Dirty IT job No. 5: Coolant jockey
Wanted: Individuals seeking close interaction with grease, dust, and high voltage while wearing full body gear in an oven-like environment. Must enjoy sweating. Personal counseling skills a plus.
You want hot, sweaty, grimy IT work? Talk to the guys in the hazmat suits who have to service the IT infrastructure in your data center's hot aisle.
Whether working inside a windowless office that's been converted into a rack room (and garbage receptacle) or a gleaming state-of-the-art data center, when the cooling system needs maintenance, the going gets hot and dirty fast, says Greg Grace, whose official title is "precision cooling team leader" for Emerson Network Power's Liebert Services.
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Temperatures can easily surpass 100 degrees, says Grace, and there's no stripping down to your skivvies for relief. Cotton coveralls, hoods, face shields, and thick gloves are standard gear for protection against arc flashes from 480-volt power supplies.
"It can look like a bolt of lightning when it arcs," he says. "The way we dress we look like Marty McFly in our safety gear dealing with plutonium rods. By the end of the day, we end up smelling pretty gnarly."
Grace says new hot aisle containment systems designed to trap the heat coming off server racks turn up the temperature even more. "It's like wearing a snowsuit in a sauna," he says.
But when a data center overheats, servers start failing. That's when Grace's phone rings, 24/7, usually with a frantic IT manager or business owner on the other end. And you need to stay until the job is done, even if it takes most of the night.
"When I'm on the site, I'm the guy the customer deals with," says Grace. "If the customer is having a bad day -- and if I'm there at 3 a.m., he's probably having a bad day -- I'm the guy who takes the brunt of it. Oh, it can be a blast."