Editor's Desk

Old NT Guys

Where do we go from here?

I’ve been a fortunate editor. I’ve worked for a magazine whose birthright started with a simple vision of reaching out to people pursuing their Microsoft certifications. That vision expanded—along with readers’ endeavors—to become a sounding board for real-world technical and professional development ideas.

Along the way, MCP Magazine grew, shrank and grew some more; struggled mightily to stand out from the competition; recorded the interest in training and certification as it exploded then dried up; documented the great expansion and slow consolidation of third-party companies serving the Windows networking management space; reworked how and with what it filled its pages; and had the chance to hear from literally thousands of readers on hundreds of topics.

I recently received mail from one of those readers in Alameda, California who wants to remain nameless. The subject line was, “Old NT Guys.” This person joined IT in the mid-’90s as a career-changer. He moved up from help desk and desktop support to a network admin position. In the last few years, he’s been able to “survive in IT,” but he’s found himself in shops that haven’t made the move off of NT. Since the job market is percolating a bit more, he wants to find a new position using his home-grown training in Windows 2000 and 2003, Active Directory and the newer Exchanges, but he doesn’t have the real-world experience with newer technologies that employers so value.

So he finds himself in his mid-40s, expecting to move back down to doing desktop support. But even in that he’s facing a strong dose of ageism. He recalls one prospective employer asking him, “why I wanted to stay in IT, adding, ‘You don’t see too many 50-year-old guys doing Desktop Support.’”

I face a similar crossroads in my own career. Next month you’ll see a new face in this space. I’m ready to move on to new projects (in my case, a new publication that’s a galaxy away from topics Microsoft-specific), yet in order to do so, I need to step backward and take on the kind of grunt work that I’ve been delegating for years. But as this reader reminds me, “I know people [who] have real problems and would gladly exchange them for mine.” So maybe going backward isn’t such a problem.

After all, true blessings rarely arrive with huge pay raises and new job titles. Most come in small forms of enlightenment. So I return to the basics of publishing—figuring out what a new set of readers needs and how to deliver it to them in a form they like.

My time at this magazine has felt like a session on the Viper, that roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain with multiple inversions, huge drops and amazing speed. (Hope you didn’t mind my screaming.) How do we—this old NT guy and I—get where we want to go? I won’t answer for him, but I will for myself: Get back in line for a new ride.

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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