Best bosses

Tying 600 bank branches into one 9,000-node WAN left Andy Kennedy feeling mighty satisfied. After AmSouth Bank merged with another institution, the senior network engineer and his team tore through eight sites per night, upgrading gear, testing applications and configuring desktops to create a single corporate network.

Kennedy credits the successful integration to his boss, Chester Ingram, IT network services manager for AmSouth in Birmingham, Ala. Ingram eased the migration from token ring to 10/100 Ethernet by buffering communications between departments and preventing project changes that would have blown the budget.

“He understands the upper management structure that looks out for the bottom line and knows how to show what IT needs to get things done,” Kennedy says.

Kennedy is one of many network professionals who identify caring, resourcefulness and flexibility as common traits of the best bosses. Network World (U.S.) asked several readers to share examples of what makes their managers special.

Susan Dunson, network administrator for auto parts franchise Mighty Distributing System of America Inc. in Norcross, Ga., values her manager’s availability. “If I have a problem, personal or work-related, even if I just want to talk about my weekend, his door is open,” she says of IT manager Mark Spruill.

Spruill recently advised her when a Unix server was sending dumps to the wrong place. “I tried changing the script, the settings and the drivers,” Dunson says. “He suggested just changing the refresh rate, and it worked. It’s nice to have someone with 20 years’ experience to bounce things off.”

When a company server crashed three months ago, Spruill offered Dunson a chance to go home while he’d stay to get it back up. They both ended up working several hours into the night to reinstall the accounting server’s hard drive and run back-up tapes. “We called out for pizza. It was nice not to have to stay by myself,” Dunson says.

Wading in the Trenches

Having a boss who pitches in is something Randy Burns also appreciates. The regional IT manager for TMP Worldwide Inc. says missing a report deadline is a sure sign that prompts IT director David Nolasco into action. “He’ll reshuffle some duties, and say things like, ‘I see you’re still signed in on the network, now go home and get some rest,’ ” Burns says.

As TMP grows through acquisition, Burns is charged with bringing the new sites onto the Dallas recruitment firm’s network. Nolasco kept a close watch on stress during the recent weekend moves of seven offices over a 90-day period.

“When paired with my regular IT tasks, five weekends in a row, 48 hours straight, can easily lead to burnout,” Burns says.

Likewise, Ross Nosrat, senior network consultant for WorldCom Inc., appreciates help from Patrick Moon, senior enterprise network manager. “If I’m swamped, working on a design and can’t do all things myself, he finds someone to do things or does it himself,” Nosrat says of his boss. He adds that Moon doesn’t bother IT about how to get from Point A to B, but lets them get the job done, remaining available for questions.

Remaining calm in a crisis is a sure sign of flexibility, according to Jeff Davidson, IT support staffer at Simonton Windows in Terre Haute, Ind. When it comes to supporting the firm’s “done right, on-time policy,” IS manager Rena Chaney flies into action. Praising Chaney’s ability to handle any crisis, Davidson says, “She can have 10 people screaming, ‘This won’t work,’ and she sorts it out, fixes things and sends them on their way.”

Joe Wagner, CIO for North Broward Hospital District in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., impresses Joleen Cannon with his effective listening and decision making. Cannon, a systems consultant for the healthcare provider, says when things break, Wagner’s objective is to get the right people involved to fix them.

“If there’s a critical outage, multiple people are involved,” Cannon says. “[Wagner] understands the hospital protocols, listens to all sides, and is fair when people have strong feelings. He makes decisions based on the organization.”

The best bosses treat their people right, as Mighty Distributed’s Dunson can attest about Spruill. “Some folks have to take pagers on vacation or provide a phone or cell number. Not us. He makes us feel great about relaxing and taking a break,” she says.

When Burns got married in August in the midst of the merger, Nolasco scheduled a dinner to meet his new wife. “He went out of his way to make her feel comfortable,” Burns says.

Moon is another manager who cares about his subordinates as people, not just employees.

“I was on the job one month when my father passed away and I needed to go to Iran,” Nosrat says. “We barely knew each other, and were in the middle of projects, and he said, ‘Just go.’ ”

Nosrat says it’s nice to know someone cares, and that’s why he’ll stay at the company despite having other job opportunities. “As long as he’s going to be here, I’m going to be here,” he says.