Extraordinary Places to Work

Perk-filled, dangerous and beyond the call of the duty -- how does your company match up?

10. Rockets and Rattlers
The work is exciting, sometimes saddening, but "always interesting," says Robin Turner, a network administrator at Kennedy Space Center (KSC). He works with "tens of thousands of computers of every size and OS imaginable," deals with roads blocked by the occasional satellite and makes it a point not to mess with the 400-pound wild pigs, bobcats, 8-foot rattlesnakes and 12-foot alligators that live in the federal wildlife preserve where KSC sits. Good idea.

9. Permanent Vacation
Chad Ritch's workplace has 24 golf courses and two town squares, each with restaurants, movie theatres, shopping—even a microbrewery. He's an operations engineer at The Villages, a retirement community in central Florida that covers three counties. Living at The Villages is "like being on permanent vacation," according to its slogan. That's for the residents, of course, not the 32 IT staff who manage 43 Windows Server 2003 servers supporting 1,800 users.

8. Hans Brinker or the Silver Tablet
All the students have Tablet PCs, a wireless network runs throughout the campus and all course materials live on the Web—all for students as young as four years old. Oh, and the International School Eerde, a boarding school in The Netherlands, is housed in a castle in the middle of a forest. "You should see the view from my office window," says Aaron Honer, who doubles as ICT coordinator and computer teacher.

7. That's Entertainment
His stint with Gateway Ticketing Systems included assignments at the Texas Ski Ranch (you water ski from a cable, not a boat), Hershey's Chocolate World, the MaxFlight flight simulator at the Smithsonian and three amusement parks in Guatemala. "Trying to find a tiny SCSI jumper in Guatemala is nearly impossible," reports Asa Engleman. Tired of traveling, Engleman settled down—he now works at the Maryland Zoo.

6. Beer on Fridays
Analytical Graphics Inc., of Exton, Penn., is a perk-filled place to work, according to Senior Systems Administrator Jeff Arndt. There's free lunch and dinner every day; a full gym; beer on Fridays; on-site massages; a children's room, in case the childcare plans fall through; and, get this, free Christmas gift wrapping! I hear there's also beer on Fridays.

5. Room with a View
There's also lots of freebies at Harris Alternatives—including cereal, chips, granola bars, yogurt and fruit—but it's the view that sold me. From his 60th-floor perch in downtown Chicago, Network Engineer Ryan Logan enjoys a 360-degree view through floor-to-ceiling windows. "During winter, it feels like we're in one of those little snow globes as the snow literally goes upward past our windows," he says, while in summer Lake Michigan resembles a tropical sea.

4. Security Five-0
Bruce Ultsch is based in Maui but also maintains computers on the islands of Kauai, Hawaii, Molokai and Lanai. Tough duty. When he's not maintaining PCs and a T-1 network under contract for the Department of Homeland Security, he likes to kayak and catch the occasional bikini fish while snorkeling. (You did say bikini "fish," right Bruce?)

3. Jetsetter
Stick out your thumb at fractional jet ownership firm NetJets, and you just might hitch a really cool, fast ride. Matthew Lydy, lead network admin for the company in Colombus, Ohio, even caught a limo to the jet he boarded in Newark for a trip back home. NetJets also develops most of its own software, including an application that tracks where various aircraft are, who's flying them and what the passengers like to eat. I'll take a medium-rare filet mignon for my trip to Maui, Matthew. Thanks.

Train2. Engineers Wanted
He signed on as a "systems" engineer, but during a 1994 labor strike, Dave Steckling had to wonder just what kind of systems they were talking about at Soo Line Railroad Co. in Minneapolis. "I ended up driving trains for a month and a half," he says. And then there were the floods. "Probably not too many IT folks have rowed a boat across an underwater rail yard to reach a flooded office building to salvage IT network equipment before it got wet."

1. Help Desk Baghdad
His work place is the size of seven football fields, has marble staircases, "gaudy bathrooms, disturbing French provincial furniture and every other person carries a loaded sidearm and/or submachine gun," writes a help desk manager from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, housed in one of Sadaam Hussein's former presidential palaces. "Save for the occasional explosion in the distance, the omnipresent sound of helicopters flying overhead and the fact that we can't leave the compound, all in all it's a nice place to work," says the manager, who asked not to be named. He does get free lodging, movies and meals, including a "really good ice cream bar." He's keeping a sense of humor through it all, judging from his motto: "Stay away from the windows!"

About the Author

Paul Desmond, the founding editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine, is president of the IT publishing firm PDEdit in Southborough, Mass. Reach him at [email protected].


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