The paper MCSE – A success Story

11 07 2008

Well the cutbacks have hit me and it’s time to find a new job.  I got laid off a couple of months ago and it has been an interesting experience from the one I had eight years earlier when I landed what I thought was the job that would carry me on through into retirement.

I’ll backtrack a little and start in 1997.  I picked up this big fat techie book called ‘Networking Essentials’ and basically devoured it, committing to memory everything I could, all the acronyms, the ISO/OSI Network Model, etc.  I could talk tech but the truth was, I had no clue what I was talking about.  I was on the road to becoming one of those paper MCSE guys.

So, I got through the book, learned the terms enough to be able to fake my way through a couple of job interviews and wound up landing a job doing tech support for 3Com’s new PCMCIA fast Ethernet laptop NIC.  I was about as familiar with computers as Liberace was at pleasing women and there I was with a headset and phone calls coming in for support of OS2, Banyan Vines, Novell, I had no idea what I was doing but I read the scripts, got as familiar with things as I could and actually I turned out to be one of the best support guys there.  I picked up on things pretty quickly and I have to tell you, my feet were held to the fire at times and I scrambled for answers to things I had no clue what to do with.  I walked people through autoexec.bat files, config.sys files they taught me while we were troubleshooting and they had no idea it was my education they were paying for while we were trying to figure out how to browse their Network Neighborhood.

Seriously, I was new to all this stuff and I was the guy supposedly, the expert, supporting it on the other side of the phone.  It blew my mind that I was able to actually succeed by just RTFM and nobody had a clue around me that I was completely ignorant to what was going on.

So I figured, if I can pull this off I could probably do that MSCE thing I heard about on the radio and make $60,000 after finishing four weeks of intensive training classes and testing.  So I hit my relatives up for a good $12,000 loan, I took the MCSE back in the NT days with my emphasis on TCP/IP and Exchange Server.  I had no idea how good an idea that was at the time, it just sounded like the right thing to do.  I sat in those classes while the instructor talked about network protocols, domains, NTFS, shares, NetBEUI, etc.  I memorized everything I could and had no freaking idea what it all meant.  All I knew was that this mumbo jumbo was going to get me a big fat salary and a brand new career.  This actually happened.  I’m not making it up!

I went through the entire MCSE education, spent all that money on those silly classes that promised me that big fat salary, and one day while still doing 3Com tech support I decided to put together a resume that looked like an entry level network admin.

I found a trucking company in Portland, Oregon that needed an admin.  They had a T1 with no firewall (yikes!), they had just tried this new email thing called Exchange Server and they had Netware 4.11 running with an AS400 behind a sliding glass door.  The cables were everywhere, running to dumb terminals throughout the building.  It was ugly.  So I interviewed with a guy they called the IT director who was an RPG programmer and knew very little about networking, and also interviewed with the CFO.  Why the CFO I’ll never know, but I made an impression, talked the tech talk out my arse, throwing acronyms around the room and baffling them with everything I had been inundated with through those training classes.  Still, no hands on training and these guys hired me to manage their network operations.

So, In a six month period I actually went from knowing jack about computers to becoming a for real network admin.  My salary at that trucking company was $43,000 to start but it gets better.  Remember the promise of $60,000 after taking all those classes?  Well, while I was at the trucking company I actually completed all the testing, actually got my MCSE and CNA certs, used those guys as my education lab, learned a buttload of good stuff including Cisco PIX, Netware, Exchange, etc. and went out one day to Computer Associates to see if they would hire me to help test their AV products.

Well, with all my new found knowledge and having actually had some real world experience finally with all those acronyms and protocols they made me an offer of $80,000.  I kid you not!  The catch was that I would have to have worked like 15 hour days to make that money.

So, I took that offer back to my boss and told him what that I would stick around if he would give me $60,000 a year.  He went to the CEO the next day and whammo!  I was the paper MCSE making $60,000 a year.

I stuck around, learned more, actually got certified with Novell also, learned some HTML & java script, built the corporate website and then got bored.  They could see I was unimpressed with things because I basically built them a textbook infrastructure while I learned and it was pretty much on auto pilot.  So, they saw that $60,000 as a big liability and brought in some flunkie who was raised on computers unlike myself but who didn’t have all that textbook knowledge.  His salary was $20,000 less than mine and they had me train him then laid me off.  It was a weird situation.  I think they finally caught on to me that I was using them as an education lab.

I had convinced them that they needed to buy Cold Fusion Pro to build their website, which could have been written in notepad, because I wanted to get into web dev stuff.  So the boss kind of saw what was going on finally and brought me into his office one day and pretty much just said, “Look, I know this place isn’t really where you want to be and I see you wanting to move on to bigger things so we’re gonna have to let you go”.

Long story short, I moved to Utah and found a job making the magic number of $60,000 as a network admin and helped build that infrastructure from five little tower PC servers in 2000 to a fully redundant, world class data center in 2008 with an EMC SAN, redundant ASA firewalls, HSRP failover, Cisco 6500 core switches, all Proliant server racked up in the most beautiful configuration.  I mean it was pure IT porn at the end of my tenure.

Through the years from 2000 to now I had hired a couple of brilliant Linux admins, a Cisco engineer we pulled from the TAC team to manage our core and a bright young kid to do all the internal support with a shiny new diploma from the University of Utah in Information Management.

Then the company brought in a new CTO and promptly lost a couple of their biggest clients, putting them in a financial bind.  Well, the new CTO came in a saw things as they were, not knowing all the blood, sweat and 36 hour days I had put into building this rock solid infrastructure, looked around, saw my salary, saw the guys I had hired, saw my duties, saw their abilities and logic told him that I was the one to cut.

So now it’s 2015 and my wife divorced me in 2006, took everything I worked for, the furniture, the trampoline, the swing-set, drum-kits, and in an ironic happenstance my peach tree fell to the ground, unsupported and dead for the compost the year we divorced.

I got sent through the proverbial ringer twice ( a story you might enjoy at )

And today I am Vaughn Hocksworth Brown, the artist.  No more Information Technology for me ( except for building kickass websites and learning LAMP )

You can see my portfolio of photography here –>  Please enjoy my many albums of photography as slideshows to your Rod and Cone pleasure.

You can also see some of my kooky art at

Thank you for being awesome you IT people and keeping the Introwebs free and clean of the bullshits.

I am out, word…




8 responses

7 08 2011
Rob Benwell

I have been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be much more useful than ever before.


5 08 2011
thermador range

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Liked by 1 person

27 01 2015
Darth Mistake

I apologize for not responding years ago :). I do appreciate that you obtained some value in my writings. Thank you for your encouragement, I am going to do the best I can. I am only just getting started, but have finally discovered my purpose so now I have a lot of work to do. Thanks for sharing your thoughts four years ago 🙂


3 12 2010

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Liked by 1 person

27 01 2015
Darth Mistake

the theme of my blog comes from a movie called The Big Lebowsky. You will enjoy it, watch it more than once to understand its nuances and how it unfolds. The Coen Brothers are genius in their story telling. This movie is epic and silly and ridiculous and important and one of the best ever made.


5 11 2008
How to make it in corporate IT (by the skin of your teeth)

[…] after another and am finally arriving at true IT happiness. My story, titled “The Paper MCSE,” can be found here, and can give you some tips. Until then, use this short list of essential dos and don’ts as a […]


13 07 2008


If you want to move to Texas I can probably help you out, we are hiring like crazy. 🙂

(I’m not kidding).



11 07 2008

I need my lawn mowed and the car washed, but $60k is a little steep.



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