Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The job posting

The more I worked with my oldest son at the company I've worked for for nearly 20 years, the more I understand why my father, against all logic, tried to get me to take over his insurance business. And the more I understand why it probably killed him when I left after less than a year to continue my pursuit of a career in radio. But I didn't just leave, I repudiated the very notion of working in the same office.

It was dumb and it was just the type of thing 20-year-olds do.

My son never did that to me in the time he worked with me and I've never enjoyed walking in the door of work more than the five or so years he was on the other side of the doors.

Watching him work reminded me of the time I went to a band concert of his in the 5th or 6th grade and began to see him as an individual of unique talents that I did not possess. He was good at what he did, he was smart, and he brought the Collins Type A personality and critical self-assessment with him, which is the tragic assault of my DNA.

We'd have coffee almost every morning and during the day sometimes he'd stop by to shoot the breeze. It was great, especially considering all those years when father-and-son related the way fathers and sons often do.

Through absolutely no fault of his own, he's been unable to continue in the job. My company, knowing a valued employee when it sees one, worked hard to give him the time and space he needed, but in the end, he couldn't do the work to his level of satisfaction. The curse of Dad's DNA.

Last week, he informed the company he wouldn't be able to return to work, and last night, the company posted his job, which of course they had to do, but which, nonetheless, hit me like a ton of bricks anyway, even though I knew what was coming.
Windows Systems Administrator #168-12
Location: Saint Paul, MN
Salary Range: $56,177-$84,265
Exempt/Non-Exempt: Exempt
Benefits: yes
Employment Type: Full Time
Description: The Windows Systems Administrator will work in the IT Infrastructure team within the Technology and Operations department of American Public Media | Minnesota Public Radio. The Windows Systems Administrator will provide technical support, upgrades, patch management, and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) administration. The Windows System Administrator will support, upgrade, and maintain media and broadcast related Microsoft servers and applications that are critical to the support of Minnesota Public Radio such as automation and play to air. This position will support Broadcast Media/Operations/Windows servers/applications in all APMG locations. Primary reporting will be to the Manager of IT Infrastructure with secondary reporting to the Manager of Media Productions.

Position Responsibility:

• Develop, install, recommends purchase, implementation, and configuration of Microsoft technologies and infrastructure systems.
• Implementation, administration, maintenance, and disaster recovery planning for multi-site Microsoft Server environment.
• Administration and management of Microsoft Systems Center Configuration Manager (SCCM).
• Distribute application and operating system patches to Windows desktops, laptops and servers.
• Develop, manage and install application and operating system deployments, including Play to Air and Broadcast Media systems, using SCCM.
• Perform Windows systems capacity planning and performance analysis.
• Conduct complex troubleshooting and repair of Active Directory, Windows server 2000/2003/2008, DNS, user authentication and other operational systems as needed.
• Research, evaluate and recommend new technologies in order to meet business requirements and contribute to long-range planning for systems evolution.
• Research, build, administer, implement, and support all current APMG play-to-air and media production computer based systems. These systems include: ENCO, Dalet, Protools, Music Master, Final Cut, other audio/video systems and related media systems.
• Recommend alterations to existing technologies to improve quality and/or reduce costs.
• Document strategies, designs, policies, recommendations, procedures, and status using Microsoft Office, Visio, and/or Project using clear, consistent, and concise language.
• Implement disaster recovery plan for all media production systems when needed, assist with regular test procedures and user training.
• Use scripting tools/languages to automate software installations
• Work with peers to establish security, management and support standards for APMG computer environment.
• Manage Microsoft group policies.
• Complete support assignments on time and within budget.
• Work with vendors for product information and design, pricing, and support escalation.
• Provide cross training to team members who provide secondary support.
• Provide IT departmental budget input as requested.
• Provide On-Call support in a 24/7 environment.
• Assist in special projects as assigned.

Required Education and Experience:

• Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Information Systems, or equivalent experience.
• 3-5 years of experience installing and supporting computer hardware and Microsoft software in an enterprise setting.
• 3-5 years of administration experience with Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and 2008.
• 3+ years of experience managing SMS 2003 or SCCM 2007.
• Experience managing operating system deployment systems.
• Experience with enterprise implementations of Microsoft applications (e.g. SQL, AD, WSUS)

Required Skills, Knowledge and Abilities:

• Strong diagnostic skills and demonstrated ability to research problems independently using multiple resources to support computer hardware and software at the enterprise level.
• Thorough understanding of client computers in a business environment.
• Thorough understanding of security risks in the current business computing environment.
• Understanding of Microsoft Active Directory schema.
• Deep knowledge of SMS 2003 or SCCM 2007’s patching capabilities and application distribution functionality.
• Working knowledge of application installation and methodologies for automated installation.
• Scripting knowledge.
• Able to perform work independently or in a team environment.
• Ability to effectively communicate with the appropriate level of technical detail for your audience.
• Ability to establish and maintain positive working relationships in order to achieve common goals.
• Excellent listening and organizational skills.

Preferred Skills and Experience:

• Microsoft certification (such as MCSE, MCITP, MCTS, or MTA).
• Knowledge of Wake-on-LAN desired.
• Experience in a broadcasting or media environment.
• Skill with using scripting languages.

I think about my son almost every minute of every day. A lot of people can forget about their worries by diving into things at work. That doesn't work for me.

If that job sounds like it's right up your alley, you should apply for it. But you'll be filling some big shoes of one hell of a kid.

You'll notice, perhaps, that I've only made three posts on the blog this year. This has been the worst year we've ever had, and at this Thanksgiving, I struggle to be grateful that it wasn't worse.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Jose Cardenal and the bucket list

Today is Jose Cardenal's birthday. He might be the person who made it possible for me to check an item off my "bucket list," but, alas, he's not.

Jose played for the Cleveland Indians for only two years -- 1968 and 1969 -- and he wasn't particularly good for them, but to a young Indians fan, he might as well have been Babe Ruth. Such is the nature of hero worship.

It was September 16, 1969 and my mother took me to the ballgame at Fenway Park when the Indians came to town. Bleacher tickets back then were only $1 and we frequently watched baseball from what was widely thought to be the best deal in baseball.

At some point, possibly before the game started, an old usher stood at the bottom of the row, leaning on the giant cement wall in centerfield and motioned for me to come down to him.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a baseball -- a real Major League Baseball official baseball, which presumably had been swatted into the bleachers during batting practice.

In the third inning, with nobody on and two out, Jose Cardenal launched a Jim Lonborg pitch into the bleachers for his 10th homerun of the year, propelling the Indians to a 5-2 win, a rare occasion for the team in 1969, a season in which they lost 90 games.

At some point in the game, my mother suggested I claim that the ball in my hands was that homerun. And so I did for some years thereafter.

But it wasn't. And I've never come close to checking "catch a ball at a baseball game" off the bucket list again.

Happy birthday, Jose!

Friday, July 01, 2011

It's not the heat, it's the memories

If we are not careful and paying attention, we can let the professional weatherpeople lead us down the path of meteorological despair. "It's 90, but it feels like 106!" they warned today as summer made the apparently unwelcome visit to Minnesota even though we've been longing for it for weeks.

When I let the Blog Dog back in from her morning inspection of the south 40 this morning, she was panting like a two-stroke engine, a reminder to me to keep the windows shut and the air conditioner on. You don't want to go out in this weather because, you know, it's not the heat, it's the humidity that will get you if you're not careful.

That's a phrase that still occupies a disk sector in the hard drive in my head, "it's not the heat, it's the humidity."

It's around 1960, the memory bank reveals, and I'm at my mother's feet while she utters those words to someone. We're in the driveway of our home.

"What's humidity?" I asked.

"You can't really feel it when you're a kid," she said. "But when you get older, you'll know."

I'm older now, of course. I recognize humidity and loathe its existence and the passing of time that made its recognition possible.

The senses are a time machine. A song on the radio takes you anywhere in the past you want to go. A smell -- for me, it's Candyland in downtown St. Paul -- transports you to a boardwalk, a summer night, and a lost love.

I could avoid the outdoors no longer this morning. I had to dump the coffee grounds in the compost bin. I had no choice but to accept fate, open the back door and step into ... 1964.

This temperature. This humidity. I remember this exact combination in a place and moment that no longer exists. It's a trailer on the oceanfront of Plum Island in Newburyport, Massachusetts, which seemed like luxury then but which I realize now was a desperately cramped spot for five kids and two parents.

I am 10 years old and it's the beginning of another perfect day, me with my freedom to spend it roaming the beach looking for lost lures, watching the charter boats head for George's Bank, seeing what's up at the Coast Guard station, standing at the end of the jetty as the tide comes in pretending I'm the captain of a trawler in the storm, smelling the rope at the tackle store, or riding the bike to the variety store for the latest Archie comic book. My parents are half the age I am now. It is summer, I don't know what a dewpoint is, and these are the best days of my life.

Be careful if you go out today. You might become 10 years old again.