Beware the CEO who knows 'everything about tech'

When does a blowhard CEO finally listen to IT's advice on the data center? When it lets him show off to his peers

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However, the server kept crashing. Tom was finally fed up with the consultant and started looking for someone else to fix the problems, continuing to ignore my recommendations to move the technology to a new location. He was convinced the problems were with our new server.

The other company's consultant arrived and after spending an hour with Tom came to talk to me. He made the polite statement that my boss knew far less about technology than he thought he did. Imagine that! We decided the consultant would recommend moving all the technology in that room to a better area.

Tom did not take the news well, doggedly insisting the location was fine. The consultant pushed back, explaining why this was necessary and pointing out the issues that could be expected in the future if the servers kept running so hot -- the same points I'd been trying to communicate. Tom grudgingly gave me approval to seek new premises but to spend "no more than a few hundred dollars!"

The consultant and I came up with a number of ideas, all of which were rejected because Tom wanted the space for other items. Finally, with help from the building's maintenance staff, we discovered a wall that had been built to hide an old toilet at the back of the water heater room. The area could be enlarged by knocking out the wall, taking out the toilet, and adding more ventilation through the ceiling. Though not ideal, it was a cheap solution. Still, Tom balked at the "estimated" cost, so the idea was shelved.

An executive about-face

Several months later, Tom had the great idea that we could become a lead facility in developing new technology and act as the hub that served other facilities in the area. He applied for and was granted funding to develop a local infrastructure to achieve this goal. Overnight, Tom deemed our server's location unsuitable -- we needed a purpose-built room to impress his peers when they visited.

I finally got what I'd been asking for and much, much more. No cost was spared. It was so obviously and extravagantly wasteful that it was almost funny. But Tom showed it off whenever he could.

We ended up with a wonderful new air-conditioned room, server racks, two 48-port managed switches, two servers, backup tape units in both servers, two high-end computers for me, a new PBX -- even a TV, built-in furniture, and storage. The only thing I didn't get was antistatic mats for the floor and desks; Tom deemed them unnecessary (but he'd been pushing for a mini fridge).

It was a wonderful room -- I could even sleep there if needed. Not much of the equipment was essential or even used. I never watched TV, the two switches were underutilized for about three years, I never found a purpose for the second PC in that room, and the PBX was replaced two years later for a VoIP setup.

Things muddled along for a while until Tom pushed for many more expensive, avoidable, and unnecessary additions. He lasted another few years before the board realized something wasn't right and fired him.

But during that time I got to play with some top-end gear, learned how to make movies, installed the CEO-designed video network that was never used, set up a small TV studio, and attended several interesting and exotic courses completely unrelated to my job -- and earned a head of gray hair from coping with the unrelenting pressure of an aggressive techno dunce cloaked as a self-appointed early adopter.

This story, "Beware the CEO who knows 'everything about tech'," was originally published at Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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