Tl;dr: I am not getting the tools and knowledge required in order to complete my job effectively, despite repeated requests and attempts to do so. I want to keep the job and be good at it.
How can I achieve and excel in a civilian job where the leadership essentially refuses to allow growth?
My title is 'network administrator' (and DBA, SysAdmin, Developer, Programmer, Tech Support, etc etc) for a small company (450 or so personnel). There are only two 'IT' persons on site to handle everything related to technology. Myself, and my boss. I have been employed a little over a year and am still adjusting to the different style and environment of the job. Previously, I was a soldier with 6 years service; this is my first civilian job. I was a soldier, I was in an intelligence MOS (laugh all you want) and I am a smart guy. I know how to follow orders, I know when to clarify the situation, that my actions must fit my orders. I have no degree however, due to going into the military instead of college. I believe this is why my boss (apparently) looks down on me.
When I was hired it was with the understanding to 'learn and develop' as much as I could about the field I am working in, in case he encountered a 'hit by a bus' event. He has been with this company as the sole IT person for the past 26 years. The systems they use are mainly Windows systems, but with a few industry specific servers/applications (AS/400, BLIS-400, EDI/ERP systems, Lotus (ugh) notes etc). It was my understanding that I would be trained and brought up to speed on these systems due to being unfamiliar with them. I was not to touch any of the systems (mission critical) until I had the proper training. Without this familiarity, I could not support the systems or personnel using them.
It is over a year later, and my 'training' for these systems was 1 session each: How to login, and change your password. During this year my duties have been relegated to performing help desk level IT support, a bit of web developing, and general maintenance/updates of the Windows and Linux systems on site. I do not begrudge that; it is after all, my job. However, during this past year I have also constantly asked my superior for training on the BLIS-400 or Notes systems. Every request, verbal or written was met with 'when it slows down/when we have time' or 'Okay, no problem'. Nothing has come of this.
Constantly, during my job I am approached by co-workers who begin spouting off their IT request/issues, drop a piece of paper (or post it) on my desk, and leave. (This place has no offical help desk software, request are generally done in person, stopping in the hallway, etc). Most of these request involve the systems I have no idea or control over. Therefore, I pass the information on to my superior with a personal request formulated such as "SB1 has asked me for CF6. I would do it, but I'm unsure of the proper procedure/method/protocol/system permissions to get it done. Is this something you can handle, or explain to me how to learn to do it so I won't have to bother you again?"
Nothing comes of this. My boss will 'take care' of the issue with a slight nod, or an email with my CC'd - "Its done". Follow-up questions on what was done or a quick primer are ignored, handled much in the same manner : When we have time or Don't worry about it, its done.
I have attempted to get the company to purchase books on AS/400, send me to classes/conferences, or to other sites to learn the system. I know my superior is busy and cannot take time away from his duties to ensure I am 100% trained. (But, it would be nice.) I have offered to even come in on a weekend to learn at least the basics and go from there. This, has never been met with enthusiasm or acceptance. I still know how to login to the system and change my password. If anyone here has dealt with IBM iSeries, AS/400 or the BLIS system built on top of it, you understand the complexity of the program, commands, and libraries. To me, this is not something as simple as 'Dive into AS/400' and within a week or two being up to speed enough to manage.
Recently, my superior went on a vacation. I was informed of this on the day his vacation began with a 'rundown' of how to perform tape backups. I know the man is under no obligation to inform me of his schedule, however being told in advance of such an event would allow me to prepare for it adequately. On top of that, I feel he insulted me by attempting to 'train' me on how to use a common and very widely used backup system and methodology.
During this hiatus, There where many projects and issues crop up that I was completely unaware of. That is, management requesting status and information on IT projects that 'we' where working on. ('We', because I had no clue to them even existing let alone my hand in completing them.) There where also a few general issues with improper parts or orders that needed to be changed in the system. I had to inform various personnel that I could not assist them in correcting the mistakes, they would need to wait a week and ask my superior to do so. The looks alone from co-workers where bad, but one even had the gall to state So you can't do anything and they still pay you? Must be nice. On top of that there was a major issues with the system that required certain commands to be run, queues to be changed, and slight programming modifications before shipping could continue. Due to my inexperience with this system, I had to call my superior on his vacation, explain the situation in a voicemail and wait for him to respond. In a very time critical situation (shippers waiting to depart dock) it took two hours before my boss responded to me. In an email. "They can ship, its fixed."
That, is the back story. Yesterday, my boss returned to work. I continued with my duties, briefing him of the most important issues during his departure and awaited further orders. Today, I asked him if there was any projects, duties, orders, menial tasks he would like to assign me so that he could have a better workload. A few tasks where given to me, but by lunch time (actually, 45 min ago) these tasks where completed. I am now without orders and so I again ask my superior 'Any other tasks you need me to complete, or perhaps is now a good time to train on the BLIS-400'. His response, filled with what I took as malice, was "Christ, I can't hold your damn hand for everything. You'll have to learn it the same way I did. Get in there and mess around, figure it out. I'm not babying you."
Now I'd like to say, that I am far from being 'babyed' at this job. I take initiative to do things that need to be done, within my authority. I 'Get shit done', and there are no complaints from my boss that I know of. Those above him in the chain of command also applaud my work ethic, drive, and desire to help. I have a great boss as far as bosses go. He is laid back and allows me the freedom to work autonomously. He always backs me up when an issue arises and is willing to let me challenge the way IT things are done in order to improve them. Overall , I feel he is a rarely good civilian manager. His flaw, and the source of my frustrations, is his lack of communication. In a year of working, in the same (large) office, the most we have spoken verbally is standard salutations. A few communications over email for clarification on projects, or me passing along information that he needs to act on. He never initiates a conversation with me, and in fact, I have to specifically ask him for 'work' or a task before he will tell me what is on his project list.
This lack of communication and that phrase, is what brought me here. I cannot fully do my job because even a year in, I have not been equipped or trained to do it. I complete every task given to me, and am always seeking more to do. I cannot be content sitting around, idling the day away. There is always something for me to do, but at this time, 90% of the projects I should be handling are on systems I know about 0.0316% of. This is not conducive to me retaining my job, which, I do like and want to keep! However with continued lack of training, lack of communication, and multiple personnel essentially seeing me as 'not doing anything', I am afraid of losing my job. I need advice please on how to address this situation professionally and quickly. I need to get the situation and especially my skills up to speed soon, without alienating my superior or over stepping my authority. I do not want to work in another position in this field, I just want to do the best I can at this one.