CXO

Talking Shop: Working for an enterprise help desk can help your career

Working on the help desk for larger organizations can offer greater challenges and rewards


It has been my experience that unless you’ve worked on an enterprise help desk, the IT community doesn’t feel that you have truly mastered the technical support trade. Like most professions, IT support has a hierarchy of positions and workplaces. If you were a reporter, would you get more respect working for a small county paper or the New York Times? The same is true of the IT support industry. Support technicians can achieve quicker advancement and a higher level of professional admiration by working an enterprise help desk.

Important but not a guarantee
Before everyone reading this quits their job with a small company in search of a larger help desk, let me give you a little warning. Working for an enterprise support organization does not guarantee overnight fame and fortune. Don’t expect to be the next Bill Gates just because your help desk supports 5,000 users. If you’re a terrible tech, you’re probably not going to advance very far no matter where you work.

Experience is only one characteristic of an outstanding support tech. Sufficient knowledge, adequate communication skills, strong analytic ability, a talent for being organized, and the capacity to thrive under pressure are all important for advancement in the IT support profession. An enterprise help desk environment, however, can often help you acquire and develop these necessary traits more quickly than a small help desk.

It also depends on where you work. Not all large help desks are the same. Some will help you grow as a technician and further your career, while others only hinder your development and lessen your opportunities. Before joining an enterprise help desk, make sure they have a positive work environment and can help you grow as a support tech.

Experience, diversity, opportunity, and pressure
Just what does an enterprise help desk have to offer? First, the experience of working for a large help desk cannot be duplicated by a small business. I started my IT support career at a small, nonprofit organization with less than 15 employees. Although I was the IT Manager and had free reign over the establishment’s computer systems, I wasn’t being exposed to the amount or level of technology required to further my career. After two years, I moved to an enterprise help desk, supporting over 3,000 workstations and 4,000 international users. Here, I found the diversity I needed: diversity of technology, diversity of activity, and diversity of people.

Enterprise help desks expose support techs to a variety of systems, problems, and clients. This rich environment can help techs sharpen their troubleshooting abilities and improve their communication skills. Also, large help desks often have more opportunities than small organizations. These may include opportunities for advancement or training, a chance to work with a wide range of technologies, and the opportunity of supporting a large number of users.

Finally, enterprise IT organizations are often under more pressure than small support departments. It was much easier for me to support the same 15 users every day, as opposed to the 30 to 40 different users I talked to each day on the enterprise help desk. In the latter environment, I was under much greater pressure to solve problems quickly and correctly. However, this demand made me a better support tech and proved that I could effectively handle stressful situations in the IT environment. Working an enterprise help desk definitely made me a better tech, expanded my resume, and led to greater peer acceptance.

It’s your choice
Working for an enterprise help desk isn’t right for everyone, and it does have disadvantages. Larger organizations can be less personal and more bureaucratic than smaller companies. If you’re the only or head IT tech at a small firm, you may not want to start in a lower position at a larger corporation (which I did). When I decided to join an enterprise help desk, I examined the costs and benefits very carefully. I was losing some freedom and status, but what I would gain in opportunity, diversity, and experience made up for it. Had I not worked for an enterprise IT organization, I believe my career would still be stalled. If you are looking to advance in the field of IT support, I am a firm believer that working on an enterprise help desk is an essential endeavor.
Do you think enterprise help desks provide more experience and opportunities than small organizations? Would you want to work at an enterprise help desk? Let us know what you think. Post a comment or send us an e-mail.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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