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back to article Sysadmin job ad: 'If you don’t mind really bad work-life balance, this is for you'

Games and comics site Penny Arcade has posted quite possible the worst job ad of all time, for a "Web / Software Developer & Sys Admin" that outlines unashamedly horrid working conditions. The ad starts by saying “this could potentially be the most competitive position we ever hire for,” and then starts its description of the …

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..I don't need to apply..

...that sounds like that job I'm being paid to do right now!! My current employers just weren't quite so honest about it in the PD though :-(

I absolutely commend these guys for recognising exactly how tough a gig it is to be that person "at the epicentre of all". Whoever gets the job will have no excuses that they weren't warned about hat they would be walking into, I just hope they have the balls to ask to be paid what the role is truly worth...

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Re: ..I don't need to apply..

The best job advert I have ever heard of, which undoubtedly trumps this article, was for Shackleton's expedition to the South Pole in the early 1900s:

"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success."

The story goes that he was inundated with thousands of responses, similar I suppose to the talk of one-way manned missions to Mars in recent days.

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Unhappy

Re: ..I don't need to apply..

""Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success."

The story goes that he was inundated with thousands of responses, similar I suppose to the talk of one-way manned missions to Mars in recent days."

Shackleton also managed to get his men back alive

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Re: ..I don't need to apply..

>Shackleton also managed to get his men back alive

Only because he happened to bring along the greatest dead reckoning navigator in the history of human kind (of course the dude was a Kiwi).

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Re: ..I don't need to apply..

">Shackleton also managed to get his men back alive

Only because he happened to bring along the greatest dead reckoning navigator in the history of human kind (of course the dude was a Kiwi).

"

Also because he was a tremendous leader.

Compare to Scott ......

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Re: ..I don't need to apply..

"Honour and recognition in case of success."

That is what makes Shackleton's offer appealing, and it's a marked contrast to IT jobs, which offer only "Blame and humiliation in case of failure".

They're not even paying well, saying they prefer to put the money into "making the offices a better place to work in". Oh, so you'll be incarcerated in a nice prison cell? Well that's all right, then..

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Re: ..I don't need to apply..

">Shackleton also managed to get his men back alive

Only because he happened to bring along the greatest dead reckoning navigator in the history of human kind (of course the dude was a Kiwi)."

A big part of being a great leader is picking great lieutenants, of course, and being able to manage them so they can use their talents to the full. You only have to look at the recent history of British Prime Ministers to see this (admittedly by negation).

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Re: ..I don't need to apply..

Sadly, that story is almost *certainly* apocryphal. In particular, Shackleton would have been very unlikely to write "Safe return doubtful." - that would be much too negative for him.

Other points:

- although all the team that Shackleton was leading survived, there were three deaths on the team laying supply depots that Shackleton's team was supposed to reach after the pole.

- I'm not convinced that Worsley was *the* best dead-reckoning navigator ever. Captain Bligh was pretty good too (for all his other faults). (But yeah. If I was stuck in a 22' lifeboat with the nearest accessible human habitation 800 miles away across the stormiest ocean in the world, with a target only 100 miles long, he's the man I'd want to do the navigating.)

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@Robert Long 1

"Only because he happened to bring along the greatest dead reckoning navigator in the history of human kind (of course the dude was a Kiwi).""

It's actually "ded" reckoning.

I know. It looks like a spelling mistake, and it is 99% of the time, except here.

It's a contraction. The actual word is deduced reckoning.

I don't know if it's actually true, or if they were a Kiwi however.

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Re: @Robert Long 1

>I don't know if it's actually true, or if they were a Kiwi however.

Worsley navigation skills are the stuff of legend. Maybe I was being bombastic some but as mentioned to travel 800 miles in the worst storms imaginable in a darn near dingy and only being able to take 4 very shaky sextant readings and hitting the island almost exactly where you want is beyond amazing. Take a good look at South Georgia on a map and see what happens if he misses that island at all. They actually ran out of fresh water just as they landed so any delay could have been fatal to the whole party. As for Shackleton's leadership under fire yes it also was incredible. It almost made up for him being such a bad drunk who didn't always prepare the best possible.

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Re: ..I don't need to apply..

Count me as another one who would pass on this job.

Heart attack and ulcer potential: beyond the stratosphere (more likely LEO).

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Re: Shackleton's job ad

Then there's the Pony Express ad:

“Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 a week.”

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Re: ..I don't need to apply..

Apart from Kupe of course. (If he existed).

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Gimp

That ad is pretty honest

I have been in IT for 14 years and I am getting the F**K out because positions like that are becoming the norm more and more, and the pay is getting worse and worse.

At least the PA guys are honest

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FAIL

Re: That ad is pretty honest

I've seen far too many ads like this.

More and more requirements in fields that aren't even related and for the same or less pay. Employers want people who can program AND fix basic hardware problems and want to pay for a Tier 1 helpdesk tech to do it.

This will NOT end well.

Oh wait, it's already not going well. How's that cloud thing working out?

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Re: That ad is pretty honest

"I have been in IT for 14 years and I am getting the F**K out because positions like that are becoming the norm more and more, and the pay is getting worse and worse."

Sounds pretty much like my experience, at least in smaller companies. Not enough work in a single field to justify several positions, so you need an allrounder.

On the other hand i´ve seen dedicated "professionals" code around some issue for 2 weeks because they didnt know they could have had the same effect by editing a single line in a server config file in less than 5 minutes. So well, unless you get to work in a large company you might well get used fullfilling several roles.

Dont mind that actually, well, except for the pay getting worse part. Lack of IT-professionals my ass.

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Re: That ad is pretty honest

Look at the bright side. It /can/ end well. Such job is the perfect place for the hatching of a brand new and fresh BOFH with all the required attributes.

The job description means access to any and all part of the infrastructure and ensures future maintenance to be in strictly regulated BOFH hands. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing!

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Re: That ad is pretty honest

Employers are like anybody else, they will "try it on" from time to time, hoping to get lucky. It costs very little to advertise a job, you don't have to actually hire anyone, and who knows, a BEng with 20 years experience might drop into your lap for £10 an hour. Kerching! Now interview 5 more people and get your 5 hours of free consultancy...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That ad is pretty honest

> More and more requirements in fields that aren't even related and for the same or less pay. Employers want people who can program AND fix basic hardware problems and want to pay for a Tier 1 helpdesk tech to do it.

The ludicrously specified jobs are generally the product of the inhuman resources department or an employment agency trying to sound technical and failing horribly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That ad is pretty honest

It's known as the race to the bottom. The end result will be a job where someone is paid in company scrip redeemable only at a company store.

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Re: That ad is pretty honest

:-( Describes me. Had no choice though. Needed the job, pay was awful, took it. I think a lot of Engineers may underestimate their worth though. How much would you have to pay an accountant for the equivalent of formatting a floppy disk?

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Headmaster

Re: That ad is pretty honest

It may be refreshingly honest, but the fact that it looks like it was written by a twelve year-old would put me off.

I've never been so desperate that I'd work for a bunch of children.

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Don't be fooled...

Those ads sound the worst but in fact the working environment may very well end up to be outstanding. Because in a lot of cases such an ad is written by someone who got so frustrated about several things that he simply decided to speak his mind. "This is what we want, it sounds horrid, but that's what you'll have to do with". And the only reason a person would do that is passion; passionate about the company and the people and he's simply looking for a perfect fit.

So to weed out all the fakes you start by making it look as unappealing as possible, but only for those who can't read between the lines and actually understand what's going on.

Of course you should remain on your toes either way because there are no guarantees :-)

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Re: Don't be fooled...

your certainly going to scare away any good candidates, the only ones left will be the ones who can't find a job elsewhere, who have been stuck in jobs where they are exploited. I knew a couple guys like that in the past. It was really sad to see how they always ended up at really shitty gigs. They had opportunities at times but never took advantage of them so they remained at shitty gigs.

of course the devil is in the details maybe the company only has 5 people in it or something and the IT side of things is trivial, in which case most things are outsourced to various SaaS companies anyway. Maybe the extent of their IT is managing a printer.

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Re: Don't be fooled...

I think you missed the Anon check box :)

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Re: Don't be fooled...

@Nate here is explanation for downvotes: this will scare away any inexperienced candidates. Experienced ones will recognize this to be a honest description of bog standard job and thus won't scare them away. Such honesty is actually refreshing and appealing, to those in the business.

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Re: Don't be fooled...

> your certainly going to scare away any good candidates

Interestingly one IT shop I worked for in the late 80s took a similar view with its sales positions.

The SM (sales manager) made the observation that the blacker he painted the picture, the harder the job and the greater the challenge, the more enthusiastic the candidates became.

The problem was that these "enthusiastic" candidates were complete and utter arseholes: to a man - and they were all men. Their primary personality trait was "I can sell anything" (basically, they'd have won The Apprentice every year running) and everyone else in the organisation should thank me for it.. However, most of them were all bluster and no talent. They would get a "let" on their first-quarter reviews. A "must improve" on their Q2's and be out the door without completing a full year of employment.

So I would consider an advertisement like this to be a buyer-beware situation. Yes, it might be a truthful description of what the company thinks it wants. But the result will be that it will attract applicants who are completely unsuited to the kind of high-pressure yet humdrum work that understaffed (and by implication, under-resourced) IT support requires.

If you want a collection of drama-queens, sure. Go for it. But if any place I worked for was to put out a want-ad like this, they'd very soon have two vacancies to fill.

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Re: Don't be fooled...

Welcome to SME IT. 1 IT bod to 20 staff? Sounds about right, how many schools with 40+ teachers, teaching assistants, etc have 1-2 IT support staff?

And actually 15-20 staffers not to do a comic but also to do the artwork for merchandise in the store, run that store and fulfilment, a book keeper to keep track of that lot, as well as the staff to run a convention/show (you have any idea how much work those are to put together? Some of our customers - granted different industry - are already putting stuff in place and starting work for their March 2015 tradeshow, never mind the parallel team who are into final run up for March 2014).

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how many schools with 40+ teachers, teaching assistants, etc have 1-2 IT support staff?

I cannot tell you the number of schools in that situation but the school I work in has about 100 staff and 3 IT Technicians, 1 is usually off at local primary schools, another mostly provides classroom support for ICT lessons (we have no specialist IT teachers).

I am often the only technician available to support 1100+ users and about 700 computers, I am paid £10,500 a year. So if anyone knows of an IT support job in East Anglia paying £18,000+ a year which does not require a degree please let me know.

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Depends on how much power you'll get

If you are able to weed out all the crap previous people have installed, it can be a rather nice job. After all the main problem of a sysadmin is dealing with mistakes from the past. So if you weed out all those non-working high maintenance shitty solutions and replace them with something sensible, you'll probably reduce that to a 20 hours a week job. :)

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Re: Depends on how much power you'll get

Yes, but realistically, you won't be able to.

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Re: Depends on how much power you'll get

Thats the moment they tell you they don't need you as much as before...

Been there, done it...

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less appetising job

Most of the less appetising job adds I see start something like...

1st Line Helpdesk operative required.

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Re: less appetising job

usually followed by:

Must be available for on call 24/7 support, rotating shifts and occasional (*COUGH COUGH*) after-hours/weekend work. Must be team player in a dynamic, fast-paced matrix environment. Must be available to travel on short notice.

See a lot of that in IT job postings lately.

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General IT

If it has a plug or battery or wires you have to deal with it.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: General IT

If it has wires and no plug facilities!

If there are no office managers or facilities like where I am shrug shoulders and go point them elsewhere. If anyone moans I just go I'm not trained to deal with it, any such actions would violate H&S rules (Well probably for me as I would attack it with a hammer).

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Re: General IT

I work in school IT.

My rules are:

1) I don't use powertools. Yes, I use them at home. Yes, I feel confident using them. No, I've never chopped my leg off or drilled into a pipe. But, no, I won't use them at work unless you train me and then I'll be asking why you don't train me on something more relevant to my existing job. Especially in a school. There's not much of IT that requires powertools, and what's left (cable-running) can be contracted out quite easily under existing agreements with the people who do our cabling. They know better than me whether they can punch through that wall or not.

2) I'll "take a look" at whatever you want, subject to normal support tickets, your authorisation to drop other things, etc. It doesn't mean I'll do anything about it, but I'll have a look and tell you whether that's me, site-management, the electrician or whoever needs to get involved. Pretty much I'll get it right, if you bother to listen.

3) If I say No, don't make me do it. There's a reason I say no, I just haven't bored you with it. It's either illegal, dangerous or stupid to let someone like me play with it, or it's something we really should be paying a proper expert for. Don't make me stop being your friend and have to form my case around whether I should be doing something or not by the letter of the law.

I have, in my time, dealt with just about everything: CCTV, access control, boiler control, burglar alarm, fire alarm systems, phone systems, TV aerials, burst pipes, fish tanks (don't ask), you name it. I don't see some of those types of things as "IT" at all. The difference was, nobody said "YOU WILL....". The problem was mentioned to me. It was asked of me if I could have a quick look and give an uninformed (but more informed) opinion and get someone out of a hole. It was almost always "Hey, stop work for a second, can you help us here?" rather than anything to do with my actual job and that was almost always understood. I said I'd take a look, I made my recommendation on the basis that I assume I have ZERO knowledge outside of my area of expertise whatsoever, and then it's up to you what to do with that information.

I'm not going to sit and watch the whole place shut down because a low-voltage mag-contact tripped on a door and keeps setting the alarm off when it takes two minutes to unscrew the thing and fix it myself. But equally, I'm not going to start digging into things that we should just be getting a support contract for, or that site managers should be doing and have the time to do.

As far as I'm concerned, a job is also part of your life. You have friends at work. Those friends should (hopefully) include your boss or close peers in some way. As such, a lot of things that have nothing to do with actual work crop up and consume precisely nothing of your time to talk about. You spend longer gossiping about the clients/customers than you do sorting such things out. This is what all that "non-IT" stuff comes under. This also includes when I get my boss bring in his daughter's laptop, or introduce a parent to me because they are having severe IT problems at home and can't afford a technician to come look at it. I'll do it, but it's all favour-based. I don't mind that, because with a favour, I can just say no (but chances are that if I say no, it's because you're being unreasonable). But when it comes to being an everyday part of my job, you've gone beyond "favour" and into something else and my contract needs to reflect that (note: not necessarily salary, just contract).

However, when it comes to what's on paper, the phrase "and other reasonable duties" does not include an awful lot of stuff that you might think it does. Honestly. Try me. I just left a job because of such utter mismanagement of staff over a long period. It culminated in a lot of silly junk like it was just expected that I (on my own!) would fit 120kgs of (60") interactive touchscreen PC + electric bracket on the wall, a wall made of plasterboard, a wall the school planned to hold that board but with ZERO provision from the builders for it (not even an internal wood support or anything), for a TV that the builders refused to lift between them (let alone fit!), that the site managers had already pointed out that they would NOT be touching (literally "It's not in my contract, and it's dangerous"), that's going to sit above the heads of children with an electric motor whizzing it up and down the wall, and take responsibility for it because "it's IT". Er... no. Sadly not. And I'm doing YOU a favour by refusing (and, yes, I've worked in some places where it looks like the last IT guy was the worst DIYer in the world and never said no to anything).

I was expected to control the school boilers because "it has a computer interface". Er. No. I have no idea what modifying pump duty or any of the dozens of other internal settings actually does on this £100,000 boiler (of course I have a rough idea, but I'm not going to risk a huge gas boiler, with huge pressurised water pipes running around a huge school on it), nor why I should be the one changing them, and the boiler engineers we have support contracts for are the ones who know this inside-out, and you won't provide training or recognise it as an official "duty" of mine to somehow maintain these boilers. I'll provide the PC, you get someone else to actually put in the settings. At worst, get them to ring me and we'll do it together over the phone. You want me to change an obvious temperature target on a one-off in the interim because the school is freezing? Fine. But that's about it. And don't come crying to me when the gas bill doubles overnight or the pipes burst.

IT is just one of those professions with an awful lot of "creep" to it. I'm sure doctors and even teachers feel the same when it comes to basically performing social work, fitness-to-work evaluation, psychological and stress training, etc. There's a certain amount I'll do "as a favour". And then there's stuff that you need to change my contract for. So that when it comes up that I don't have enough time to do everything, you have to either take that stuff away from me, or give me some more help.

((Or I leave because you refuse to recognise that I got so far behind waiting for other work to be done that I just spent three weeks hiring my own electricians and chasing them in order to correct the mistakes left by your project-managed builders, that you refuse to get back in to correct their mistakes because you talk to them like they were on your shoe and so they block every avenue you try. Just so that you could actually power up a laptop in a classroom, that's how bad it got in some cases. And then have the cheek to ask why the IT is behind schedule by a **day** or two...))

If it's not explicitly in my contract, expect it to be a favour you ask of me. If you ask nicely, it's not a huge burden, and I feel confident doing so, I might even take it on full-time. But don't just expect me to jump because you have "and other reasonable duties" in my contract.

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Facepalm

"fish tanks (don't ask)" Re: General IT

Then let me guess... someone asked why the screensaver was stuck on.

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Pint

Re: General IT

I work in a school too, if it has batteries or a power plug, it gets dumped on our office. I feel your pain (even lived some of it) about all the other stuff you're asked to do, but how, if you work in a school do you have time to write 1300+ words? It's longer that the advert and the article.

I'd give you two pints, but can only put the icon in once....

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Re: General IT

Currently owed more holiday (including carried over from last financial year) than my notice period.

Unreasonable working environment (somewhat because of the above).

Resigned from job.

Got home.

Had email job offer within 3 minutes of being home (including Wifi login time) - starts next year

Am now enjoying reading TheReg and commenting on posts while looking for short-term contract work (two offers already).

Oh, and I type damn fast, as the guy who got a 38-page treatise on why the DPA stops me giving him the administrator passwords found out when he tried to argue law / case law with me. (Note: Not my successor, and I did do a handover!)

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Re: The thing that gets me...

But powertools make everything more fun!

Our IT tool collection is extensive.

Drills, cordless, corded SDS, hole cutters, countless manual tools.

Not long ago I was sawing wood in front of the server rack.

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Re: General IT

Don't forget buttons & switches!

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Re: General IT

"But don't just expect me to jump because you have "and other reasonable duties" in my contract."

Unfortunately, there is a reason why it's in your employment contract. You belong to them and if they ask you to jump then you either jump or face the possibility of it being used against you in a court of HR

Thats one the benefits of contracting... my "very specific" business insurance does not cover me when undertaking any tasks not specified in the contract

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I'd rather have it honest up front rather then...

...promising flowers and then dropping a pile of shit on you after.

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I've done that job for the past 15 or so years of my life. That is a young person's job. Dear me, I'm too old for that shit now. </18 with 12 years experience>

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Unhappy

That's the question. Responsibility *without* authority to change is BS

But there is a also what has been called "The sickener factor."

It's designed to discourage you before you start the test. It's to test your determination to succeed, despite apparently insurmountable odds.

Think of it as the inverse Koboyashi Maru scenario.

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It could be worse..

It could be worse.. You could be working for Macquarie Telecom in Australia. They rave about how their staff engagement is awesome and the company is all hip. yet it's all about stack ranking, smoke and mirrors and poor work life balance. To put some icing on the cake they also have really poor management teams and exces who are just yes men.

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