Jean had gotten a ZIP disk stuck in the drive and couldn't read or eject the disk. The disk had some very important information on it, so even the company president was involved. The buddy of mine who helped get me hired found me in the warehouse packing a shipment and asked if I could help. I said I'd give it my best shot.
When I arrived at the scene, there was one nervous network administrator, one nervous general manager, one nervous owner/president, and many curious onlookers. At first, I too was nervous with all eyes on me, but surveyed the situation and tried not to say much.
"Can you fix it?"
"I don't know yet."
The disk was not spun up, so I looked around and found a paper clip, unfolded it, inserted it into the hole on the front of the drive, and ejected the disk. The problem was the drive, not the disk, thankfully, so I put the disk into another drive and recovered the information. Crisis averted.
Apparently, the news of what happened spread because the next day, everyone was asking me about all sorts of tech-related matters: fax, phone, email, PC, printer, postage machine, security alarm system, whatever.
The boss was pleased. An all-hands meeting was called, and I was named the new "network administrator." The former network administrator was moved to a different position in the company, one that Jean was much better suited for and excelled at. Everyone came out a winner with no hard feelings.
I stayed there for six years as the go-to person for anything tech-related, suggested and made a lot of improvements, learned a lot technically, and grew as a professional (office politics, theory vs. practice, test vs. production).
In less than a week, I went from packing boxes as a summer job to making strategic decisions involving five-figure price tags or more for a small business with an eight-figure annual revenue, all because of a 1-cent paperclip and, of course, the alignment of a few stars.
This story, "A techie finds career potential in a paper clip," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.