Data Center



BOFH and the Pay Rise

Managing expectations

Episode 3

BOFH 2003: Episode 3

BOFH logo So I roll into work and almost run into Head of IT - who's eagerly loitering around the secretary's cubicle in much the same manner he probably loiters around Russell Square of an evening.

Seeing the data lamp on the secretary's printer flashing calmly, I feel obliged to slip into the support role.

"Waiting for a printout?" I ask.

"Yes, my Salary/Position Review results."

"Can't you just look at them on your screen?"

"I would, but the page was the size of a bloody postage stamp and I could barely make out paragraphs, let alone words."

An emergent page saves me having to explain what ZOOM means, using small English words, a measure of patience and a length of plastic hose...

"Woohooo!" The Head gasps, looking at the bottom line of his evaluation. "A PAY RISE!!!"

"It's obviously a misprint," I say, looking over his shoulder at the bottom line figure.

"I don't think so!" he gloats happily.

"There's no way they'd pay you that much!"

"What?!" The Head snaps, catching a slight whiff of mutiny and preparing the gangplank. "Oh! Of course, he continues, changing tack in a smarmy manner. "You're not Management, so you'd be less, uh, WELL paid".

"I didn't realise that there was THAT much disparity!" I blurt unhappily. "I can't believe you get that much a day!"

"Uh, A week" he corrects.

"A week? Oh! Oh well, that's OK then - my mistake!" I blurt in a tone carefully crafted to raise nasty suspicions.

"What do you mean, 'OK?' Why? Are you implying that you earn more than me?"

"Uh, well, I'm not really sure of the exact figures. Didn't you sign my contract?"

"No, it rolled over from the previous Head of IT. So how much do you earn?"

"Uh, I don't know that I wish to discuss that with you," I respond, modulating my tones to imply he's being left out on some juicy gossip.

"I can find out anyway," he replies. "All I have to do is ring personnel!"

"Finance," I correct. "As I'm a direct contractor. In fact, as I'm contracted to the company and not to you directly, and whilst you pay for contractors from your budget you wouldn't be permitted to look at my personal charges..."

"AH HAH!" The Head cries, slapping his key into the secretaries' filing cabinet. "I may not be able to see your salary, but I CAN look up the contracting account and see the annual outgoings!!"

[A couple of minutes of ferreting in paper later...]

"HERE!" He cries, preparing for his I-earn-more-than-you-do gloat. "The contracting bill for last year! Let's see, you and your assistant charged us... uh... Oh, there doesn't seem to be an amount..."

"Yes there is," I point out helpfully. "in the bottom right hand corner."

"Really?" the Head mumbles deflatedly. "I thought that was a phone number."

"No, no" I say. "That figure would be inclusive of myself, my assistant and some one-off project consultancy contracts (Security, Standardised desktop, Wireless Survey, and LAN Topology reconfigure from memory) from independent specialised companies."

"I thought so," he smirks. "The majority of it goes to other companies."

"..owned by myself and my assistant," I add.

"But...You mean you charged the company that much over the past year?"

"Uh..." I murmur, pretending to count off numbers in my head. "Yes."

"But you earn far more than I do."

"Of course I do!" I cry.

"But without linked salaries, the organisational structure of responsibility falls to bits!" The Head sniffles.

"Well, it's not as though you do any real work, is it?"

"What?!" he snaps, getting into gangplank mode again.

"Well, I mean you 'MANAGE' - whatever that means, but you don't go out there and get your hands dirty, do you? I mean when was the last time you went to a user's desktop and reinstalled their machine because their registry was full?"


"And when was the last time you opened up a machine and reseated all the boards to eliminate a thermal expansion problem?"

"Well it's not rea..."

"And when was the last time a user came to your office to ask you for the best porn sites on the internet?"


"Oh, Sorry, that was me. But ask yourself one question: Who's easier to replace, you or me?"

"You, obviously. There's stacks of Systems people out there, but Technical Managers with business acumen and project based accountability.."

"Yesss," I respond sarcastically. "There's only a couple of thousand graduates every year emptying themselves in THAT pool.."

"So you're saying that you get paid more than me because your job's more technical?"

"Oh yes. Never underestimate the bargaining power of someone who knows how to do as well as manage."

"Well in that case, what can I learn to increase my chances of earning more money?"

"Obviously not plain Systems Admin - you need a niche market. I mean I'm a Systems Admin with DBA, Networking and Audio/Video Conferencing, and The PFY is much the same, except he's got a slightly stronger profile in the hardware line, service always being an issue."

"So you think I should get into hardware?"

"You could do a lot worse. Do you know that some Engineer chargeout rates are as high as 500 quid an hour for specialised work like SAN installation?"

"Really?!? What's a SAN?"

"Storage Area Network. You've not heard of one?"


"But we bought one last year. You approved it!"

"Yes, yes, but I don't have time to read through everything I approve."

"It cost quarter of a million quid!"

"Yes, but I was very busy last year."


"Well anyway, we have a SAN installed - and it's extremely expensive to get work done on it."

"I suppose that's because it's so huge. It's huge isn't it - it must be if it cost quarter of a million pounds!"

"Yes" I respond, cracking slightly under the pressure. "Massive, It's as big as a room. In fact to all intents and purposes it IS a room."

"Is it in the Computer Suite then?"

"No, no, it was much too big for that, we had to put it with the rest of the storage."

"In the basement?!"


. . . three hours later . . .

"Have you seen the Big Boss?" The PFY asks, wandering around with an unsigned purchase order.

"He's in the basement servicing the SAN."

"The SAN?" The PFY asks curiously "In the.. BASEMENT?!"

"Well, when I say SAN, I mean Power Distribution Transformer, and when I say 'Servicing' I mean giving it an Oil change and removing all the 'DANGER, DO NOT REMOVE COVERS off to.... Oh look, the power's gone out."

. . .

It's just too easy sometimes.. ®

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