Not every job in technology involves sitting in a comfy chair, analyzing data. Best Computer Science Schools has taken a look at some of the worst jobs in information technology and what makes them so dangerous, dirty or just plain disturbing.
With devices like cell phones and tablets becoming increasingly central to everyday life, those who assemble such devices are under growing strain to meet deadlines and deliver high-quality products. The stress recently led several employees of an Apple assembly factory in China to commit suicide. In addition, accusations have been leveled against other companies like Dell, HP and Samsung, claiming sweatshop conditions and exposure to radiation.
Undersea Internet cable repair
Think you are able to connect to another continent thanks to satellites? Think again. Massive undersea cables provide about 99 percent of the world’s Internet connectivity. Workers have to lay those cables and then return to repair them in the event of a line break, which can be caused by everything from a ship’s anchor to an undersea earthquake. Robots controlled by humans physically lay and bury the cables, but humans must haul in, fix and drop the tables. And since they’re in the middle of the ocean, nature could intervene at any time.
Cell phone-tower climbing has been called the most dangerous work in the country. These towers can reach heights of 2,000 feet, exposing workers to the very real risk of a deadly fall. And with the increasing reliance on cellular networks, more and more towers go up every year, with more workers exposed to those dangers all the time.
Engineers who troubleshoot networks often have to crawl through basements and attics, pulling equipment and repairing it. That’s already a pretty gross job. Imagine doing all that in a war zone. Military network engineers are tasked with doing that very unglamorous job in dangerous areas, including in active conflict zones.
Spent electronics aren’t simply tossed into landfills and left to nature. Used hardware from the U.S. often travels halfway around the world to developing nations for workers there to smash so they can strip the valuable metals (gold, copper and silver included) from circuit boards. In addition to flying shards of glass, they often come into contact with dangerous minerals and chemicals, such as lead, mercury and brominated flame retardants, as well as acid to help reveal the valuable metals.
Like the developing world workers who reclaim precious metals from discarded computers, asset disposition firms analyze old computers from major companies, clean them up and decide if they must be trashed or if they can be refurbished. Many of the computers have been unused for years, so inside workers can encounter spiders, insects, dust, even animal carcasses.
Mining for “blood phones”
Conflict mining doesn’t just apply to diamonds. Key ingredients for making electronics, such as tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold, are found in abundance in the eastern Congo. Hundreds of Congolese men, women and children dig through mountains and river streams for even small bits of these substances, while facing threat of armed groups, who make millions off these materials. While no companies have been able to completely certify their products are 100 percent conflict-free, many are moving in that direction.
You know the bad stuff on the Internet? No, the really bad stuff – images of hate crimes, child abuse, torture, executions? Internet content reviewers get paid to filter out such material from social networks and photo-sharing sites. Some companies that employ content moderators also pay for free counseling for their employees.
While system administrators often work from behind a desk or in an office, they’re also very frequently tasked with jobs far outside the scope of office work. System administrators often receive panicked phone calls or emails late at night (or very early in the morning), and they often deal with users who complicate their jobs by not being entirely truthful about their activities. And especially at smaller companies, system administrators are the ones who clean and maintain equipment and must MacGyver problems by engineering solutions on the fly.
Those who build communications infrastructure are at risk of falls and injuries. Those who work in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan? Add the very real risk of being shot or caught up in a bomb blast. At least five telecommunications contractors have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, though numbers are unclear, since most work for private contractors.
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