One happy camper

Walter Sims, 38, is something of an anomaly among his IT peers these days.

“I have good morale, and I love my job,” says Sims, who describes his title and role as “computer dude” at American Aircraft Products Inc., a 60-person manufacturer of aerospace structural components in Gardena, Calif.

“I’m the help desk, I install software, and I write programs that make people’s jobs easier, and they appreciate that,” says Sims. “I think the appreciation factor is important. A lot of time, the people don’t understand what I do, but they’re glad the e-mail works. Basically, I do everything having to do with IT.”

Sims moved to the Los Angeles area from Seattle, where he spent more than a year unsuccessfully looking for an IT position after the meltdown of his former dot-com employer. “There were legions of people like myself,” he says.

After two and a half years at American Aircraft, Sims says he “likes being a big fish in a small pond.”

No longer does he work 12- to 14-hour days as he did at the dot-com. He makes less money than he did in his former job, but he says he’s still paid well. He seems content with the trade-off.

“One of the things that dictates my morale is a healthy workplace and not being overwhelmed with unrealistic expectations,” he says. “My boss is a practical person, and it’s a positive work environment.

“All in all, it’s a pretty simple formula for happiness on the job,” he says.

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