Tech & Work

An IT manager needs to make the best of a grassroots 'demotion'

This manager thought that a promotion to senior network support analyst meant that the days of answering support calls were over, but the new boss thought otherwise. Find out what this IT manager needs to do to effectively deal with this change.


Question
I’ve worked for a company several years now as a senior network support analyst. When I took the job, I was wrapping up over five years of user support and wanted to get out of that. I was told my job was to help with network security, set up and maintain servers, and the like. About a year ago, I got a new boss who has started having everyone (including senior support) answer user support calls. I feel I’m right back where I started. I’m trying to deal with it and trying to decide if I need to look for a new job. What are my options?

Answer
Congratulations on working at a job long enough for the job description to change! Not everyone who works in IT can say they’ve had that experience. Try to keep the fact that you are gainfully employed firmly in mind as you sort through your options.

You can either stay or go, but do yourself and your employer a favor by not nursing an emotional grudge while you’re still in your current position. While you’re there, do your job as well and as cheerfully as you can. Granted, the job seems to have changed, but jobs do that.

If you stay, look for ways to remedy the situation. Try to find out, for starters, why the new boss made the change. Perhaps he or she felt that everyone in the IT support group needed to have direct interaction with the people they are paid to support. Or, perhaps his or her boss had made one too many comments about all those IT people in the back room who never seem to be doing anything and who never talk to anyone.

Once you’ve gotten a good idea of why this change was made (bearing in mind that in most office situations, nobody will ever clearly explain why anything happens), then you can put your senior-level computer skills to work. Analyze the support calls to see if the company staff would benefit from some basic computer skills training. Maybe the network needs to be upgraded or expanded. Maybe the company is buying computers with hardly enough memory to run e-mail, much less more complex software.

You should do this analysis even if you find out the reason for the directive was purely political. It’s time for you to come out from behind the wall of technology and deal with people again. After all, the core of your job is to make technology work for the people who use it. That’s what you get paid to do.

As a senior-level analyst, you should be interested in seeking out and correcting systemic problems in the IT networks. Keep in mind that networks include people as well as computers. I’ll bet that once you sink your teeth into this project, you’ll be eager to take user support calls. Each call is a new piece of the puzzle.

Plus, you will be building job skills that are in short supply and that will form the next rung on your career ladder. It’s always a good career strategy to use your current job to help prepare yourself for the next one. Your annoying change in duties has presented you with that opportunity.

If you decide to go, then answer a question about yourself before you start targeting other jobs. Decide if you want to work more with people or more with technology. You see, most IT jobs in corporate America relate in some way to the people who are using the technology to get work done. The computers are tools, and most of the people who are using them don’t care how they work. They just want them to work.

Wanting them to work means having someone show up immediately when there is a problem and fix that problem without delay. Anything else is seen as a failure of the system, if not a failure on the part of the technician. That’s harsh, but that’s reality in the world of IT tech support, whether you’re senior level or not.

If helping people get their work done is getting on your nerves, then maybe you need to segue your career into the more technical aspects of networking. By that I mean, perhaps you’d be happier working in a computer-testing lab for a network component manufacturer. Or, maybe you would like to work on designing hacker-resistant firewalls at a company that designs IT security solutions.

Whatever you decide, make sure to do the job you’re being paid to do now. Use the job you have now to learn skills you can use to move into a different and better job later on.

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