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back to article IT staffers on ragged edge of burnout and cynicism

A survey of stress levels among IT security staff, thought to be the first of its kind, has shown that an alarming number of staffers are suffering dangerous levels of cynicism, leaving them depressed and unable to function properly. The survey (securityburnout.org) was organized by Jack Daniel, founder of the Security B-Sides …

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WTF?

What Do All The Negative Comments Mean ?

Some possibilities:

A) The days of the glass datacenter and the stupid green terminal were better. Centralized admin, centralized maintenance, real experts, awe for the datacenter specialists.

B) Too many people in IT; they can be treated like $hit because they are easy to replace.

C) Too many companies do stuff they should better leave to a service company and the people doing it are overworked and not really competent. For example, companies should hire Managed Security businesses to protect their intranets. Google Docs instead of MS Office. Salesforce instead of inhouse SAP installations.

D) IT is in general too complicated and fails in byzantine ways. IT people too submissive in accepting one more technology to maintain.

E) IT people simply don't know how to fend for themselves.

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Re: What Do All The Negative Comments Mean ?

"E) IT people simply don't know how to fend for themselves."

How can you fend for yourself when you're balancing projects, enquiries and other related stuff when you're balancing these like a clown doing a juggling ball act on a rolling platform?

Problem is that there are plenty of non-social IT people (can't communicate with a customer), plenty of laidback approachers (know how to B$ their way through a problem - doesn't truly solve), and not enough who can be geeky enough but be no so anti-social to talk to people to get the true realistic picture across without confusing the management souls at be.

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Flame

T, FTFY

"spending too long at a company is seen by some employers as a sign that a staff member has reached their intellectual limits"

should have been

"spending too long at a company is seen by some employers as a sign that a staff member has reached their top pay grade and need to start over elsewhere for less."

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Of course

The report of the study seems to say very little about the kind of personalities attracted to high-stress IT jobs in the first place.

Can communicate with computers, cannot communicate with humans. Has a tendency to blame all ills on someone else (usually given the generic label 'management'). Breaks out in hives when asked to document or explain anything he or she is doing. Has an addictive personality that manifests itself in overuse of alcohol or illicit drugs. Has an inflated sense of own importance (manifested by frequent utterances of "Without me/us this dump would grind to a halt.")

Perhaps none of those people actually take IT jobs.

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Too many people are Semi IT literate

Half the problems stems from too many people think they know alot about computers, cos they built their own PC.

However they do not have a clue what the techies really do. Oh is just A:\install is the most common joke I hear from the guys in the business.

Then you tell them you have to set up 127 virtual servers. DR/HA half of them, do pen testing for the internet facing part,run stress/performance tests to proove the system meets the SLAs that have been plucked out of the air.

And all you get back is . "I only want SAP installed."

Business needs to get back to the point where they realise that quality IT costs money. It can't be done on the cheap.

I often see project plans (far too late in the process) that are so far fetched, and they don't even have dependencies on IT, it beggers belief.

Then you get the big strop when you add in the dependencies and the project goes RED.

I also find there are just not enough really experienced people around to hire. Most CVs I get are from the Gui generation, ask them what happens under the hood and they don't have a clue.

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The keyword is preparation

Preparing for what might inevitably happen someday. That can go a very long way and its been my experience that a lot of people don't take the time for this. This used used to include me too b.t.w...

For example, if you're in a stressful situation where 10+ customers mail you to report e-mail problems its usually better to try and come up with a scheme which answer ('addresses') their complaints (even if it is an automated response) than to think "ok, got it. just hang on, I'm working on it fast as I can!" because then you can rest assured that they'll eventually going to call you.

Which means that you have to pause your work, so it will take longer before things get fixed, so the risk that more customers are going to call in due to the time the problems last also increases.

I know this sounds all too easy and obvious, just wait until you actually live such a situation. Then its much more tempting to pick up the problems and go go go instead of taking some time first to look into the most efficient way to deal with the problem and its possible side effects (especially these!).

And as said; in my experience most people tend not to do this because "time is money". Yet investing time is sometimes the best way to save lots of it in the longer run.

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FAIL

Dissenting view

I don't think the current generation of IT staff knows what stress is. The "me" generation thinks that putting in a full 8 hours is cruel and unusual punishment. Suck it up and do the job, or quit and go work for the government if you want a cushy ride and a nice pension.

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Black Helicopters

Put your teeth back in, grandpa.

On my days off, I put in 8 hours. When I work, it's more like 12 to 16.

I'm on call 24/7, and have been the sole answerer of those calls for 10+ years.

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Windows

Cor, you think you've got problems..

OK, my current 'work experience' is to 1) design a video capture system (done), and 2) create an internal network to turn the old building into a cultural powerhouse, with an internal network, webserver, and several computers.

If I can't finish the task to the PHB's satisfaction, I could lose my dole for 90 "werkin daze'" As it's "work experience" I get an extra €9 per "werkin' day".

Now, I am to IT as a ballet-dancer is to hod-carrying. I'm a radio engineer, FFS.

Windows Server 2008 R2? Never played with it.

Anyway, I arrive duly every morning at 09:00 and struggle. Struggle? OK, the 'office' (OK, desk) is in an "Asukastupa" (Citizen's house) - a place in each subdistrict that anyone can go to, to use Internet, do sewing, take some strange course like "Psychic Writing", learn a language, eat cheap food, chat, etc. The area is populated by many immigrants. Somalians, mainly, who take advantage of the facilities. Great, that's what they're for! (asukastpa's, not somalians)

BUT, we have limited bandwidth.

So, when someone wants to watch their fave Arabic movie, I haven't a chance of getting a page on the internet. Boss is no help, spending most of his time in a remote "office" (=home). In fact, when he buys the Dell R510 - 2xquad-cores, 12 raid-6 disks he's been convinced to buy, I cannot imagine in the 2 months left I can work out how to deal ANYTHING about it. (God knows why he needs such computing power on the first shot...expand as you grow, surely?)

If I hit him over the head with the Dell, he wouldn't know that was the server I'm supposed to setup.

You guys earn reasonable money. I'm kept awake for the price of a couple of beers per night (werkin daze Only!)

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Black Helicopters

Re: Cor, you think you've got problems..

I feel your pain. Any chance you'll get employment more in your line sometime? Look into zigbee and xbee if you want the crossover between IT and radio.

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Boffin

Re: Cor, you think you've got problems..

For the bandwidth thing, you need to set limits. Take a look at this as just one way to do on the cheap:

http://www.freebsdonline.com/content/view/513/531/

From there, you just need to tune it so that nobody gets to hog the pipe. Your movie watchers will adjust their behavior accordingly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cor, you think you've got problems..

You have to take your pay in kind then. When the new box comes, first stick some virtualisation software on it. Citrix or Proxmox. Then create many virtual machines on it, one of them would be where you store the Warez, another run a windows terminal server, e.t.c. Just don't give your babies obvious names.

All of your (and your friends) computing needs could be served by leeching on that box.

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Trollface

Re: Re: Cor, you think you've got problems..

I think Andus' problem isn't a hot box on the far side of a very skinny pipe -- it's the skinny pipe.

That said, your idea has a lot of merit in a lot of places. No sense in letting bossly CPU cycles go to waste. It doesn't take that much CPU to operate a Freecell server.

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Flame

Yep

Seen it. Fired people for it. On the other hand, at some point we need to realize that business units will always treat IT as a lowly service department within the company (like janitors) if IT lets them. "IT is an expense." "IT has to do what they're told." "IT has to be kept under control." "IT can be abused because they SERVE us."

If IT wants things to change then IT needs to speak up in the professional environment and make it clear that the abuse needs to end. The idea that everyone else is a professional and IT are the "geeks" and "nerds" who don't do anything "important" is a self-fulfilling prophecy unless IT stands up and demonstrates that they're a hell of a lot more important than the company is giving them credit for.

So, put down the beer. Toss the reefer. Put on a decent shirt. Quit feeling bad for yourself. Get up and make a professional stand.

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Windows

Re: Yep

Partially agree..

(The shirt doesn't matter that much, unless people are so stupid as to be judging you by your clothes, not by ability)

IDEA! If the head of IT has the same IT experience, why doesn't he/she take the ENTIRE IT department on a 'fact-finding mission' to...Seattle...moldovia...Finland, even....for a week on the understanding they can't take phones, nor read e-mails.

Interesting result.

(Of course, the might return to find the entire department has been farmed out to an Indian helpdesk, but...)

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Stop

No, Shirts DO Matter

Business people/managers dress nicely exactly because dress matters. It is not a conspiracy to enrich department stores selling suits. It is the correct calculation that suits do indeed impress other people, whether they wear suits or not.

Suit-wearers are assumed to be more competent or more important than t-shirt wearers. They are much less easily being ridiculed or belittled. That is why many consultants come into office in a nice suit - some do it every day for the whole project.

Having said that, I am probably myself ignoring these insights too often, but I also have to say that I am normally treated quite well...

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Windows

Re: No, Shirts DO Matter

Somebody should've told Steve Jobs about those "Shafts of Wit" (no, no, Dr. Spooner...Nooo!!)

It's cultural, of course. My boss (at one time head of a department at Nokia) would wear a t-shirt and jeans. I guess the reason was to ensure we were all in a team - but this was Finland. Can't imagine the same behaviour in, for example Germany, where to 'roll your sleeves up' is regarded as slovenly.

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IT Angle

Re: No, Shirts DO Matter

The original reason for suits were for not for businss men but for Ambasadors and such from another country.

The tie is also created out of political needs and not just for business decorum.

The Tie was invented in Ireland and was used to show which clan you came from.

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Pint

Mental Reboots

Small sample size or not, the study is seems spot on. Not 2 months into starting into the security field, I'll be talking to the GF about personal stuff, while thinking about work, and have a mental reboot.

That lovely blank expression, with "What were you saying again?"

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Big Brother

Oh dear

The IT staff are stressed out and cynical.

Hey welcome to the world of industrial robot programming where everything is wanted yesterday, fek all is planned, and the customers changes drawing issues/part deliveries at 5 second notice, then expect to get their bits 6 seconds later.

Couple that with enough robots for 8 programmers and only having 4 employed, and a manager whose main motivation technique is to run around flapping, then deny everyone a payrise because we've failed to hit profit targets this year, dispite turning over more work than we've ever done before.

Its common to nearly everywhere now because of the 'you can be outsourced' attitude from senior managers and customers resulting in lots of places not hiring enough skilled staff to do the work.

But hey ho, its easy to replace people with 5 yrs higher education and 10 yrs+ experience.... must be.... its what I get told every time I ask for a raise

Boris

BB... because the internal CCTV camera just switched on and is pointing in my direction

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"The W word"

I'm surprised nobody has brought up Windows as a factor. I mean, IT Security is surely stressful in general, but Windows just seems to make administration in general harder, and it seems like trying to plug a sieve as far as I'm concerned.

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"Other professions know that this is a problem and have strategies to deal with it, but there's no recognition of this in IT," Daniel told The Register. "In part it's because we're a very young profession that's constantly changing."

Daniel is missing the point, with no disrespect intended on my part.

Management isn't just unaware (though that's sometimes the case). In many cases, management just doesn't care. Plenty of them don't identify with IT(just a bunch of geeks, probably have social development issues, we don't understand what they're saying so it's probably not important). Further, while most of us know that in IT, the best departments make things go so smoothly it seems easy, that means management assumes it IS easy, not that we're working hard so that it is for our user base. And when it comes to funding IT vs. funding their own salary, benefits, or pet projects, IT will always take a back seat, even though expectations will still be high no matter how little IT is given to build on.

When you don't feel listened to, trusted, or appreciated, the results are lousy. I just left a job where my director took most of the credit (though I'll acknowledge he was owed some), but never told the IT staff they were appreciated, only what they did wrong. He didn't have our backs when a user took it out on us unfairly, and was more interested in showing how much he cut from the budget to justify his salary, rather than ensuring his people got funds for training, or fair compensation, and he wasn't open to issues that took more than thirty seconds to explain, nor constructive criticism.

I'm paid a little less, and my position is a little more entry-level; but I'm now part of a team where we don't have time for politics, and everyone understands IT, so we all understand its value and the amount of work it takes.

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