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Why He Brought 22 lbs Of M&Ms For His Coworkers

October 12, 2015

The table in front of his office was filled to overflowing. There were M&Ms in bowls, in bags, on the floor. But, it was really important that he brought enough. Old Timers who walked by understood perfectly. They looked forward to the day they could bring in 20+ lbs of those tiny chocolates. New employees were less aware. They’d learn.

A career in IT can be brutal. Most IT professionals are “salary.” That means we don’t get paid overtime. That’s a nice way of saying that companies have an incentive to work us as long and hard as possible. And most of my IT friends understand that. It comes with the territory. I’ve worked more weekends than I can count. I’ve worked holidays. I’ve taken calls on vacation. 

Once while working for Microsoft, I cut my schedule extra close between work and my vacation. My family and I were planning on driving through Yellowstone National Park. But, the week before I had to be in Dallas for a training class. The only way to make it all work was to change my flight. Instead of flying into Sea-Tac and leaving with my family, they would start early and I’d fly into Yellowstone. 

Believe it or not, Yellowstone does not have a big airport. In fact, it’s pretty tiny. And so are the planes that fly to it. But, the class got delivered and I safely met my family at a tiny airport 700 miles from home. 

My current position means that I’m on call. . .24×7. . .365. I literally have no regular backup. It’s on the agenda to add another position that will back me up, but for now, it’s just me and my phone. If I’m on vacation, or say my daughter gets married, my manager fills in. But, he’s mostly a warm body to answer the phone. Plus, he’s doing his own job. 

Why do we put up with it? 

I’m not sure. The rewards can be anything from good to great. During the glory days of Microsoft’s meteoric rise, the compensation was beyond anything I’d ever imagined. Other times, I’ve worked for barely enough to pay the bills. 

Maybe it’s the idea of working on products and systems that most people don’t understand and consider a form of black magic. I used to be one of the magicians. I can still understand the concepts, but like a former Olympian who is no longer actively training, my technical skills are good by the world’s standard, but pretty average by IT standards. However, like Michael Jordan late in his career, what I’ve lost in technical prowess, I’ve replaced with experience. 

Maybe we were the geeks in school and discovered kindred souls in the ranks of the computer clubs and programming classes. Whatever it was, it’s locked me in deep enough that I don’t knwo if I’ll ever escape. A couple of times I tried changing careers. It didn’t work out well. 

Fortunately, IT is a field that isn’t limited by age as much as some other professions. Sure, we have the hotshots straight out of college, or who maybe skipped college. But, like younger versions of ourselves, the young crop of IT professionals are often brilliant in some areas and utterly lacking in others. Our industry has been kind to it’s senior members. 

And that brings me back to my friend and his 22 lbs of M&Ms. It was a Microsoft tradition that every year on your work anniversary, you bring in 1 lbs of M&Ms for each year you had worked for the company. My friend recently passed 22 years with the company in Redmond. The M&Ms were a badge of senority. Fortunately, one that everyone could enjoy. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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