Wiring The Iraqi Elections

An anonymous writer over at The Billfold reveals how he parlayed a lackluster IT resume into a gig building the IT and communications infrastructure for the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI) in 2004. He managed to knock off $90,000 in student debt in the process:

If I had felt any unease that I was potentially exploiting a horrible situation for personal gain, it was short-lived. The next four months were the most stressful, difficult, and dangerous of my life until that point, and probably—hopefully—ever. … On December 31, 2004, I achieved a couple of significant milestones: I made my final student loan payment, and I had a positive net worth for the first time in my adult life. Mortars, rockets, and car bombs aside, that was pretty satisfying.

Election Day finally arrived on January 30, 2005. Somehow just about everything I had to do got done. Well, not everything, but enough. How everyone else got their jobs done, which were a lot bigger and more complicated than mine, I will never understand. I spent the last few days setting up the tally center, but I had nothing to do on the big day itself, which was weird. I wandered around the headquarters, completely idle for the first time in months. The Iraqi staff started to trickle in, their index fingers stained purple after voting. I was unexpectedly overcome with emotion. Then my staff started to arrive, the sweetest, hardest working bunch of nerds you could ever ask for, and they proudly showed me their purple fingers. As conflicted as I may have been about this entire endeavor—and I still don’t know if any of it mattered—it was a sweet day. I must have cried a dozen times.