Beware the CEO who knows 'everything about tech'

When does a blowhard CEO finally listen to IT's advice on the data center? When it lets him show off to his peers

Of course, CEOs come in all stripes, from the out-of-touch to the malevolent. Then there are the ones who mistakenly think they know all about technology, often embracing cutting-edge releases to bask in the attention of being known as an early adopter. What lowly tech can remove them from their deluded pedestal?

Some years ago I was hired by a CEO of a K12 facility who was just like this. We'll call him "Tom." He had great visions for his domain, and I was the first dedicated IT person to be hired. Tom told me from the start that he knew all there was to know about the technology, and when I needed help I could ask him any time. Oh goody, I thought.

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He also told me to look into problems with the server: It kept crashing and wasn't always accessible through the network; also, email wasn't functioning properly. The phone system wasn't working correctly, either.

It starts with the server

He sent me on my way, telling me where to find the server. I finally located both the server and phone system in the tiny room that housed the water heater, along with 50 boxes of photocopy paper and an eight-port 10Base-T hub. I could hear the server running, but couldn't find it at first -- until I moved 12 boxes that were stacked on top and around it. That alone suggested a reason for the frequent outages.

Tom told me a new server location was out of the question. I suggested some ventilation be provided to at least reduce the overheating. A hole was cut in the ceiling, but the roof was flat and the hole only revealed insulation. When insulation around the hole was removed, the underside of the external cladding was revealed. That was the extent of the "ventilation."

It worked during the winter, and the number of crashes decreased until the heat of the following summer. During this time I repeatedly suggested we move the server to a new location but was ignored. It was fine, Tom insisted, and after all he knew what he was talking about.

A tale of two consultants

By the time summer arrived, Tom had also developed a cosy relationship with a local tech consultant. Over drinks, the consultant had apparently promised the world at half of anyone else's price. I was concerned because this consultant was known as a "pusher and leaver" who was extremely hard to get ahold of after he'd been paid for the goods. But Tom insisted he was a really good guy.

After a few more hardware crashes, Tom brought the consultant in to investigate, and he diagnosed the problems as involving the hardware and not the environment. He replaced the server, upgraded the software, and supplied five new PCs for the office staff and CEO.

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