Need Advice - First IT Job

That Random GuyThat Random Guy Member Posts: 67 ■■■□□□□□□□

I just finished my first week at my first full-time IT job and I feel very overwhelmed/unprepared. The only thing I have under my belt prior to this was an internship.

I now see why people bash on university/college for not preparing people for the real world—it really hasn't.

I'm functioning as an entry sysadmin. I'm very certain they only brought me on to replace the guy who I'm shadowing now but that's TBD.

Anyway, the office is small and the company likewise. I'm not exactly blending in but I suppose that's largely due to the fact that I haven't interacted with most of the other employees.

I don't know all the procedures but I'm asking questions when I can and I'm trying to get an understanding of what it is I can touch and what I cannot.

I've actively tried to do things on my own and I'm trying to take on more responsibility but everything seems to be going slow no matter what I do.

My concern currently is that I'm not actually prepared to handle anything they throw at me spur-of-the-moment.

For example: a teammate who's only been with the company for 3 months told me that when he got there, the guy who trained him was considering taking off. He also tells me he was asked to do stuff he never had experience with or was knowledgeable with (e.g. Linux).

If that's what he got just being there for three months, I have no clue what I'll be getting to do. Since the office is small, we also handle the "data-center" portion of the office as well as the helpdesk kind of stuff.

I take care of my personal stuff, so I don't deal with errors usually. My predetermined solution to everything is reboot or restart the app/machine. If that doesn't fix it, and I'm not familiar with what's being required, I cannot tell you what needs to be done as I have no experience dealing with that.


Enter my dilemma:

I'm not an expert in fulfilling random business requirements. I'm not familiar with how businesses enact their functions/processes (with IT in mind) and all the like nor am I familiar with how all the relationships get strung about, who does what, who needs what, etc. I'm not a professional. I barely understand the environment at my office and it's a damn small one.

I don't want to get fired. I need the experience. I don't want to get paid to butter-up some manager or exec just 'cause there's nothing else to do. I want to get paid to do what I was hired to do.

What advice do you all have for someone like me who hasn't dealt with any issues with technology?

I'm manly concerned on how I convey not knowing how to do something. I feel like that's something I shouldn't do. Are there any do's and don'ts with regard to how that goes about?

I'm willing to work on something to determine if it's actually doable or not but I'm not an expert in anything. What should I do? What shouldn't I do?

Any tips and advice is highly appreciated.


  • NetworkingStudentNetworkingStudent Member Posts: 1,407 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Can you ask your teammate for help when you don’t know the answer?  (The teammate  that has been there for three months)

    The guy you’re shadowing, can you ask him what he did when he didn’t know what to do?

    I think you said you’re an entry level system admin. Is there a senior system admin, or it manager you report to?   If there is, then I would ask them for help.

    Asking for help:
    It’s ok to ask questions or for help.  People get annoyed with you when, ask the same question over and over again.

    When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened."

    --Alexander Graham Bell,
    American inventor
  • That Random GuyThat Random Guy Member Posts: 67 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Can you ask your teammate for help when you don’t know the answer?  (The teammate  that has been there for three months)

    The guy you’re shadowing, can you ask him what he did when he didn’t know what to do?

    I think you said you’re an entry level system admin. Is there a senior system admin, or it manager you report to?   If there is, then I would ask them for help.

    Asking for help:
    It’s ok to ask questions or for help.  People get annoyed with you when, ask the same question over and over again.

    I did get to do that for this one instance where someone needed help with something. He was busy with something else and left me to it.

    There isn't a senior sysadmin per say but there's this guy who is more senior than the both of us and he manages a good deal of the infrastructure and such.

    Since I'm also likely to be interacting with some higher-up folk, I'll feel bad if I don't have an answer to something. I don't know what it is I should say.
  • Jon_CiscoJon_Cisco Member Posts: 1,772 ■■■■■■■■□□
    I'm in a similar situation. I just started and the guy who does most of my training has only been with this company for 3 months before I started. Both previous IT staff members retired within a few months of each other.

    So in front of end users I "fake it until I make it" and to my boss and coworker I try to ask intelligent questions. I am 3 weeks into the position and I have already filled a 100 page notebook and started a second one. It's half a log book and half an instructional manual for me. I don't ask questions until I have taken notes and looked up the questions on google and our system drives. We have some documentation but we don't really know how it's organized yet.

    Assuming the company knew they were hiring you with minimal on the job experience I think you will be fine after a couple months.

    Good Luck!
  • That Random GuyThat Random Guy Member Posts: 67 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Update 12/7/2019:
    I'm ready to leave but I don't think I'm leaving for the right reasons. Honestly, I don't feel as though I've grown professionally nor personally. If anything, my confidence has taken a nose-dive.

    I still don't understand budgeting and how that gets handled by IT or even a department. I still don't understand when it's OK to order one thing but not another. Why is it OK to fulfill hardware requests for some people but not others?

    I don't feel like my input is valued, I'm not treated like I'm reliable (not that I am for much, tbh), and I'm putting in a lot of effort (overtime/short-lunch) for people who do this to me over and over.

    The simplest solution to this (in my mind) is to just communicate these issues I have with the people involved. The problem becomes that even if I were to discuss this with these people let alone my manager, it likely wouldn't change my situation nor my circumstance. The reality is, I'm still fresh into the field. I just got out of uni last year. This company has done very little to prep me for their own processes and it showed when I was certain we would not pass our ISO compliance audits. I also tried to see this from their perspective, and since this is a very small company, it's no wonder they couldn't get anyone to guide me for things as they're pretty much way under-staffed and having everyone do multiple projects. I basically got stuffed into this one project just to fill the numbers and now they've come to expect me to be an expert in some new software we're demoing to a client in two weeks.

    It's for those actions—just like when they had ME get interviewed for their ISO audit for MY department—why I don't think they're taking me seriously. They keep swinging me from left to right and expecting me to find my way through this wacky maze that keeps changing every day. If it isn't some PM asking me to pitch in for random meetings or slave-work, it's the CEO asking me why we haven't yet implemented this one process "we" said "we" were going to.

    I just did an "orientation" for this new guy who started two weeks ago and he informed me that the reason he left his old job was because he got fired for not following some policy. In the midst of this conversation, he mentions to me how different it was at his previous company, such as ticket requests and the like where they'd have to take time to get things done and how things take a while to actually get done. He's complaining about this to me. In my head, all I could think was "how is that worse/bad?".

    At this point, I don't care if these people fire me. These guys stopped maintaining their IT infrastructure two years ago and they're not doing anything to keep the processes that were working before active. This is even something as critical as backups/patching. If they let it get to this point, I don't know why I should suddenly be expected to fix the mess they started. I'm only ONE friggin' person. My time is already chipped away by helpdesk requests. I need time to BREATHE. I can't fix **** if I'm not given time to ingest it all. I need TIME. More importantly, I need TRAINING.
  • yoba222yoba222 Member Posts: 1,237 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Well for one thing conrats on hanging in there for 6 months. That's certainly an accomplishment and now you've got some work experience for the CV. One suggestion: Instead of expecting them to feed you the training you badly need, how about instead doing the legwork and proposing to them what training you need?

    My approach would be to make it very easy for them to approve it. A proposal could include specifically what training, the costs, and when you would take the training (2 hours per week during work hours and then 10 hours per week of my own time, or something realistic like that). More importantly, what problem would investing in your training solve? Specifically, what risks would mitigated (e.g. "learning how to correct the backup system is important because it would prevent the loss of the finance database and losing that would cause the business to shutdown for X days until it was corrected.")

    This is also a trick from uni. If you need a letter of recommendation from a professor, write the letter for them so minimal effort is needed on their part other than a few edits and their signature if they agree.

    The worst they can say is no and you got free practice.
    A+, Network+, CCNA, LFCS,
    Security+, eJPT, CySA+, PenTest+,
    Cisco CyberOps, GCIH, VHL,
    In progress: OSCP
  • itdeptitdept Registered Users Posts: 270 ■■■■■■□□□□
    Don't quit over Christmas period and make sure you have a new job first.
    You're just going to need to do your own self study after work, its just the way it is.
  • Neil86Neil86 Member Posts: 182 ■■■■□□□□□□
    As said before, congrats on hanging in there, that alone is a big accomplishment. My first IT job was extremely overwhelming and I also felt very unprepared and discouraged. I only had my AA as education and no certs. When I was brought on, there was only one other person and he was also transitioning into a role with more responsibilities and was unprepared, but did have a couple years with the place. I had days where I was ready to walk out. We were in the midst of some server migrations to the cloud, a phone system swap, lots of support requests, and much more. I didn't always have answers to questions. Our department lacked structure, organization and leadership.

    It couldn't have been a better experience or first IT gig for me! I learned so much because I was forced to do my own research, training and testing to find solutions to problems. My coworker (who eventually became my direct supervisor)  and I had different personalities, and sometimes it was tough to work with him, but we worked together when we needed to and formed a good relationship. We learned to communicate with each other. I took initiative and stopped waiting around for things to come to me.

    It was around a year when I was fully comfortable with everything. Our department was becoming organized and structured, I knew all the systems, applications and networks very well, I had great rapport with all staff, and we were moving the agency in a great direction in regards to IT. I was participating in big projects and testing new products and services to solve problems we were having.

    Basically, we realized what are shortcomings were. We communicated with our execs and with each other, my supervisor obtained the leadership role and I was more the technical/first line of support role, and we worked together to really turn the department around.

    I'm not saying this is exactly your situation. Maybe your place sucks entirely, some places do. But, it may be a great opportunity that just needs a different perspective. Express your concerns to senior IT staff or execs. If you have questions, ask the appropriate people for answers. If you need training, ask for it or do it yourself. If you need guidance or advice, ask for it. It's okay not to know something. There is way too much in IT to know everything. The key is knowing how to find those answers to questions and/or apply effective troubleshooting to resolve problems.

    Communication and understanding are big for me. If you can't communicate effectively with your team, you better be good at reading peoples minds. If my (your) employer is not willing to listen and understand and provide feedback, then it may be time to move on. But be sure to use all the resources available to you before making a decision like that. You might turn this situation around entirely from negative to positive.

    Good luck!
  • bigdogzbigdogz Member Posts: 881 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Going into a 1st IT job can be tough. Now that you know you will be pulled in multiple directions, you have to make the best of the situation and learn as much as possible.
    At the end of the day you have to prove to management that you are worth it in a business sense. 
    Having some daily / weekly documentation on your tasks and your projects will help you go a long way.
    'Why didn't we implement this technology?'
    'We had a huge issue with x that took 3 days and I also have put in 20 hours with the PM working on selling our software' might be your answer.

    When it comes to training, you can ask the senior guy, but in most cases it is OJT (On The Job Training) or trial by fire. Is this a good situation? no. Can you learn, yes. Learn what you can to help yourself and the company. That is how many of the members on this message board have learned. You may have to train yourself outside of business hours on Network+, CCNA, or some Microsft or Red Hat certification but you will be better in the long run.

    I can tell you so many stories of horror but you just have to take some tie and learn how to figure things out.
  • That Random GuyThat Random Guy Member Posts: 67 ■■■□□□□□□□
    edited December 2019
    Neil86 said:
    I didn't always have answers to questions. Our department lacked structure, organization and leadership.

    I don't have your virtue. I don't excel in these unstructured environments. I had the motivation to seek out things and tried to make improvements where I could but it's hard when these guys keep shoving me into things they clearly shouldn't be. I just got put on another contract where I know for a fact they only put me in to serve a particular function where they were basically out-manned (i.e. I'm just filling in the numbers).

    I plan on leaving in the next month or so but I don't know if I can now. They've basically made me a single point of failure now due to the circumstances surrounding these contracts.

    After running some Google searches, I feel like I'd be a much greater fit for larger companies where I can take my time with things and where I actually have a team.
  • bigdogzbigdogz Member Posts: 881 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Relax and focus on the task at hand and soon you will either have the answer or finish it. You will gain more confidence and be more productive.

    Even bigger companies have problems with projects, people have to think outside of the box to work for a solution.

  • DFTK13DFTK13 Member Posts: 176 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Hey, I understand your situation, there is only 1 other person in the company that can do what I do, but he’s been so busy with other duties that he can’t do it. So I’m the only one who handles all new system builds, programming, deployments and maintenance. But we’ve long since hit the point in which these systems really need to be updated for a better one but the people high up would rather keep kicking the can down the road. Basically whenever they ask me to fix a system or make a new one, my answer is always “if we’re able to get the software and hardware”. They know it and yet they won’t do anything about it until they are absolutely forced to do so. This has frustrated me and my coworker to no end. I want to leave but I want to get my CCNA before I try looking for jobs again. 
    Certs: CCNA(200-301), Network+, A+, LPI Linux Essentials
    Goals: CCNP Enterprise(ENCOR + ENARSI), AWS CSA - Associate, Azure AZ-104, Become better at python, learn docker and kubernetes

    Degree: A.S. Network Administration
    Pursuing: B.S. in I.T. Web and Mobile Development Concentration
  • That Random GuyThat Random Guy Member Posts: 67 ■■■□□□□□□□
    edited February 2020
    Update 2/7/2020:

    I know I'm beating a dead horse here but things are getting weirder. On top of a Christmas bonus, they gave me a raise without my asking so. This screams desperate to me no matter how I try to spin it as the reality is, with me gone, they won't have anyone to manage their IT department (even though my lead is a part of it, I've come to find he wasn't originally). It's not like I'm doing God's work and despite me wanting to take some credit for doing the company some good, I cannot. The bare truth is they need someone to pin IT to and that person is me. If you ask me, they NEED a senior admin—like the one that stook around for 4-ish years and then vanished because... well, probably the same reason why their turn-over for IT has been real high in the span of 2-3 years since the senior admin left. Just take a look above and see why I myself have also wanted out. At this point, the only thing keeping me here is guilt. They made me a single point of failure for task orders on two contracts and they only added me in to fill in the numbers as well as to not have to pay for a higher salary person—who in my mind would fit the roles much better than I, but I digress. I don't know why, but after seeing this stunt pulled by them, my outlook on whether or not I get fired has allowed me to lighten up on a lot of things and overall, my behavior has changed regarding my work ethic and co-workers. I feel better now not having to care about getting fired—not because I'm untouchable but rather for the opposite: these people know what they're doing and I'm not turning a blind-eye to it. If anything, they're stupid for it. They know I lack the experience and the know-how. For XYZ reasons, they put up with me and try to wedge me in as a winner when all they're doing is prolonging the inevitable: I will lose the company money. I WILL screw up at some point and cause the company a loss in some way, and it'll be on them way more than it is on me. I didn't ask to not have a reliable team. I didn't ask to be put on contracts where I had no experience working with federal clients. I didn't ask to be pressured to understand a software I've never touched in my life let alone heard of. All of this is just MINUSCULE to the arrogance put on my management where in a service review meeting that took place only 3 weeks ago—my department being understaffed and under-performance was acknowledged by EVERYONE in the room—yet they DIDN'T see the need nor the justification to bring on somebody to help me despite me telling them during this meeting that I DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO DO ANYTHING. The only silver lining among all of this fiasco is the fact that I was finally able to get my clearance. That was initially my only reason for staying past the 4-month hell I was in and now that I have that, they could fire me tomorrow and I'd just flip them the bird. This company can ROT for all I care. They don't treat their employees like people, they treat them like ROBOTS.

    My advice: NEVER join a small company or startup. Just save yourself the grief and find a company more suitable. That is, unless you're secretly a masochist. Then, by all means, enjoy. :)
  • DFTK13DFTK13 Member Posts: 176 ■■■■□□□□□□
    You need to leave that toxic environment, you got what you were aiming for, your clearance. You shouldn’t feel guilt, if you can get a better opportunity, then you should pursue that. Staying in that situation will do nothing good for your mental health. 
    Certs: CCNA(200-301), Network+, A+, LPI Linux Essentials
    Goals: CCNP Enterprise(ENCOR + ENARSI), AWS CSA - Associate, Azure AZ-104, Become better at python, learn docker and kubernetes

    Degree: A.S. Network Administration
    Pursuing: B.S. in I.T. Web and Mobile Development Concentration
  • yuddhidhtiryuddhidhtir Member Posts: 196 ■■■■□□□□□□
    What you are going through is common. Even I went through the same situation early in my career. Since you are system admin\ Helpdesk\desktop engineer, you have to cover a lot of areas which is exhausting. Its very easy to give up and quit the job but difficult to explain in interviews why you left the last company within a year or some short duration.
    The proper thing to do is , find out what excites you? network, security, cloud, coding etc. and then learn that skill while doing your regular job. Keep learning and applying for jobs.
    Once you get the job, give your notice and keep specializing on technology of your choice. Years later you will realize how your first job experience was crucial on where you are. First job teaches you how business operates, pressure handling,time management and most importantly how to be on a safer side by proper documentation.

    Wish you all the best. Just try to relax as this chaos is temporary.
    “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment; full effort is full victory.”
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