Life Inside The One-Man (Or Woman) IT Shop - InformationWeek

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Life Inside The One-Man (Or Woman) IT Shop

Got a lot on your plate? How would you like to be the IT shop? While the common belief is that one-person IT departments are typically the stuff of start-ups and mom-and-pop businesses, that's not always the case.

Got a lot on your plate? How would you like to be the IT shop? While the common belief is that one-person IT departments are typically the stuff of start-ups and mom-and-pop businesses, that's not always the case.Lynne Beckham is the IT manager of GSL Properties, a property management company in Portland, Ore., which has apartment complexes in five states. Beckham also is essentially GSL's entire IT department. "I'm the only IT person," she says. "We outsource a lot."

Being the sole IT person in an outsourced IT environment means that Beckham oversees all vendor relationships, as well as handles hardware repairs, software support, network cabling, and an array of troubleshooting for the company's 180 users. "We have one large network and 56 smaller ones," she says. That means Beckham is on-call 24 hours a day, including weekends, when she might receive a call about a hardware failure or e-mail being down. Her typical workweek has her clocking about 60 hours.

"Most people who have this job title have narrower job responsibilities," she says. Still, despite the long hours and far-ranging duties, Beckham says she "loves" her job and feels she's fairly compensated. Her raises have been about 4% to 5% over the three years she's worked for GSL, including this year. Although she calls those raises "average," Beckham says, "I started out well-paid," and so her salary remains above average, even if she considers her raises on a par with what IT managers at other companies are getting.

According to the InformationWeek 2008 annual salary survey, the average pay for IT managers is $103,000, while IT staffers earn $76,000. But did you realize that median tech salaries have fallen this year? Click here to check out why.

Meanwhile, Erik Kjellquist holds down the fort at another one-man IT shop, as "the" IT manager for Audio Sears Corp., a 100-employee, privately held manufacturing company based Stamford, N.Y., which is in the Catskills region of upstate New York.

Being the sole IT guy, Kjellquist says he's got responsibility "for everything" and the hours are long, clocking in at 50 to 55 hours a week. "The pay isn't bad for this area, but I am underpaid for my experience," he says. Kjellquist also has a "side job" doing occasional IT consulting work for a company in Connecticut. He says he likes the job at Audio Sears because "I have my own sandbox," meaning flexibility and the ability to make tech decisions "without going through 16 channels" of bureaucracy.

Looking ahead, Kjellquist wants to land a job in a company that gives him broader access to "emerging, new technologies, as well as enterprise technology," he says. At Audio Sears, he's been able to work a bit with open source software, but there isn't an extensive budget to try a lot of newer tech trends. "I'd like to get more exposure to emerging technology," he says.

Have you ever worked in a one-person IT shop? Would you want to? Tell us about it.

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