Bloopers, breakdowns, and bad jobs: The IT chronicles

Who says IT is boring? The last year of on-the-job stories from tech pros would indicate otherwise

Did you hear about the time ...?
Did you hear about the time ...?

Want to vent to peers about job woes or to share a laugh about crazy work happenings? Under the Anonymous byline, IT pros write about their real-life experiences in InfoWorld’s Off the Record blog, including memorable stories of bad bosses, stubborn coworkers, confused users, personal blunders, tough projects, and even times when the job seems worth it.

Here’s a look back at the stories of 2014. There's no telling what 2015 will bring.

Have a real-life story from the front lines of IT? Send it to offtherecord@infoworld.com, and we'll publish the best -- anonymously, of course -- in the Off the Record blog. If we publish yours, we'll also send you a $50 American Express gift cheque.

Survival of the savviest
Survival of the savviest

When a project or a plan at the business goes south, survival mode kicks in. Techies too can play that game.

The good news: You've landed a contract! The bad news: The client has requested more functionality added in.

With every change, the project leader insists on documented details and written approval from the client. As the cost skyrockets, the project leader calls for an internal audit of the and shares the results with the client’s Head Honchos -- only to get told to never go above their own representative again.

The project further craters, with change requests and monetary shortfalls. Furious, the client’s sponsor does an audit to see where plans went astray -- as it turns out, within its own ranks. The tech team’s careful documentation and the original audit saves its bacon.

More stories:
Overpromised, underdelivered – and the joke’s on them
Phone foolery: Caught between a malcontent and a merger

Oops! Personal blunders
Oops! Personal blunders

Don't tell anyone, but techies make mistakes too. Hats off to the IT pros who dare to share those stories and, of course, fix their errors.

One new tech hire planned to put in a few easy hours at the data center over the weekend, only to find the door locked and no directions on how to get in upon arrival. Eyes alight on a big red button with a sign that says “Open,” and the techie does exactly as anyone else would -- and is met with the data center going eerily silent. Against all logic, pushing the button doesn't open the door. Instead, it opens all power circuits in case of emergency. Yeah, that’s clear.

The tech works long into the night to get the data center back in order for business the next day. As for the pesky button, the tech team installed a cover on it, though the sign remained the same. Woe to the next victim of the Open button.

More stories:
You messed up, junior -- now take a break
Order up! On fried motherboard with an extra server on the side
We didn’t nuke your files; we, er, mislaid them

Dazed and confused
Dazed and confused

Part of any tech pro’s job is helping users better understand their tech tools, but at times, the knowledge gap can seem insurmountable.

A tech pro is swapping out old monitors for new at a business. It's an easy and straightforward job, until one user says to come back in a couple of hours so that she can save all her work on the network drive. The tech notices she’s transferring 2GB -- her entire My Documents folder. What?

There follows a tutorial on the roles of the monitor and the computer tower, notably where the data lives. The tech pities the poor colleague who'll inevitably have to explain why the user is getting only half a computer when the company workstations are replaced with all-in-one machines.

More stories:
Abracadabra! Harry Potter, ghosts, and magic at the help desk
Stand back -- major mouse dissection in progress

Cringe-inducing colleagues
Cringe-inducing colleagues

Not every techie is in the business to help others or to spread knowledge. Some have baser motivations.

At a small travel company, one IT pro is amused by the romantic entanglements among the office workers, including another tech who seems to have a new relationship every month. Amusement soon turns to frustration as the IT pro discovers the secret to his colleague’s popularity: Doling out the latest and greatest technology to paramours. Still, the CEO and IT boss look the other way.

The lothario runs rampant until the T1 Internet line goes down, shortly after a network migration. Only then do the IT boss and techie discover that half the company’s desktops are in use as Napster servers -- one of the many "perks" handed out by lover boy. Yes, Casanova was canned.

More stories:
Danger, danger -- the robot arm has gained sentience!
3 terrible tales from the tech cleanup crew
Are you experienced? Not for this IT job

Disdain from the top
Disdain from the top

A boss helps set the tone for a company’s culture: good, bad, and/or ugly. A tech fairly new to one company is able to work under the radar and ignore the undercurrent of disrespect from the top -- until one holiday.

The company had seen a decent year, so employees buzzed with the expectation of sharing a modest holiday bonus. However, the execs announce that money is tight and there will be no holiday cash. The mood is gloomy at the low-key office party, then turns very bitter very fast when a truck pulls up to the office with four Mercedes sedans wrapped in big bows: a gift to the owners’ wives, for all the staff to see. Money can indeed buy everything -- except class.

More stories:
Hot boss, cold boss: This tech pro just had no chance
Break free or be broken: Escape from management hell

Get out while you can
Credit: Thinkstock
Get out while you can

You dream about it: The perfect job that ticks all your boxes. One tech pro who was close to landing what seemed to be the ideal position in a different state, at a great company, for a fantastic CIO. With plane ticket in hand, the tech is ready to fly out one last time to interview with the CEO.

The tech’s hopes were indeed too good to be true. The search firm calls and tells the tech the interview is canceled, and the CIO has been fired. Disappointment turns to relief as the tech follows the saga of the once-thriving company’s downward spiral, ending in Chapter 7 liquidation.

More stories:
Congrats on the new job! Please disregard all the red flags
Office tyrant: It’s my way or the highway -- hey, come back!

Room to learn
Credit: Thinkstock
Room to learn

In IT, opportunities for personal and professional growth abound, though the lessons can be tough to take.

A tech gets the task of leading a negotiating team on a project’s bid. The client wants to use a startup’s software, but implemented by the tech’s company. The tech puts safety measures in place and everyone signs the agreement, stipulating the startup guarantees software performance and functionality.

As the deal is wrapping up, the client demands a big change: The tech’s company must stand by every development. The tech goes to the higher-ups to lay out the dangers of agreeing to the demands, but is told to do whatever it takes to seal the deal. Against better judgment, the tech signs -- and isn’t surprised a year later when the company is on the hook for software problems. The tech isn’t held accountable, but realizes it’s easier to live with a decision when you stick by what you know to be right.

More stories:
The boss’s vote of confidence turns the tide
No boss? No problem! An ERP upgrade done right

Guess what? Your actions have consequences
Credit: iStockphoto
Guess what? Your actions have consequences

How nice is it when you prove you’re right at long last? Or when justice is served to someone who’s pushed the boundaries far too long?

A new salesman joins the office and soon makes life miserable for the techs as he promises clients anything to close the deal, including imaginary software and impossible service contracts. The senior tech explains that the contracts aren’t realistic, but the salesman screams at the techs to do anything he asks. The boss refuses to listen, so the techs make detailed notes about the salesman’s over-the-moon promises and turn them in.

The day of reckoning arrives when a customer complains to the boss about the failed delivery of a contract. When the techs are called on the carpet, they refer to the boss’s overflowing inbox that fully documents the salesman’s unrealistic promises. The salesman was fired on the spot.

More stories:
A do-nothing CFO gets the upgrade he deserves
Famous last words: Our antivirus totally works

Yes, please communicate with the IT department
Credit: Thinkstock
Yes, please communicate with the IT department

Nobody likes to be bothered unnecessarily. But you know what else people don't like? Being left out of the loop.

It’s cleanup time after an accounting system is hit by a virus resulting from a user opening a Zip file. A tech pro spends two days working on one system, and the team spreads the word about not opening such files, particulary to the accounting department to impress upon them that this is a Big Deal.

A few days later, the tech pro recounts the incident to the accounting boss, who casually mentions he was hit by another virus but cleared it himself. Aghast, the tech asks why the boss hadn’t alerted the IT department. The reply: "I didn’t want to bother you." Argh!

More stories:
Admins and developers: Two teams separated by a common language
Shhh! Don't tell IT how we send documents around here

Let's look at the evidence
Let's look at the evidence

A tech often relies on data and record-keeping to do the job, and in turn, the accumulated evidence can reward the techie.

Case in point: An accounting analyst brings her supervisor to the help desk to figure out the disappearance of a mysterious line item. The account had already been processed for the correct amount, but was changed later on. The analyst wasn’t in trouble; the supervisor merely wanted to know what had happened.

Nevertheless, the analyst goes on the defensive and insists it isn’t her fault: Someone’s out to sabotage her, even as all evidence points to the analyst making the change. She pushes it further by "proving" she’d been in a meeting and couldn’t have made the change -- a meeting, it turned out, that had been delayed. Eventually, the analyst quits claiming innocence and moves on, like everyone else already had.

More stories:
Paging IT: Please report to the emergency room stat!
You don't need tech support ... you need a marriage counselor

More IT stories
Credit: iStockphoto
More IT stories

Off the Record archives are full of tales from the IT trenches, such as the best Off the Record stories from 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Write up your own crazy-but-true tale about tech projects, supporting users, personal blunders, or surviving a tough boss or job. Send your submission to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish your story -- anonymously, of course -- you’ll receive a $50 American Express gift cheque.