Information Technology specialist Danford McCann knows what it’s like to play with fire and get burned, literally. “Your first thought is to go screaming, running,” he said. “Actually, the real thought that went through my head was I got no one to blame but myself.”
McCann, who joined Tam staff this year, previously worked as a street magician. He was performing in downtown San Francisco when a trick went wrong.
“My quote unquote magic sprung a leak and it was leaking in there, and I’m in downtown San Francisco, I can’t smell anything. So when I lit the match, the flame shot up and back into my jacket, and lit my entire arm on fire,” he said. “People around me thought it was part of the trick, so they didn’t put me out, or anything else. I started patting it down. I finally put it down, and as I did I said, ‘good night everybody.’ And I had second degree burns all up and down my arm.”
Staying cool under pressure is a skill McCann finds himself using when working on computers. “You got to keep a poker face, plain and simple…There are sometimes…where I’ll enter in a fix, or rather what I thought was supposed to be a fix, and it comes back with a brand new error I’ve never seen before,” he said. “And, of course, every single time I’ve had the user behind me, just staring over my shoulder, which as uncomfortable as that is, I understand why [they do it]. And they look at it, and they’re already in kind of a panic mode.” McCann considers comforting stressed clients to be part of his job. “My job is being halftime IT guy and halftime psychiatrist,” he said.
In times like those, McCann takes issue with the stereotypical I.T. guy. “I feel the stereotype kind of falls short, meaning that the I.T. guy is there and helping out, but they don’t try and comfort the person,” he said. “I kind of go against the grain of your stereotypical I.T. guy,” McCann said, describing himself as a people person. “IT people are usually viewed as hermits or reclusive. They don’t want to interact with the public or anybody else.”
McCann never expected to work in technology. “In fact, when I was a kid, the two things I hated most were computers and school. And I work for a high school as an I.T. guy,” he said, laughing. “I was kind of the anti-technology kid.”
It wasn’t until McCann was 19 that his brother, who also works in I.T., introduced him to “technology and the wonders of the internet,” as he put it. “I remember my training was just that my brother locked me in a room with 20 computers that were broken, and said, “You have eight hours to try and get it fixed.’”
To his surprise, McCann found that he enjoyed it. “[IT work] is problem solving, it’s a puzzle,” he said.
In part because of his experience with technology, McCann considers education to be an important part of his job. “Any way that I can make a person more comfortable with technology, teach them some tips and tricks, that makes it worth it at the end of the day,” he said. Whatever he’s doing, McCann likes to feel that he’s helping others.
McCann was never formally trained in IT, something he considers an advantage. “My lack of knowledge and education comes from the actual terms… that’s where I lack,” he said. “But when it comes to fixing the systems, and the skills and experience, and coming across those error codes and going, oh wait, I’ve run into those before, that’s what I feel sets apart from the education, versus the experience.”
After working at Tam for little more than a month, he said the mystique has lost much of its appeal.
“When I was a student, whenever I went to school, there was always some sort of quote-unquote mystery behind closed doors, server rooms, things like that. You get called into the principal’s office and you don’t know why,” he said. “When you hit my age, and you’re here, and you get to see behind the scenes.”
Nevertheless, McCann knows his behind the scenes role holds a lot of power. “I have full access to be able to view everybody,” he said. “Do I do that? No, because that’s just creepy.”
McCann’s still settling in. “My predecessor Charlie, I believe 18 years he used to work here, that was some pretty big shoes to fill,” he said. “There’s still teachers out there that I don’t even know their names.” But, he said, “I actually look forward coming into work, because I know that even if it’s a busy day, or a hard day, or whatever it might be, I’m still going to have fun here. And that’s really what I was looking forward to, and this place definitely has it.”
And as for the fire magic, McCann’s beginning again. “I just started getting back into fire breathing and eating, and stuff like that,” he said. “It’s kind of tough, because again, I don’t want to lose an eyebrow.”