Dirty job No. 6: Network infantryman
Network engineers may have the least glamorous job in all of IT. They get to squeeze through dusty attics and muddy crawlspaces, pulling cable and fixing gear. If you're doing this dirty job for the military, there's a bonus -- you also get to deal with bombs exploding overhead and bullets whizzing by.
As a network engineer for the U.S. Air Force, Josh Stephens spent four years designing, deploying, and managing large-scale classified and unclassified networks. The dirty part of that job included climbing into flooded manholes to troubleshoot malfunctioning network equipment, setting up tent-based mobile command posts during torrential rainstorms, and digging out mud-mired Humvees serving mobile comm links.
Though Stephens says he was never deployed in a war zone, as "head geek" for IT management software vendor SolarWinds, he gets a lot of calls from network guys in the line of fire.
"When you've got to get in there and get the network running in a forward command post, you're on the front lines," he says. "When the United States took over Iraq, we got calls from customers who were inside Saddam's palace and needed help setting up the network. They were still very much in the hot zone at that time."
Stephens says he spends about a third of his workday talking with military guys who need networking help and don't have time to go through official channels.
"When you're in the field getting shot at, you get the tools you need to get the job done," he says. "I'm a VP at SolarWinds, but if some guy in Iraq calls me at 2 a.m. because he has a problem getting his network set up, I get up and take the call."
Dirty jobs survival tip: Suck it up and do it. But be sure to keep your head low.
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