Sunday, November 20, 2005

RTT: Nerd Paradise

Our departments here at the Red Cross fall under a grouping called RTT (Response Technology Team). RTT consists of five areas: Communications, Field Support, Customer Service, Computer Operations, and Networking. Sean is currently supervising the last two, and I am supervising the first two. It's a great group of jovial engineers, sharing a desire to help others. It's our guilty little secret that the disaster actually allows us to do some really cool stuff with radios and satellite uplinks. Because HQ is in constant flux, we rearrange the network, rewire phone lines, string cables through the ceiling and crawl under desks. Today Sean drove the scissor lift.

I think the best part is being recognized as the Uber Geeks in a non-technical setting. Most engineers work for an engineering company. They are surrounded by other technology-savvy people. Here, we support primarily the non-savvy. We get to go out and fix things that baffle the other office workers and yet are quite simple for us. Computers, printers, walkie-talkies and software are a mysterious and unnatural necessary evil in their work day, and when those things do anything out of the ordinary, we make it all better. Our customers are always so grateful! Not a day goes by that I am not thanked for my help. "Oh, RTT is here! They will save the day!" Of course, we're all volunteers here and being thanked is the great reward for all of us. So, I try to thank my customers in turn for the work they do. Some of their jobs would be overwhelming to me, and I am so glad they do that work instead of me. I'd much rather install 50 phones lines and run hundreds of cables than sit down and make calls at those phones all day. Fix your printer? Sure, no problem! Enter all that data that you're printing? No thanks!

This really is nerd paradise. At the end of the day, for most of us in RTT, there are no reports to write. Since the time on the job is short, typically 3 weeks, no one is expected to be an expert and it is always okay to ask for help or training. It's difficult to be here long enough to become territorial, which leads to some great camaraderie. Our performance reviews don't affect our pay scale one iota. The Red Cross supplies an unending stream of snack foods, free for the taking, in the break room called The Oasis. Field trips are a regular part of the job, so most of us are not stuck in the office every day. And the end product is helping people put their lives back together, not some meaningless widget. Does it get any better than this?

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