Addicted to IT: Quitting is not an option

Ever yearn for the simple life? Sure you have. But don't fool yourself into thinking you'll ever escape your cage of cables and blinking lights

It's this time of the year when I find myself gazing wistfully out the window, taking in yet another beautiful, warm summer day from the chilly confines of my office and wondering if maybe I shouldn't give it all up and become a sheepherder. In some parts of the country these idyllic summer days are a dime a dozen, but in the Northeast, they're something to be cherished and enjoyed, and not from afar. Alas, my computing chariot awaits, and I turn back to my keyboard.

During the decades I've spent in the deepest corridors of system and network architecture, I used to wonder how anyone could do anything else. This field has it all: intrigue, mystery, and constant problem solving. It's engaging work that (in most cases) produces clear results and a sense of accomplishment.

[ Also on Read Paul Venezia's classic, "Nine traits of the veteran Unix admin." | Or see if you qualify for the title of certified IT ninja. ]

There's no end to the ways that a clever brain with the right idea can not just succeed, but provide tools, frameworks, and solutions that help thousands or millions of people. Add to that the "new toy" culture that outfits IT with sleek and speedy servers, big storage, and the oohs and aaahs of virtualization, and it seemed less like drudgery and more like a fantastic puzzle that you get paid to solve.

The other side of that is all the hours spent in windowless data centers, the overnight maintenance windows, the frustration when things aren't going right, myriad compliance headaches, and the pressure to find a solution to an emergent problem as soon as humanly possible, driven by people who have no idea of the complexity of the task. Yet for me, it was always easy to overlook the bad in favor of the good, especially when a pallet of new servers and network gear shows up, ready to be built out into a new data center or server farm.

As time passes, I find I don't enjoy the thrill of the chase quite as much as before. It seems that finding and fixing system and network problems isn't as exhilarating as it once was, and the idea of tackling a large data center build conjures up thoughts of the beaucoup headaches involved in little details like wiring and equipment procurement. Don't get me wrong, I still love the smell of a new data center in the morning, but I'm now less inclined to stay up until 2 a.m. tweaking things until they're just right.

So when I look out that window and see a robin perched on a tree gently swaying in a warm breeze, I begin to wonder just what life would be like if I wasn't in the IT game any more -- if I didn't have to keep up on every new development and trend, if I wasn't constantly bombarded with new technologies at every turn, and instead spent my days making sure that the sheep didn't range too far or be attacked by wolves. I could sit in the shade under that very tree, my brain free of all worry and concern over massive projects, the roar of the air conditioner absent from my daily reality, the very idea of checking my email every few minutes an absurdity. How simple, how stressless that seems -- how perfect.

When my brain snaps back to reality, I understand completely why I do what I do -- because I have the type of brain that needs constant feeding, constant exercise. The life of a sheepherder may seem hopelessly romantic and enticing when laboring under a build deadline or frantically searching for the cause of an abrupt network crash, but I'd be a fool if I thought that I'd last more than a day or two without some knotty problem or project to occupy my head.

That's why I'm in IT. As exhausting as it can be, it provides rich mental rewards if done right, and to many that's as addictive as heroin. I've had this addiction for so long, I'm way past therapy or treatment. I'm a lifer.

But maybe I can split the difference now and again. I think I'll spend the next few hours under that tree -- with a laptop. There are storage migrations to perform, after all.

This story, "Addicted to IT: Quitting is not an option," was originally published at Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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