If you want a job done right, don't send the boss

An IT boss sets out smart, workable plans for a company's cabling job -- then leaves a seasoned techie to take up the slack

After decades of working in IT, you learn to be exceedingly wary. Always be prepared for anything. Always test and verify the work. And never take it for granted that other individuals have the same work ethic as you do, even if they're the boss.

Several years ago, our team was tasked with completely rewiring a newly acquired property next to one of the company's remote offices. The location was hours away from our headquarters, but thankfully the time factor to complete the work was reasonable. Our boss set up a schedule: Every week, a team of two or more would depart for the location and spend a few days running wire and making connections. The work would be completed in stages and over the course of several weeks.

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The first week was spent running Cat5 and phone lines into the cubicles and verifying the connections. Because of the distance between the buildings, we opted to use fiber cable, so the second week was dedicated to connecting the two buildings and making sure all was protected from outside hazards.

During week three of renovations, my boss and another tech were preparing to go to the location to install ends on the fiber and put them into a rack-mount fiber optic patch panel. This cable was especially sturdy, as it had a weather-resistant sheath over the normal insulation. It wouldn't be an easy task, but not as tough as it was in the past, when a fiber connection had required carefully stripping the cable to the glass wire carrying the signal. We'd also needed to meticulously polish the ends of each fiber with three grades of extremely fine sandpaper to assure no cracks or blemishes would impair the signal. Each connection had taken about an hour to complete.

Connections made quicker

Thanks to technological advances and increased deployment of fiber, the time to make a connection had been drastically reduced, for which I was grateful. For instance, a cleaver tool was available that almost consistently produced a perfect cut that required no polishing. Verifying the connection was much easier; after the ends were installed, one end of the run was connected to a handheld microscope while someone at the other end shined an indirect light into the fiber. The light was transmitted to the microscope, and any blemishes or cracks would be evident. If any existed, the connection end would be severed and a new one reinstalled.

For this project, the cable contained six fibers, of which we would technically need only two with ends: one to transmit, and one to receive. I'd learned the hard way over the years that even with all the advances, problems still arose and it was always a good idea to have a backup plan. I'd also noticed that my boss, who was 30 years younger, was not very careful about details. I advised him and the other tech to install ends on a second pair of wires as a precaution in case something went wrong with the first ones; my boss agreed it was a good idea.

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