job

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What's that sound?

After about 30 minutes of work, I suddenly heard alarms going off. At first I couldn't tell what was going on, but after a few minutes it became clear that those were fire alarms. Here I was, up in the far reaches of the building's rafters, and no one knew. I figured if there was a real fire I was toast, but I didn't smell smoke. I still needed to leave and at least attempt to save my skin if it was the real deal.

To escape, I had to go over and under air conditioning ducts and avoid stepping on beams so as to not fall through false ceiling tiles -- and not kick up dust, which for all I knew was toxic. It took me a good 15 minutes to crawl out and climb down a ladder accessway.

As I was leaving the building, I met a fireman who looked at me in shock, demanding to know why I wasn't outside with everyone else. I explained what happened, including where I was and why it took so long. He wasn't happy, but what could you do?

I walked out of the building, where literally hundreds of people were waiting for the all-clear. I joked that everyone need not worry and I'd discovered it was safe to go back in. We got a good laugh, but I sure was glad it was only a drill and not the real thing.

After that incident, we made a point of telling someone when we were heading up into the rafters. You see, we can be taught.

Watch your step

The ceiling beckoned again. Another time when I was laying yet more cable, I stepped on what I thought was a solid plank. It turned out to be a false ceiling. Adrenalin surged through me as my foot went through the tile, dumping a pile of dust into the room below.

I caught myself before I fell further. As I pulled my foot out, I looked down and saw a person sitting at his desk, looking up at me in shock -- he hadn't had quite enough time to reach the anger stage. Luckily, he was unhurt, but there was dust all over his computer and desk. He asked a lot of questions and went through plenty of different emotions as we cleaned up the mess, but in the end we both laughed at the situation.

When I took a closer look, I cringed at what might have been. Nearby wood boards and pipes could have crashed down. The cable I'd been dragging could have come through the hole. The dust and debris could have injured him or ruined his computer -- or both. Sometimes the scene flashed in my mind on my repeat trips to the ceiling, and I'd watch my step even more closely, not wanting a repeat performance.

Over time and as the IT profession grew and changed, I picked up a few lessons: involve facilities, hire a contractor who does wiring for a living, use the right tools to get from point A to point B instead of creating my own -- such as using broomsticks and weights tied to ropes. It also helps to just learn more about IT and be more mature.

I grew into the job and eventually picked up A+ certifications over the course of my career, but the good old days were a lot of fun in their own way.

Send your own IT tale of managing IT, personal bloopers, supporting users, or dealing with bureaucratic nonsense to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, you'll receive a $50 American Express gift cheque.

This story, "Look out below! A young techie is coming through," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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