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April 6, 2009 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Last year, Infoworld published their list of the 7 dirtiest jobs in IT. This year, they're back with 7 even dirtier jobs.

posted by Afroblanco (38 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
good lord, what a bunch of whiners! At least they have jobs!
posted by HuronBob at 11:17 AM on April 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've steam cleaned the overhead vents at McDonalds and Burger King.
I pulled newborn calves out of livestock uteruses.
I've shoveled cow shit from sun up to sun down.

In spite of that, nothing prepared me for the shock and horror of overturning a user's desk to find three years worth of boogers shellaced to the bottom. It looked like a Pollack painting under there.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:34 AM on April 6, 2009 [15 favorites]

Dirty IT job No. 1: Espionage engineer

The things I have seen cannot be unseen.
posted by chillmost at 11:35 AM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is this SFW?
posted by Big_B at 11:37 AM on April 6, 2009

Unplugging dusty computers? Those workers are the true heroes. *salutes and sheds single tear*
posted by DU at 11:44 AM on April 6, 2009

The biggest single issue Grimes is asked to investigate? Sex between two employees. "That accounts for 50 to 75 percent of the requests," he says.

This seems very silly. Aren't employees having sex happier than employees not having sex?
posted by eye of newt at 11:46 AM on April 6, 2009

At various times and in various places, I've done four of the listed jobs (7 ,5 ,2 ,1) and managed a team of #4s. No wonder I'd rather put an icepick in my ear than go back to an IT operations job.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:10 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

This seems very silly. Aren't employees having sex happier than employees not having sex?
posted by eye of newt at 2:46 PM on April 6 [+] [!]

I recently left a very large, multinational, and very backwards-minded company that had a policy where if two employees got married, HR would call them in for a meeting and by the end of it one of the two would be forced to resign. Life was made very uncomfortable for employees suspected of dating each other.

The company assumed that anybody it hired was planning on staying there for life, and the company didn't want to deal with potential nepotism claims where with promotions and job changes one spouse could eventually end up being a subordinate of the other.

Obviously there are better ways of handling it but regressive policies are the among the reasons I left.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 12:12 PM on April 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I pulled newborn calves out of livestock uteruses.
I've shoveled cow shit from sun up to sun down.

Farm work can be pretty bad, but we used to fabricate parts for a sewage treatment plant (Smell? What Smell?). Somehow, someway we must have royally pissed off someone because one day they took us to a separate building to measure some equipment which needed to be replaced. Inside lurked a hideous beast called a "rag filter." The smell of this thing defies description. Think electric drill with wire brushes in the chuck. In both of your nostrils. At the highest RPM. Somethink which is no longer a smell but a physical acute pain. Lesson learned: be very careful who you piss off, payback can be very unpleasant.
posted by digsrus at 12:17 PM on April 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

i once had a job standing on a ladder sawing off old cast-iron pipes with a hack-saw...in part of the city morgue...on an overnight shift.

i remember a sink filled with brains....i quit.
posted by geos at 12:43 PM on April 6, 2009

I couldn't get through the whole list, too much angst. By far the worst thing IT task I've had to do is pull wires through the attic crawlspace of a 90 year old house full of rusty nails and moldy mounds of ancient, stinky, shredded insulation, wondering if it's full of asbestos and trying not to wonder why it looks like piles of dead sheep carcasses. In July -- in Florida -- with no ventilation.
posted by empyrean at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2009

Both links seem to be dead ... I'm getting a "Page Not Found" error page.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:50 PM on April 6, 2009

The dirtiest job in IT I ever saw was a co-worker repairing an IBM 407 Analyzer Unit. He had both forearms covered in an oil-ink-dust mixture up to his elbows. (and we wore suits in those days)

My personal top 7 dirty jobs I've done:
-Replacing 1403 hydraulic drive units
-Rebuilding 1416 print trains
-Anything involving indelible ink ribbons
-Cleaning 15 pounds of toner out of developers
-pulling 100' interface cables under a raised floor built in the 50's and no one has cleaned under there since
-fixing anything installed at a railroad switching yard
-Cleaning up fuser oil leaked all over the print engine cards.
posted by MtDewd at 12:59 PM on April 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

a sink filled with brains

My new MeFi handle! :-D
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:12 PM on April 6, 2009

-Cleaning 15 pounds of toner out of developers

Even at the low points of my software development career -- heck, even during all-night coding sessions in college -- my diet was never that nasty.
posted by gurple at 1:19 PM on April 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

Are IT operations just as backwards at IT focused companies, Yahoo, Google, etc.?
posted by geoff. at 1:24 PM on April 6, 2009

trying not to wonder why it looks like piles of dead sheep carcasses.

In houses that old, lambswool insulation wasn't uncommon. So, there you go.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:25 PM on April 6, 2009

I was once tasked with building a list of all possible "offensive" words, including all possible foreign obscenities, and hip-hop spelling variations. That was a fun two weeks =p
posted by nomisxid at 1:33 PM on April 6, 2009

I once helped my dad with a computer forensics job. The guy had a hard drive filled with porn and stuff from rotten.com.

So I was at work. Looking at porn. For my dad.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:36 PM on April 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Worst IT job I've ever had: relocating 50 workstations from a college computer lab that had been unmoved for at least 3 years. Never under estimate the abuse and grime which thousands of college students will put 50 computers through, especially if left partially unattended for long hours on late nights. And this was a lab inside a CS department, primarily used by graduate students. -shivers-
posted by strixus at 1:36 PM on April 6, 2009

> Are IT operations just as backwards at IT focused companies, Yahoo, Google, etc.?

Depends on where you are looking, and what your definition of backwards.

Their datacenters are probably pretty damn spotless, built from the ground up, to in incorporate a lot of the lessons learned from early data center designs (hey, lets filter the air before we cycle it through the room, lets make sure wires are run properly and removed if they aren't being used, etc).

Also, those places can afford to automate both zombie hunter and the espionage scouter. Places like Yahoo and Google, the code is King, and will provide answers to your problems, ones you didn't even know existed. As such, they have a lot of good information on tracking their own performance. They can actually look at a new system or a new process and be able to go "this will save us $250k in the first year, and pay for itself in two." Other companies that don't even know how to piece together their overall costs, and see IT as a blackhole for money with no return, usually end up holding on to thing much longer than they need too, but they can't imagine (or are not willing to reconsider) how adding a new piece of technology and/or changing how they do steps X,Y,Z will pay for the technology, instead of just being a loss for the quarter.
posted by mrzarquon at 2:00 PM on April 6, 2009

Are IT operations just as backwards at IT focused companies, Yahoo, Google, etc.?

in a word: no.
posted by GuyZero at 2:19 PM on April 6, 2009

Aren't employees having sex happier than employees not having sex?

Not as happy as the employees watching the other employees having sex.
posted by jonp72 at 2:20 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Grimes immediately looked at the CEO's hard drive, where he found a generously endowed cache of gay porn, as well as evidence the executive had booked a session with a male prostitute on a business trip to Miami. At the time, the CEO was days away from getting married.

Oh, it was GAY porn and a MALE prostitute! That TOTALLY makes it worse! Because it was GAY.
posted by Mikey-San at 4:00 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Because it was GAY.

No, because of the taters. *ducks*
posted by JoanArkham at 4:07 PM on April 6, 2009

Also, looking at the computers at the computer history museum this weekend, I am reminded that there used to be much worse IT jobs. Like having to change tapes on mainframes. Or being the guy that loaded punch cards all day. or the guy who had to toggle bootcodes via panel switches into a mainframe. Kids today have it easy.

And some of those machines had 60's vintage air condition compressors built right in. Nothing like putting a motor and a gigantic container of freon right next to your discrete logic mainboards and core memory.
posted by GuyZero at 5:32 PM on April 6, 2009

And here I thought roll in roll out warehouses that hadn't been cleaned in 20 years were the worst.

One of my clients bought a wholesaler in a small town that had obviously been neglected. I was tasked with running Ethernet around the office, which required going out into the warehouse, climbing on top of the office area, and pulling cable along metal framing members that obviously hadn't been touched since the place was built in the 60s.

The combination of dust, oil, and soot from diesel exhaust made for a rather nasty and difficult to remove combination. I'm lucky the place was whiter than a sheet, because no matter how much I scrubbed I looked like I was going around in blackface for days.

A couple years later I did the same thing at another location. It was even nastier..the carpet hadn't even been vacuumed in who knows how long, but at least I didn't end up in blackface again. There was more oil in that place, so the soot all stuck together and made big dust bunnies that would stay together rather than flying around and adhering to skin.

When they moved some time after that, I swear I ended up blowing out half a desert's worth of crap out of their 5 or 10 computers. It shocked me that the CPU fans still turned with the cases literally filled with dust bunnies and coated in grime both inside and out.
posted by wierdo at 7:19 PM on April 6, 2009

*Shit* - I was on that list... WIMS... Wastewater Information Management System...
posted by jkaczor at 7:48 PM on April 6, 2009

This seems very silly. Aren't employees having sex happier than employees not having sex?

IBM has a rule: No sex on company time or furniture.
posted by blasdelf at 10:32 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

The worst job in IT? I almost had that one. I used to work at a newspaper, and we had this proprietary editorial system (ATEX J11 users, represent), with these elaborate, specialised keyboards; the journos and subs (especially) loved them and were very particular about them; the J11s were end of lifed before I joined, and so we had no real way of replacing them - the company had literally bought the last spare parts ATEX sold, all of them, for repair purposes. There was some guy in England making replacements hand-lathed out of metal for, like, $3000 a pop or something.

Anyhoo, repairing them was a pain in the arse because the journos were in love with their particular keyboard and would become convinced it had particular characteristics that, even after a tear-down and refurbishment, were crucial to their productivity. They must have the right one back, their one, and it must retain the right feel. This in an environment where the people I was dealing with had no compunction about yelling "Which useless cunt wrote this?" across the floor to indicate displeasure with the quality of material on their screen.

But that wasn't the bad bit; the bad job was when one particular sub needed his keyboard cleaned. Giff was his name, and Giff was a bit of an odd chap. Brilliant sub, never missed a deviation from the style guide, but, like a number of the subs, not quite right. And one way this manifested itself was the cleanliness of his area.

To say that my colleagues dreaded hearing his keyboard needed work would merely underline the paucity of my command of the English language when it comes to communicating horror; I fear that unless I were H.P. Lovecraft himself I could not begin to express properly what lurked within. Allow me to try to illustrate my moving from his keyboard to the disturbing topic of his desk: the cleaners would not go there any more. Hardened men and women, the cleaning staff, but they had explained to their boss, who had explained to the company, that Giff's desk was a no-go zone. Instead, the carpet tiles around it were ripped up and replaced as the filth caused them to rot where they lay.

Imagine, then, what matter would be trapped in the keyboard; it was filth beyond belief; others attempted to warn me, but, dear reader, it could not be understood, it had to be experienced.

One fateful day Giff's keyboard came down for refurbishment. Not having my electrical certification, I was not allowed to work on it; I was, however, on the same floor when it was opened. The stench... the stench was appalling. I came of age on a farm; I have moved the rotting, maggot-riddled corpses of cows who died months before; I have dealt with offal pits and the things dogs like to roll in. I have been downwind of sewerage treatment plants. I have smelled awful things. But the unholy, floor-clearing stench of Giff's keyboard puts them all to shame.

I steadfastly declined all offers to take up that certification.
posted by rodgerd at 3:49 AM on April 7, 2009 [5 favorites]

I've done 5 of 7 of those jobs, mostly as a student because that's what student/intern labor is good for: spying on enemies of the boss, ripping dead cables out of mission critical systems, processing hundreds of discarded PCs, tearing down IT installations and setting them back up at satellite locations, spying on enemies of the boss, and pouring over endless network operations data.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:46 AM on April 7, 2009

Okay, finally got the links to work. (Apparently T-Mobile is breaking the Internets again.) Everything seemed pretty par for the IT course except for the workplace spying bit.

All the other "dirty job" descriptions seemed to humanize the people doing them, but the guy interviewed in that one sounds like the worst sort of sleaze. Not only that, he sounds like a dangerous idiot.

Let's review the story there: he gets hired to review some company, and discovers people there view a lot of porn at work, like 50% of network traffic. Okay, so far so good. He takes this finding to the CEO, who is his client, and the CEO tells him politely to drop the line of inquiry. That should have been the end of the line right there. It's not like he stumbled upon a murder coverup; he presented something he thought was an issue, the CEO told him it wasn't, so much for that. But then he apparently rifles though the CEO's computer and finds -- gasp! -- not just porn, but gay porn. A hunch confirmed! Scandal! Marriage, ruined!

Stepping aside from the whole gay issue, in what universe does he think this makes the investigator look good? Who in their right mind would want to hire someone who's likely, who has not only demonstrated but brags about, going off the farm and targeting the CEO, after the CEO told him to drop a line of inquiry? That's not somebody you hire; at best they're a loose cannon, at worst they're a dangerous and uncontrollable hazard.

Creepy all around, that one.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:32 AM on April 7, 2009

That's not somebody you hire;

If I'm a the owner or shareholder it is, actually. Managers who break the rules they set for the company would something I'd be most interested to hear about.

(I've done the spy role, too. It's remarkable how often "looking at porn at work" correlates with "is useless at job anyway" and merely provides a convenient way of firing someone easily. It was disturbing when a senior accountant spent a substantial amount of time at a betting agency...)
posted by rodgerd at 11:22 AM on April 7, 2009

We had an intern at one job who had a VPN set up between work and home and was running an automateed NNTP-download and un-uuencode process at work and then ferrying all the pron over his VPN to his home server. So there wasn't any pron at work right? Turns out this guy was eating about 70% of the company bandwidth which kinda turned the sysadmins on to him pretty quick.

Interns tend to get away with it once without getting fired on tha basis that everyone agrees that they're actually that stupid.
posted by GuyZero at 11:28 AM on April 7, 2009

> Who in their right mind would want to hire someone who's likely, who has not only demonstrated but brags about, going off the farm and targeting the CEO, after the CEO told him to drop a line of inquiry?

His job and charter if you will, is to find people in violation of the acceptable use policies, etc. And chances are, the CEO was not the individual who brought this person in, he was brought in by the IT department or other legal compliance department. In fact the whole reason why he is probably a contractor and not someone directly hired by the company is so he can go and investigate anyone and anywhere. As a share holder, you'd want to know if the CEO was about to split with all your company assets and confidential information, etc.

> automateed NNTP-download and un-uuencode process at work and then ferrying all the pron over his VPN to his home server

I guess that office had a faster (or free) NNTP access than what he had at home? I mean, what other benefit would he have gotten downloading the files at work and then sending them home over whatever slow ass connection he has at home?
posted by mrzarquon at 4:07 PM on April 7, 2009

Let me reiterate the key word here: intern. He was probably just marveling at his duct-tape-and-bailing-wire contraption working at all, much less working sensibly.
posted by GuyZero at 4:35 PM on April 7, 2009

No mention of printers? Surely refilling toner cartridges is up there on the list. I demand a recount!
posted by pwnguin at 4:56 PM on April 7, 2009

Dude, toner (while possibly cancer causing if you snort the stuff daily) is sterile and might make your clothes dirty. I'd take that over official computer unplugger (which I do already, but on a smaller scale, and in an office that has just been moved into 18+ months ago), or any of the other jobs.
posted by mrzarquon at 5:13 PM on April 7, 2009

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