common time-management mistake: rack & stack

Leo Bicknell bicknell at
Fri Feb 17 14:46:13 UTC 2012

In a message written on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 02:29:36AM -0500, Jeff Wheeler wrote:
> Randy's P-Touch thread brings up an issue I think is worth some
> discussion.  I have noticed that a lot of very well-paid, sometimes
> well-qualified, networking folks spend some of their time on "rack &
> stack" tasks, which I feel is a very unwise use of time and talent.

At the risk of offending many folks on NANOG, our industry is more
like a trade than a profession.  In many cases we would do better
to treat our people (in terms of how they are managed) like skilled
trades, electricians, plumbers, metal fitters, rather than pretend
they are white collar professionals.

Low level employees should be apprenticed by higher level employees.
Many of our skills are learned on the job; just like other trades
someone with only book knowledge is darn near useless.  Not only
do those above need to teach, but they need to supervise, and
exercise standards and quality control.

To your point, if you look at skilled trades the simpler the task the
more likely it will fall to the "new guy".  Rack and stack is probably
one of simplest jobs in our industry.  A two man team, one senior, one
junior, showing up at a colo may see the junior guy doing the physical
work, while the senior guy works out any issues with the colo provider
brings up the interconnection to them, etc.

But key to an apprenticeship is that the senior guy does some of
the low level work some of the time, and _shows_ the junior guy how
to do it right.  The senior guy might rack or stack a couple of
boxes each colo they visit, and relate concepts like how the screw
hole spacing works in the rack rails, how to plan cable management,
proper labeling, and so on.

It really accomplishes much of what everyone else is talking about,
while still being productive.  The "old hat" gets the downtime and
catharsis of doing a simple, yet productive task.  The new guy gets to
learn how to do the job properly.  The employer knows the work has 
been done right, as it was overseen by the old hat, and that they will
have someone to replace him when the old hat retires.

Maybe if we did more apprecenship style learning folks would still know
how to wrap cables with wax string.  It's simple, fast, and works well.

       Leo Bicknell - bicknell at - CCIE 3440
        PGP keys at
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