Even dirtier IT jobs: The muck stops here

More dirty tech deeds, done dirt cheap

Callaghan says that while the experience did not put him off Italian dressing, it will be burned in his memory forever.

"My entire crew has to shower down after our job," he adds. "It's not quite 'Silkwood,' but sometimes it feels that way."

Dirty IT job No. 6: Data crisis counselor

Wanted: Empathetic individual able to withstand long bouts of unwarranted abuse; soothing phone manner and low blood pressure essential.

When disaster strikes and critical data goes down the memory hole, it can generate a gamut of unpleasant emotions -- tears, depression, guilt, hopelessness, and rage.

It's Kelly Chessen's job to listen to it all. As a crisis counselor for data recovery firm DriveSavers, she's gotten calls from sobbing adults who've lost images or videos of their recently deceased parents. She's talked to dentists who were frantic because their systems went down and they have no idea what services their patients needed. She's logged hours with IT managers who lost entire Microsoft Exchange servers because they thought they knew how to implement RAID 5 but really didn't. Now their servers were dead, the backups were missing, and their jobs were on the line.

"I would talk to one IT guy one day and another IT guy from the same company the next day because the first guy had been fired," adds Chessen, whose job title really is Data Crisis Counselor.

Though she has an undergraduate degree in psychology, it was Chessen's five years on a suicide prevention line that best prepared her for her current position, which she was offered after a chance encounter with the president of the company. (No, he was not one of her callers, she hastens to note.)

Chessen says the worst call she ever received was from a small-business owner whose building had burned to the ground, taking all his computers with it. "He yelled at me for 30 minutes straight," says Chessen. "I didn't burn down his business. But after 5 or 10 minutes of yelling, it's hard not to take it personally."

It's a job your average IT person would be wholly unsuited for, agrees Chessen.

"Not everybody can do what I do for living," she says. "You need the skills, the background, and the patience. It's a dirty job, but it's also very rewarding, because we have a solution. In almost every case, we can get their data back for them, sometimes as quickly as 24 hours."

And on those rare instances when DriveSavers can't recover someone's data because the drives are simply too far gone? "I do grief counseling," she says.

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