"The dirtiest thing about my job is not that the malware is incredibly difficult to research or fix; it's that once the bad guys latch onto some trick they use it over and over and over. I start to crave the little differences that crop up. Still, every day I learn something new -- even if it's just 'oh my god, this is the hundredth time I've seen the exact same exploit'."
Dirty IT job No. 4: Zombie console monkey
Wanted: Individuals with low self-esteem and high boredom threshold willing to spend long hours poring over server logs and watching blinking lights on a network console.
This job title combines two of the most onerous yet often necessary tasks ever assigned to an IT grunt: analyzing system logs and monitoring network operations, says Lawrence Imeish, a principal consultant for IT services provider Dimension Data.
"Doing log file analysis and correlation has to be the most tedious, mundane, perpetually boring job in of all IT," he says. But because logs maintain detailed records of all activity that takes place on a system, they're vital tools for debugging and error detection, he adds.
"Meanwhile, network operations centers usually have a person whose job is to stare at screens waiting for green lights to turn red, signifying a problem with some system," he says. "There are useful messages in all those blips and flashing lights, though, and many of them can go a long way toward preventing problems before they occur."
As companies trim body counts, they often combine these positions into what Imeish calls the Zombie Console Monkey. The utter lack of human interaction combined with little to no exposure to the sun means Zombies have been known to become almost transparent over time, he adds.
These days, mature IT organizations use event correlation software and network monitoring apps that can identify anomalies and notify the necessary parties if the network fails. Even then, says Imeish, some companies feel more comfortable with a human being sitting there and watching the dials, just in case.
"It's an entry-level job with not a lot of thought involved. Creative thinking? Forget about it. Your job is to follow a script, written down in a manual, for anything that might happen. That's why we call them 'zombies' -- no brains are required."
Dirty IT job No. 3: Data cleansing drone
Wanted: Detailed-oriented individual to pore over endless amounts of repetitive data looking for errors. Requires high tolerance for mindless drudgery; clinical diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder a plus.