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I am on leave from my work and am playing at being a full-time student now. I was a systems administrator at a large university. I took care of the university e-mail system, the usenet news system, and did all kinds of fiddlig with Unix servers and networks.

I enjoyed many parts of my work. The people I worked with are wonderful. There are so many brilliant, nice, interesting people there. Of course not all of them are like that, but definitely most. I consider myself very lucky with that. Also, I loved solving technical problems and seeing plans realised - I was a group leader so I had some responsibility over planning and budgeting.

What I did not like was the stress. There were always too few people working at the university IT department. It's hardly competitive when it comes to salary and benefits. On the other hand, the work environment was very free. If you did your job and attended compulsory meetings, it did not matter if you arrived at 11 in the morning. Nobody was watching over you. But this freedom had a flip side; you were also supposed - not officially but anyway - to take care of problems whenever they appeared, whether it be one pm on a work day or three am on a Sunday. And because email is one of the most important IT services, I was supposed to get problems fixed ASAP. There was just not enough people to divide the responsibility. I ended up working quite a few nights and weekends. Now, I was never told by the boss to go and fix stuff at night, but it was always expected and I always did it. I rarely got overtime pay for it. I'd just mark the hours and take as many hours of vacation time. If I had the time and was not too busy..

The late nights and the occasional 24-hour workdays contributed to the stress, but I think that the feeling of responsibility stressed me more. I sometimes thought that I should have stayed at a lower level, without any managerial responsibility. But then, I also loved being part of the decision-making and having an effect on how we did things.

Writing this has made me realise how much I miss work at the moment.. I am now on a two-year leave from my job. My husband is a post-doc in Holland now so we live here. We will soon have to decide if we go back to Finland this summer or stay here for a while longer. I expect that the university will not let me lengthen my leave, so if we stay, I'll probably lose the job. My husband has been offered a short continuation contract and he is looking for research grants. For him, it would be better to stay here. For me, career-wise, it would be better to return. It's a tough decision.

Two things which make the decision even tougher is that I don't know how career-oriented I really want to be, and that I never planned to stay in the IT sector indefinitely. Originally I was supposed to work as a part-time helpdesk person to finance my studies (I did not want to take out student loans). Well, pretty soon it became a full-time job, and then I went from helpdesk to admin, and just stayed there for eight years. I started my studies as a computer science / maths student, but changed quite quickly to history, which I have been studying now. I find it much more interesting, but of course the job opportunities just are not the same..

What I do for fun: I take photographs. I have been trying to get into photography for a long while. I've applied to a photography school a couple of times, both in Finland and here, and gotten rejected. I'm applying again this spring. I would love it if photography could be even a part-time work for me. If not, I will surely continue to keep it as my main hobby.

I guess my biggest problem is that I have been waiting for a sort of epiphany, a revelation, a grand idea of what to do with my time & life. I still don't know. I am interested in so many things, and they are not that compatible. I sometimes envy my husband, who decided early on that he wants to be a theoretical physicist, and really enjoys being one now. That kind of clarity would be nice.

I'm sorry that this became so long. :-) I guess I've been thinking about these things a lot lately.

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--

by tzt (tzt) on Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 11:27:36 AM EST
No apology please! It is very interesting to hear your process! Thank you!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 02:43:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Similar to you tzt, I'm wrestling with my work process too, that involves living in a new country requiring different work skills. This sort of situation can be challenging, as I am learning. But, what can we do? Keep on moving forward...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 02:55:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reading this It reminded me of the stress when things go wrong with email, Although as I mentioned above, that is the point when my computer skills really come alive. Reading how you only started part time and it all got out of control, I strated with a job that only was meant to last 4 weeks. nearly eight years later, I'm still doing a vastly expanded job.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 06:27:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reading this It reminded me of the stress when things go wrong with email, Although as I mentioned above, that is the point when my computer skills really come alive.

Yeah, I know what you mean. The userbase for the system I admin'd was a bit over 40.000 people and when something went wrong, it seemed they all wanted to call me and yell at me. But it was really nice to tinker with the system and make it better..

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--
by tzt (tzt) on Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 07:48:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
only a tenth of the size of your userbase, but when I started that meant there were only two technical staff to do everything, we now have 4 tech staff and a manager to keep meetings off our backs.

Being in Academia it does mean that you have the odd person who apparently knows more than you about how email systems work, because they have a PhD in Medieval history, (and no experience in computers, naturally)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 08:05:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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