2010: Best Tales From the Tech Trenches

The daily grind of the tech professional's job is the focus of InfoWorld's Off the Record blog. In this "water cooler chat" setting, readers submit tales that we publish anonymously, sharing stories of humor or frustration or interesting situations faced by those who work in technology.

These stories from IT pros to other IT pros include the inevitable mistakes made or humbling lesson learned that make us all human: A way to cope with office backstabbing and time-wasting bureaucracy; a humorous encounter with an end-user or coworker; a way to deal with a frustrating situation; or a story that illustrates a relevant takeaway to the IT profession.

[ Read more InfoWorld Off the Record stories with memorable tales from 2009 and 2008. | Get a new tech tale delivered to your inbox every week in InfoWorld's Off the Record newsletter. ]

If you need an escape from the humdrum routine, take a look at the collection from this year's tech tales from the trenches. And to share your own memorable IT story, send your submission to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, we'll send you a $50 American Express gift cheque.

We look forward to the tech stories that 2011 will bring. Happy new year!

The tech pro on the job

Some Off the Record stories share tales about what it means to be an IT pro. Some are humorous, others harrowing. Patience is required to deal with many of these situations, be it solving the mystery of an unexpected tech problem or finding out just how little tech skills are valued at a former company: "We spoke for a couple of minutes, and ultimately, the conversation turned to Jean's computer problems. He wondered if I could take a look sometime soon. I said something, I don't quite recall what it was, but it was said to cover my surprise. I had just been asked for technical advice at a funeral."

More "on the job" stories:

  • A hospital is transitioning to electronic medical records, and a tech team is assembled to train the users on the new system. But they have to go back to the basics when reminded that even in this day and age, there are still people in the workforce who lack computer experience.
  • "Keyboards, condescension come together on a tech call." It's the first week at the new job for a help desk analyst, and the level of tech support a user expects soon becomes very obvious.
  • Closing down the email account of a laid-off company employee seems straightforward enough -- until an overlooked detail creates a PR nightmare in "Fixing the fallout from an errant out-of-office email."
  • Office politics ensure the tech's life is anything but boringBlundering bosses, out-of-touch-with-reality suits, and disgruntled or inept coworkers are often featured in Off the Record stories. In one newbie tech's tale of the first day on the job, he is given an ominous greeting by his soon-to-be-ex officemate: "The manager left and closed the door behind him. Bob looked at me and, barely waiting for the door to shut, said, 'If you have another job, go back to it. You won't make it here.'"

    More "office politics" stories:

  • In "The new IT job and the company malcontent," a new hire is warned from the beginning that he'll be working with someone who is very unhappy at the company. The drama is set.
  • IT managers who put bureaucracy before the company's business needs are eventually let go in this tale, showing why tech pros need to have common business sense.
  • Missing inventory? Blame the tech. A tech pro is asked to create inventory tracking software at a manufacturing company where the managers emphasize the need to be "flexible." What could go wrong?
  • The call center is down to only one complete workstation. The tech team prioritizes its needs and jumps through the bureaucratic hoops with a request for new monitors -- only to be denied. Months later, the team discovers where the money really went.
  • Users keep tech pros on their toes

    Ah, where would life be without the timeless stories of the scrapes users get themselves into? Take, for instance, the tale of user ignorance wreaking havoc on company's computer files: "I went to Ed's office, where he was hard at work on his new laptop. ... I found that on the advice of his teenage son, he was deleting any extra files to make his laptop run faster and give him more storage space. After deleting anything he didn't recognize on the C: drive, he had moved on to the P: drive (his personal network storage location), the G: drive (general public storage of shared documents), and the F: drive (the accounting system, the label system, the menu system). Overall, he had deleted almost 300MB off of his 20MB hard drive."

    More "users" stories:

  • A call comes in about a print job that won't print -- and morphs into anything but routine. The user's basic error is made far worse by unprofessional behavior and demonstrates that it is possible to print yourself out of a job.
  • There are many ways workers use and abuse company computers. After all, they don't purchase the hardware or software themselves, so why should they care?
  • How the question of the day solved a DSL problem: A tech support member finds that documenting even the tiniest detail can become a powerful troubleshooting tool down the road.
  • In "The IT tale of an anti-tech user," working with a professor who refuses to use computers is a challenging task for the IT and other staff on campus.
  • This story "2010's best tales from the tech trenches," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com.

    Read more about adventures in IT in InfoWorld's Adventures in IT Channel.

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