Despite this volatile situation, the engineer is critical of IT retaliating. "I'm way too ethical to do any damage ... but yes, there're opportunities," the engineer says. "The greatest sin I've seen from my peers is to neglect things, let something sit on the front burner until it goes up in flames. At some point, systems will crash and nobody will be around to fix them."
Ignorant management makes it worse: "My jaw just dropped"
"When the tech worker is being exploited for his knowledge and skills without being valued or understood, this can lead to anger," says psychiatrist Orman.
Case in point: a network engineer who's struggled under a succession of cost-cutting efforts led by brazen managers hell-bent on reducing expenses without having a clue about technology and its role in the business. The last two managers didn't understand technology. And the current one likes to read trade magazines to stay abreast of trends, the engineer says, which has made him arrogant.
"My new manager literally lectured me -- I kid you not -- that I should only study optical designs because 'routing and switching are going away,'" the engineer recalls. "My jaw just dropped, and I haven't been able to talk seriously with him since."
The engineer is part of a seven-person team that's constantly on the go, "putting out fires, solving complex transport issues," and even working on a few cool projects. Given all the effort, the engineer is baffled at management's lack of appreciation.
[ Stressing out in your tech job? Turn to InfoWorld's Advice Line blogger Bob Lewis for help. ]
"We work for a huge corporation whose entire business is contingent upon its network, and yet we fight tooth and nail to keep our Cisco gear from becoming obsolete," the engineer says. "We have a huge amount of work ahead of us, especially in terms of upgrading and stabilizing this network."
A strategy for surviving the fire that could ignite any time
As the Terry Childs case unfolded across the San Francisco Bay, UC Berkeley's Chan at first dismissed Childs as a bizarre, rogue tech worker. But he soon saw eerie similarities inside his own IT department, including the possible risks that come after being forced to reduce his staff from four to two last year. Now a single network engineer wields a lot of power yet lacks a team to back him up, making him a "single point of failure," in the parlance of the tech set.
"My own operation is vulnerable to someone who's so possessive, because he built up the network, that every change you want to make he has to be convinced [to do]," Chan says. "There's definitely a power shift." Chan isn't worried that the highly skilled engineer will lock him out of the network. Rather, the engineer may get fed up one day, quit in the morning, "and have another job in the afternoon," Chan says -- leaving the complexities of the network lost in the smoke.
Chan has responded by educating himself about the intricacies of today's networks, essentially becoming the backup guy. In the past, as long as the network was humming along nicely, Chan didn't get involved. Now he meets with his engineer regularly to go over networking issues and changes. When Chan doesn't understand a technical detail or method, he'll seek advice from outside networking experts.