Burning the Systems

Ticketfly is coming in, with a new ticketing system, selling vehicle passes as well as tickets. Burning Man’s bazaar marketplace has been taken down, to be revamped in some unknown way, presumably fitting this year’s theme of commerce and trade. All kinds of Burner-related goodies and merchandise will probably be on sale soon at burningman.com. The Burning Man Project is developing a new online learning portal, to teach the world about the Ten Principles and the Holy Wisdom of BMOrg.

All this takes systems. Lots, and lots of systems. If you know what I’m talking about, then you might want to apply for this full-time position at Burning Man HQ as “Event Systems Manager”:


The Event Systems Manager oversees the technology systems and projects that support the annual production of Black Rock City and year-round events. Responsibilities include the selection or development, maintenance, implementation and operational readiness and support of software systems that support a wide variety of event-related logistical needs. In addition to direct management of these systems, this role engages with other BRC departmental technology projects and systems as relevant. This position reports to the Technology Director and supervises seasonal employees, part-time and project contractors, volunteers, and vendor relationships. 

This is a full-time, regular position eligible for benefits in our San Francisco office.


The Event Systems Manager is responsible for the people, software and technology processes supporting the annual production of Black Rock City, as well as certain year-round events. This involves performing tasks, delegating tasks, managing team members, managing vendors, and cultivating the staff and volunteers using and supporting our various event operations systems.  

Management of systems includes, but is not limited to the following: 

* Dataflow Manager Logistics Request System – Logistics Requests, Commissary Access and Tracking    
* Django Systems – Playa Events Calendar, Ride-share Board, Playa Directory, Burning Man Innovation API    
* Shiftboard Team Management System
* UStream Webcast broadcast 

Stakeholder responsibilities in the following systems: 

* Event Access: TicketFly – Ticket Sales, Credentials Requests, Gate Scanning
* Customer/User Support: Zendesk
* Ranger Incident Tracking System
* Future Gate Incident Tracking System
* Future Airport Tracking System
* Department Systems for ESD, PG&E, Rangers, DPW, BMIR, Others
* Salesforce

Responsibilities will also extend to any new event-related systems or vendors engaged by Black Rock City, LLC, or The Burning Man Project.

Duties include:

* Supervise full-time staff, project contractors, vendors, and volunteers as necessary to ensure availability and functionality of event production systems and supporting functions.

* Create contracts, participate in candidate screening and perform administration required to engage contractors as necessary. 

* Collaborate with system administrators to ensure operating system level upgrades and support is in place for internally hosted software systems.

* As necessary supervise or lead stakeholders through analysis exercises in order to determine technology system functional and business requirements.

* Monitor and manage resolution of change requests, bug reports and user support issues pertaining to event production systems.

* Ensure timely resolution of any system outages.

* Perform research and analysis for emerging technologies and trends in the areas of event production.

* Manage or perform tasks as related to organization FileMaker databases, including creating new databases and performing database management, data extracts and other supporting tasks as required.

* Participate in Tech Committee planning and prioritization efforts.

* Engage in efforts to appreciate all staff and volunteers.

* Provide timely reporting of work accomplished by team members and volunteers.

* Write internal Ember Report for annual debrief cycle.

* Write external AfterBurn report or other public facing web reports as necessary.

* Provide updates regarding event production systems at staff meetings and other forums as necessary.

* Participate in Volunteer Recruitment open houses.

* Participate in and represent event operations systems at the Global Leadership Conference. 

* Attend All-Staff Meetings and Staff Development Trainings.

* Participate in off-site Debriefs, Retreats, and other sessions as necessary.

* 4 –year degree in Technology field or equivalent work experience.

* Experience leading teams through deployment of at least 4 technology systems.

* 2 years or more experience managing software and system maintenance efforts.

* 2 years project management and/or production management experience.

* Practical experience with numerous collaboration and office infrastructure software systems, including best practices and process management.

* Previous experience with internal staff training and communication efforts.

* Previous experience managing vendor relationships.

* Previous experience leading software evaluation and selection projects.  

* Previous experience working in a team with development and production software environments.

* Previous experience managing change control processes.

* Leadership experience managing the resolution of support issues.

* Previous experience designing and managing project-based contract positions.

* Ability to supervise and mentor others to foster a cooperative and collaborative work environment.

* Very strong written and verbal communication skills.

* Very detail oriented.

* Significant knowledge and experience within the Burning Man Project, organization and community.

* Dedicated to principles of behavior and ethics of the Burning Man organization.

* Highly motivated.

* Very strong social, networking, and interpersonal skills.

* BRC, LLC is an equal-opportunity employer.

That’s a helluva big list. No word on what the position pays, and presumably there aren’t any stock options. Anyone in Silicon Valley with the qualifications they’re asking for, could probably command six figures and a decent chunk of a startup’s equity. Everyone needs project managers who can deploy systems and manage teams, and do a sysadmin and database administrator’s job at the same time. Of course they should also be great leaders (like most IT people are – not!), great report writers as well as systems designers, detail oriented AND creative at the same time, highly motivated, and on call 24/7 in case of any outages. It doesn’t specifically say they need to write code, but a lot of the things listed are what Senior Systems Analysts do.

clusterfuck cerealHere, they’re being asked to manage 9 different core legacy systems plus multiple existing databases, 5 different department systems (not specified)…as well as developing 2 brand new systems and even more databases. How many databases does this organization need? Plus it sounds like they’re going to need to introduce bug tracking and change management systems. This would be 18 systems total, plus an unspecified number of databases. From an IT perspective, this sounds like a nightmare. I’m assuming that none of these systems are integrated with each other. They’re also being asked to manage vendors, which in this case I think means IT vendors – which means BMOrg plans to have even more systems in the future.

Of particularly interest is Salesforce. This system is used to track “deals”, from when they’re just a twinkle of a lead in BMOrg’s eye, all the way through to when the deal is closed and the money is in the bank. It’s a cumbersome piece of software, managing a Salesforce implementation is often a full-time job in itself. Most of the Fortune 500 use it to manage large sales teams. Who are the sales team for BMOrg, and what is it, exactly, that BMOrg are selling that requires the use of a sophisticated tool like this? Photo shoots, perhaps? Advertising? Sponsorships?

dilbert salesforce




24 comments on “Burning the Systems

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  7. I’m an IT Director and 7-year-veteran Burner. Last year I hired two people. I do occasionally read this blog and have found some great insightful information. This though appears to be skewed a little bit on the “flame Burning Man” side, pun intended 🙂

    The skillset here goes for about $75,000 per year and is a junior to mid-level SysAdmin’s bag of tricks. The different systems they use are really basic, cloud-hosted and well supported by the vendor. There’s not a lot of “engineering” going on in this job and it’s focused on “support.” For example, ZenDesk is just a simple cloud-hosted interface you use to manage tickets and support from — you can learn it and add it to your resume in a day.

    This is not a six figure job, and this is not a highly skilled job. This is a step above entry level. Need any more info, feel free to ask me, I can go into incredible detail for you.

    • I think what you’re saying would be true, if it was just administering 18 cloud-based systems.
      But you’re missing:
      – project management
      – team management
      – database design
      – design/develop/deploy new systems
      – *responsibility for all IT systems* for a city of 70,000 people and a $30 million annual event

      Also I don’t have the detail on the existing 5 operational systems, or what/how many databases there are, or what the databases are used for – do you?

      I disagree with your comment “this is not a highly skilled job”, I would agree “this is not the most highly skilled job” however your average IT person off the street can’t just walk in and meet their requirements. If salesforce goes down, no big deal. If the gate system goes down – as happened this year – entry times become 12 hours+ and there is an angry mob of people in the middle of the desert. That’s quite a responsibility to put on a junior person with only moderate IT skills.

      If they get someone competent to do this job for $75k in San Francisco city, more power to them – and more money saved to donate to charity, which is the point of the whole thing, right?

      I work pretty closely with a high-tech recruitment company who contracts to many top VCs, and I know they would have difficulty finding candidates for this at any price, let alone $75k/yr (remember there is no equity, and probably not much of a career path).

      I hope that this new person – or lack thereof – doesn’t cop the blame if there are any problems, for example implementing Ticketfly and the new Vehicle Pass system.

  8. Deciding to use Salesforce makes me question not their integrity, but their intelligence. It’s a huge piece of crap that succeeds because it’s sold to executives, not professionals.

    • Yeah the execs never have to use it. I have, and agree with your comments. Seems like a tedious way to track volunteer hours, they should use Reallocate’s platform for non profits which is free

  9. Simpler way with the same goal $$$$. If you do not entry the city with at least two people in your vehicle (driver and passenger) you pay $40 access fee, on the spot. I know people will say it will slow down the line etc. My guess it would be a very small percentage. Most cars or vehicles have two plus people anyway.

    • Like all things BOrg, the car pass is not for the stated purpose. It is to offer an image of dealing with the exodus and road damage, but in a practical sense, based on the cited statistics, it will not make a difference on either. It WILL increase revenues and the ticketing drama, which seem to be the primary contribution of the BOrg to the GDP.

  10. My guess is this: Salesforce is a Customer Relationship Management system. Zendesk is an off the shelf solution that may not be customizable enough for them. There are tens of thousands of customers, i.e. Burners, who have ticket- and car pass-related issues that need to be numbered, added to a checklist and assigned to one human being to make sure they’re taken care of, rather than being emailed to whatever baked intern is manning the inbox that day. I’m guessing that their new CRM system will handle the Burner Profiles too. They’re actually addressing everyone’s issues about the ticket system. Crazy. But if you really want the Burn to stay underground, you should probably be petitioning the Borg to leave their creaky chewing gum and scotch tape systems in place…crusty Burners expect things to suck. N00bs expect customer service.

  11. This seems like a lot more work than whatever the founders do. I am sure that this being a fair and equal country, they will also get more compensation then.

  12. As a salesforce.com administrator, it looks to me like they will be using it initially for it’s non-profit capabilities, such as tracking volunteer training, hours, basic info etc., rather than its sales functionality. There is a non-profit version that is affordably priced for 501c3 orgs.

  13. Dayum! Sounds like they are going to hire a person to do all that work they have been screwing up. Begs the question what the $7+ million in annual overhead is going for.

    I question if the BOrg has lost its amateur standing. This sort of hypocrisy and public denial of the truth really should be exercised in public office, or in a public corporation.

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