Help wanted with improving infra - phones / win desktops / linux servers

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by Laeeth, Dec 4, 2019.

  1. Laeeth

    Laeeth New Member

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    Hi.

    I've been a lurker reading these forums for a while, but only just recently registered an account.

    I'm in charge of technology and infrastructure for a small business - about 175 people across three countries (London, Hong Kong, Singapore) - and the company has grown quickly and I am looking for paid help with all kinds of different aspects. We use a managed service provider for desktop support + servers, and I suppose our experience is about what you would expect so we are taking back control of things incrementally and in an organic way.

    I have never been much of an enthusiast for the traditional enterprise technology approach to things and I think these days there's a value in actually understanding quite deeply how everything fits together and how individual parts work all the way down. If I go to a headhunter then I am going to get people who have a different set of capabilities and have been trained differently to what I need here - if you have a problem then reaching for a product or a solution might not be the best possible way to approach it.

    There are some big projects, and little ones. So for example the quality of the phones in meeting rooms is often quite poor and I could do with finding people who would be able to log into the devices, figure out if it's a configuration problem, run tests on the network and get to the bottom of things. Or set up an asterisk server (I run freepbx in an LXD container at home), experiment with different hardware choices until we get to something much better. We can be a lot more patient than some other places - it's fine to take the time to try different things if it's going to be in the direction of moving towards excellence.

    So if anyone is looking for work in this area, part-time or full-time, or has suggestions on where I can find people who are comfortable getting their hands dirty and figuring things out (whilst understanding that it's of course still a business) then I would appreciate any ideas.

    I think you pay for what someone can accomplish and not based on some standard idea about what that job should pay - so over time I can pay handsomely for the right sorts of people.


    Laeeth.
     
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  2. Terry Wallace

    Terry Wallace PsyOps SysOp

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    pm sent
     
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  3. EffrafaxOfWug

    EffrafaxOfWug Radioactive Member

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    <some simple questions and what I hope might be some helpful anecdotal advice>

    I'm a London IT bod myself (although not in the market for any sort of work) and I only really know the City scene and not Sing or HK but I'm interested to know what your interpretation of what the "traditional enterprise technology approach" entails...? All of the people I've worked with who I consider worth their onions, even if they were in quite specific roles, understood how parts fit together on a better-than-basic level for at least 75% of the stack - I'm not sure how anyone could work in enterprise IT at anything other than a very low level without understanding how and why systems interact. I've certainly worked at a lot of places where they were bringing in fixers after years' worth of substandard bodges finally started falling apart (I believe they call that "technical debt" these days) because no-one did understand large parts of the stack; some companies see this as a natural consequence of IT, in my opinion because they've never seen it done properly.

    I'd also make a (quite possibly semantic) distinction between "headhunters" and "recruiters"; recruiters in my experience tend to just look for anything with a functioning nervous system to fill a seat (even if it involves making shit up and editing the CVs - had this happen both to me and to people I was interviewing for roles) so they can collect their fee and move on to the next unsuitable candidate; headhunters - either internal to the company or through very specific agencies - are only looking for someone with a specific set of skills, and that usually means a headhunter with IT knowledge and an active interest in developing candidates rather than seeing them as Ikea units.

    I would say I've been headhunted for a good three quarters of my career (generally through friend-of-a-friend who knows someone in personnel), but my experience with what I call recruiters is generally terrible. Anecdotally, a good half of my career roles have started out based around companies insourcing their IT after dire experiences with MSPs, new broom beancounters or stereotypical Bangalore-style IT sweatshops with no technical nouse (but lots of knowledge in fleecing money out of clients).

    What is it you think a recruiter/headhunter is going to give you vs. what you're looking for?

    Your stated approach is The Right One in my opinion; IMHO it's worth spending time to do it the right way because it saves so much time further down the line, but even if you've got staff that are brilliant technically it requires a lot of management effort, which'll include trying to find ways to both incentivise people to do it properly, making sure everyone's pulling their weight, being prepared to let deadlines slip because of some complicated problem, and quite likely spending a lot of time and effort finding out how to keep your geeks happy and interested as well as focused, a talent that many so-called managers lack completely (because it's honestly really hard to do; I'm certainly not very good at it).

    (Incidentally I've turned down two jobs because job performance was largely rated on the speed with which you closed tickets; job performance reviews I rarely give a rat's crap about but it almost invariably turns in to a competition over who can close the ticket the fastest regardless of whether the problem's actually fixed or not. Companies like this approach because it's an easy way to measure "performance" but it's really just a lazy way of not knowing what your staff are doing. My queue was frequently a retirement home where problems grew old and got their pension before they died - I had one ticket open for four years for an intermittent but serious problem with telephony that stumped absolutely everyone including MS, VMware and Cisco but I was lucky in having my managers all the way up to the directors backing me up)

    You're a relatively tiny company but potentially growing quickly globally. Now is the best time to make key structural decisions as to how the company will scale if it continues to grow, and that might likely include unpicking what the MSP has done and refactoring it. People who'll take a long view and understand what designing an infrastructure to incorporate things like DR and/or failing over/expanding to cloud/bringing cloud on-prem. None of these are easy things to do but they're much easier when someone's spent a few days thinking about what might happen five years in to the future; I've seen plenty of companies hit a wall because they've run out of VLANs or they can't stack their switches or they've assumed that network/DNS is flat rather than segmented or that storage replication will never exceed 10ms or... <ad infinitum>. A good understanding of common infrastructure scalability pitfalls is exceedingly valuable. Additionally, I don't really consider infrastructure to be a separate thing from the applications - the two are intimately linked, one only ends where the other finishes, the only key thing is where - or even if - you draw the line.

    Token old fogey moment to close - personally I don't think good infrastructure/architecture people are churned out of IT farms - they are grown, and take years to be forged in the fiery crucible near the coalface, frequently fighting their way up from relatively junior positions because they just want to see things working properly, damnit. I'm in relatively high demand because it seems companies have for the most part given up on developing younglings in to fully-fledged BOFHs and instead rely on box-ticking recruiters and HR drones and aren't able to appreciate the difference between knowledge and wisdom. As such there seems to be a dearth of skill but a huge pool of young people with talent that is, for a large part, going untapped.

    £0.02
     
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  4. Terry Wallace

    Terry Wallace PsyOps SysOp

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    I agree. If you want someone who can dig into a problem find someone who spends their time digging into that problem space for fun. They generally turn out to be the most motivated.
    That’s why coming here is a brilliant move. Most of the people on this forum are here because they are exactly that type of person.
     
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