A Job in Paradise

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A Job in Paradise

I saw a job posting which mentioned being in Paradise. I asked for details and this is what I received.

Date: Mon, 25 Aug 1997 02:13:08 +0000 (GMT)
From: MIS Manager
Subject: This is it, Info on the MIS job in Paradise.

OK a little bit of background...

I worked for Datastream, a leader in the field of maintenance software. I traveled all over and one of my stops was Diego Garcia. Diego Garcia is run by a contractor, BJS, and they had purchased Datastream's DOS version of the software and they were upg rading to Windows and they needed someone to spec out the upgrade. Being a government contract, the work practices involved in getting work done are pretty convoluted. Tired of travelling 100K miles/year in and out of airports, a tropical island with a azure blue lagoon, palm trees and eternally warm temperatures seemed pretty good and they had an opening for an MIS Manager. I didn't have all the skills needed but I knew how to implement Datastream's software so they signed me on and sent me to some tr aining in Novell, and Unix. But the training was very superficial.

The job involves a lot of different duties - all of which I have taken on and defined myself. There is nobody else here among the expat managers that know much if anything about computers, although a few fancy themselves as knowledgeable. One of the big have taken on the physical expansion of the network (in face of all sorts of obstacles), introducing our own e-mail system - currently we rely on the Navy, resea rching and ordering hardware/software, some basic programming in Paradox for Windows, systems analysis, software/hardware troubleshooting, right down to the basics of installing and configuring Windows 95 (not quite what I figure an MBA should be doing, b ut it's gotta get done so....)

We run a whole mix of stuff here, SCO UNIX, Novell 3.12, Windows 95, 3.11, DOS, and we're testing the NT waters. We have a whole bunch of applications - so I have moved to standardize on Windows 95 and MS Office. Our biggest problem is Finance/Supply w hich runs on a package developed by a small, unresponsive company in Canada in a 4GL language called Progress. Progress programmers are hard to find and we have two good ones and currently looking for two more. Other programs are a mish-mash of Dbase II I stuff for which interfaces have been developed. As a rule I don't like interfaces so I convinced the powers that be to let me hire additional Progress help to run all we can on UNIX. Main problem there is that our UNIX box is overtaxed as it is. That should be solved shortly.

Resources are limited - we're in this to make money, whereas the goverment is just used to spending money. One big headache is determining who gets what. Managers all want top of the line Pentiums to play Hearts, while it is the rank and file that need power to run spreadsheets. So the MIS manager is not very popular, though I do get good support from the very top. If ever I have a problem I go there and it gets solved.

Some foundation in business analysis and consulting is needed as is an aptitude for IT, an understanding of LAN's, UNIX, Novell, terminal servers (Digiboard), Internet and email. The ability to train users on software platforms is also required. Familia rity with the military/government establishment is a plus, as is the ability to get along with others. We're on a island here and one MIS manager already went nuts and the other was way underqualified.

Life on DG

As a civilian I fall under British Law, not that much is different, I tend to stay away from the BIOT police who give speeding tickets ($15/mile over the limit) (there's only one road), make sure you wear your bike helmet, make sure you have lights on you r bike and don't ride while intoxicated. They're not too bad of a lot though. There are also British Marines and Custom Agents with dogs that sniff all incoming flights. Not much in the way of crime, but don't leave your wallet lying around, because if you have $100 in it, that's 1/2 a month's pay for the average TCN (third country national). On the other hand, I've left my front door unlocked for 24 hours/day for the last 4 months with no problem (just hoping the blonde next door mistakes my door for hers one night). If you like biking, bring a mountain bike or a road bike. Blading, bring blades. Windsurfing definitely bring your gear. You are not allowed to go into the indian ocean over your knees, just as well considering I've seen the size of the sharks hauled in. If you like fishing, this is a fisherman's paradise both for big (190 lb Yellowfin, Marlin, Wahoo) fish and smaller groupers and bottom feeders.

Work is 6 days a week which is hard to get used to if you're an active person, but not for the older farts around here who just stay in their rooms after work anyway. You are entitled to one R&R leave at 6 months and they'll pay for your ticket to Singap ore. We also run the base there, so if you're a cool person, I can recommend you to some free digs there. Singapore is expensive otherwise but Batam in Indonesia is only a 45 minute ferry ride away. Annual Home leave is 2-3 weeks of paid leave, the res t unpaid. But a lot of the bennies are up to you, how much you negotiate for. I negotiated for the same amount of money (net pay) I was making at my old job, so that though my gross salary is lower, it's tax-free so the net is the same and at least I'm not stuck in airports all the time or driving in the frozen tundra that some people call Canada.

When I first arrived, one thing that led me to stay was the group of guys here. Really friendly. We used to hire a Filippina to tend bar for us on Tuesdays. But as with contract workers anywhere there is a lot of turn over, so I just do my own thing no w. One of the Mechanical Engineers here used to be in a SF band called Flying Color (80's) that had a song that held the #1 spot in Sweden for 3 weeks. He's a blast at parties. There are approximately 1,000 sailors here (females included), and 1500 cont ract personnel of which 50 are US Nationals. The rest are Mauritian or Philippino.

Food is free at the chow hall, standard military chow. If you get tired of that there are other alternatives, 5 other clubs on the island, and your own fish and sashimi if you're a fisherman. I head over to bulk sales on occasion and come out with an entire tenderloin (4.27pound) and slice it into steaks for dinner parties at the numerous picnic shelters. Because we are the last stop onthe supply line, the quality of some of the fresh fruits varies from underripe to way past the prime consumption date.

Coming out of the chow hall at lunch I walk all of 50 feet to the lagoon, prop up my feet in a chair and catch some z's and rays for a few minutes before heading back to work. My front door is 30 feet from the beach. Conditions and selection of foodstuffs keeps getting better. Haircuts are free, laundry is free, no auto insurance payments or car payments for me, so I can get by on $200 a month. Maid service by private arrangement will cost you $20-40 per month. If you're a Rum drinker, a bottle of good Tanduay from the Phillippines will cost you a whopping $1.20.

With agressive investing in stocks and the bull market, my savings for the year already exceeds my gross salary for the year (I've been here 9 months) and I've spent big bucks on camera equipment, bicycles, and travel too.

Sailing boats are free during races, otherwise a 16-foot Laser will set you back a mind boggling $2.50/hour. Mako outboard boats for fishing etc, cost $5/hour. Waterskiing in season is $12/hour. Deep ocean charters are $85 per half day (split 4 or 5 w ays I dare you to beat it)! Women will either love all the attention or hate it. Snorkeling is OK during the summer but in the Winter (now....brrrrrr the mercury is down to 76 today) the tradewinds stir up the sand making for murky waters.

Yeah it's nice, but spouses are not allowed (don't have one yet anyway), and being in MIS you're way out of your field for a year. We're working on better Internet access (connections are slow due to the Navy's 128K satellite uplink-just upgraded from 56 K), and there's a lot of optimism underfoot, but things here take a while. Due to the small population it can be like living in a fishbowl - get smashed last night? - the boss'll know before your headache goes away (on the other hand the boss don't care, but you get the drift....)

Need more info, email me. Though I can't say for sure when I'll get back to you.

Conrad Matt

Conrad Matt
MIS Manager
BJS International
BOX 27
FPO AP 96595-0027
Tel: Country Code (246) 370-2854
Fax: Country Code (246) 370-3946
Email: bjsmismg@nctsdg.navy.mil

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