IT Employment

10 signs that you aren't cut out to be a support tech


So you want to be a computer support technician? Or perhaps you are one already, but you can't decide whether you're just having a bad week or you're really not cut out for the job. What does it take to be an effective support tech? Is this a career at which you can excel and be happy? The ability to do well in any job and to enjoy it depends to a certain extent upon our personalities, skills, and attitudes. But how can you tell if you shouldn't be a support tech? Consider the following indications that you might be on the wrong track.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: You don't respect other techs

Start by examining your attitude toward support techs. When you have to call your ISP or other service provider, do you treat the techs with respect or do you assume they're all idiots reading flip charts? If you do not respect the role of the support tech, regardless of how well a particular tech performs, you probably shouldn't be one, as you won't value yourself or what you do.

#2: You view the job only as a stepping stone

How do you see the job as support tech? Is it an end in itself or merely a stepping stone to something "better"? Unfortunately, in many organizations, the support tech job is regarded as being on the lowest rung of the IT ladder, as an entry level position to be filled by people with little or no proven experience who will be promoted out of the spot at the earliest opportunity.

All too frequently, I've seen applicants for support tech positions state their objective as being a network administer or DBA. Few applicants actually say they're aspiring to be a support tech. Irrespective of the frequent lowly positioning of support techs, if you do not respect the job as something to aspire to rather than a necessary rite of passage -- a techie purgatory -- you probably should not be a support tech.

#3: You care about technology but not people

Ask yourself why you want to be a support tech. If it is first and foremost because you enjoy messing around with computers, supporting tech-ing may not be the best choice of career. In many organizations, the tech spends as much time, if not more, dealing with user-perceived issues as with genuine technical problems. On the other hand, if you primarily enjoy helping people, relish problem solving, have infinite patience, and have some technical aptitude, being a support tech could make you deliriously happy.

#4: You're not really driven to keep up with tech trends

Of course, #3 does not mean that an interest in, and an aptitude for, technology are not necessary prerequisites for being a support tech. Arguably, without a strong independent interest in technology, it is highly unlikely that the support tech field will be a successful choice of careers. Being an effective support tech requires keeping up with current technology and, regrettably, not every company will provide the time and tools necessary for this task during normal working hours. This means that to stay competitive, you will need to devote some of your own time and resources to keeping yourself current.

#5: You don't care about the business you're supporting

Support techs are employed in all types of businesses, from schools to hospitals to chemical plants to casinos. Although many of the basic functions and roles of the tech in each of these industries are the same or similar, in my experience, the really outstanding techs are the ones who take the time to learn the industry they are supporting.

You don't need to pass the bar exam to be a support tech for a law practice, but making the effort to understand the business will give you the information you need to better prioritize your tasks and provide proactive support. A tech who takes the time to learn the job functions of the people he or she is supporting can add considerable value by making suggestions to enable the users to make more effective use of the available technology and become more efficient in their jobs.

#6: You don't handle stress terribly well

Another important factor to consider is how you respond to pressure in the form of urgent deadlines, highly stressed employees, and irate corporate executives. If you aren't capable of staying calm and thinking logically and clearly to figure out why the presentation due in exactly seven minutes will not print or how to retrieve the boss's file that a secretary inadvertently deleted, a career as a support tech is liable to cause you a great deal of stress and misery. In such circumstances, techs are required to show that they acknowledge the urgency of achieving a fast resolution without engaging in the user's panic, while still treating a quite possibly abusive user with respect and professionalism.

#7: You need recognition and praise

Being a support tech often means being invisible until something goes wrong. Ironically, if you're doing an awesome job by proactively taking care of the users, you're less likely to be noticed than if you're slacking and are frequently called upon to save the day.

Early in my career, a VP took me aside and suggested that I might like to occasionally crash the network server so I could justify my existence by heroically restoring it overnight. You may be fortunate and encounter the odd users who appreciate that they never have to call you, or even a boss or co-worker who expresses gratitude for the fine job you are doing, but this type of positive feedback is usually the exception. If you require frequent approbation to feel confident and satisfied with your performance, being a support tech may not be the best choice of careers.

#8: You're a little short on patience

Do you regard yourself as a patient person? Dealing with certain users requires a great deal of patience and composure. Some users will always make the same mistakes, which they expect you to fix. Others will require hours of individual tutoring to be able to perform even the most basic tasks on their computer. Addressing the needs of these users calls for patience, composure, and empathy.

One tech with whom I used to work had an outstanding reputation among the more difficult users for being an excellent teacher, willing to give up his breaks and lunchtime to assist with any mundane task. One evening after work, I ran into him at a local park, red-faced and pouring sweat, violently slamming tennis balls into a wall. Each tennis ball had a face drawn on it in the unmistakable likeness of certain employees, with a name inscribed underneath to remove any doubt as to the intended identity. Not being an innately patient person, the tech had developed this creative method of dealing with his frustration rather than taking it out on the users.

#9: You're a bit shaky when it comes to problem solving

The process of resolving computer problems requires a systematic, logical methodology, with occasional flares of inspiration when the logic fails. Although there is no single "correct" methodology for determining the cause of a problem, the ability to think clearly and logically is an essential qualification for being a support tech.

If you do not have a natural aptitude for systematic problem solving, being a successful support tech will require you to devote considerable time to developing comprehensive problem-solving techniques that can be adapted to any situation.

#10: You're shy, antisocial, or awkward in your communications

If your communication skills are anything short of excellent, or you possess good skills but have a strong preference for hiding behind your keyboard all day, a career as a support tech will make both you and your users very unhappy. In most organizations, the support tech is the face of the IT department. In many cases, the tech is the only IT staff member with whom most users will ever interact. This means that the ability to communicate effectively with all types of users, regardless of their technical ability or position within the company, is of paramount importance.

93 comments
CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

There's a reason why the abbreviations 'RTDM' and 'RTFB' were coined. If you can't be bothered to read instructions, you'll find the IT field frustrating for two reasons. First, you won't be able to accomplish anything since you won't know how to do it. Second, you find no sympathy from other IT professionals, who will expect you to do the basic research before crying for help. EDITED - Auuuugghh! The zombie ate my brains!

diman75
diman75

Believe me, nobody handles stress terribly well, it is just that some people can hide their emotions for a period of time while at work, but then stress finds its way to burst out anyway.

diman75
diman75

In my experience of being an IT Tech I'm yet to come across a user who is satisfied with the service, whether you are being patient, polite or tolerant. Just the fact that something is wrong with a computer and takes time to be fixed is just enough to hold you personally responsible for the trouble.

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

>Few applicants actually say they???re aspiring to be a >support tech. "Few burger king cooks say they are aspiring to be a burger king cook. Most want to be a 5 star restaurant cook someday." >If you do not respect the role of the support tech There is the role and the person, and you are mixing the two. If the person on the other end of the line has no clue what they are doing and refuses to get help, they do not deserve respect. And Tier I phone support techs usually are reading from a script. Sorry to burst your bubble. >This means that to stay competitive, you will need to >devote some of your own time and resources to keeping >yourself current. Don't let your employer take advantage of this. Its in their interest to skimp on training and force you to use your own resources ( time/money) to train. If you want to let them take advantage of you, then you deserve to be a tier one phone monkey for the rest of your life. >In most organizations, the support tech is the face >of the IT department Not really. The interconnection between Business orgs and IT has been emphasized more and more since at least 2001. The 2 sides must talk directly for the right solutions to be created. Sometimes a business liason can help bridge the communications gap, but far too often, you need to get ( for example ) sales, marketing, and the IT department in the same room so IT understands what the business wants ( needs? ) and the business understands the limits of the tools the IT Dept has at its disposal. I meet with the Marketing personnel often as they are the primary users of my Web Analytics application. If I didn't mention a sign, then that means I agreed with it.

robbie
robbie

Hear! Hear! These statements are soooooooooooooooooo true! I know just the support tech to send this list to. What a bear! Everyone is definitely not cut out to be a Support Tech. On my job, I have mandated that I NEVER come in contact with one of our Support Techs again. This individual needs to "give up the ghost" and take up another vocation. And that's coming from more than one person in the office.

jpurssey
jpurssey

I am a part-time unpaid tech support for a voluntary organisation, as well as having been supported in government and private companies. A few other things I have learned to reduce my workload are: Take the initiative in communication. If you follow up to check that the problem has been fixed you will find you are getting thanks, unless you haven't fixed the problem; which leads me to:- Test you have fixed the problem, otherwise you will get calls about not having done anything when you think you solved the problem; which leads to: Try to get your support organisation to follow a process and improve it. If every new user has the same problems after they are set up it is better to change your process so you set them up correctly. Otherwise you will get the reputation that "support hasn't got a clue" I will respect tech support until they fail to respect me and treat me like an idiot (or stupid user). Too numerous are the times when I have been fobbed off with a shallow analysis and have had to persist and persist until they recognise that there is a system problem.

annettea
annettea

If you read like me then we might be in a pit of trouble you say this I think that p should be a b see the bit back on top tracking lines with no eezeec root to star. wit.

alexh19740110
alexh19740110

A great load of nonsense. I'm now a UNIX sysadmin & a consultant earning a six-figure salary & I'm pretty good at it. Yet I was a support tech once & many of those "signs" would have applied. Any juniors / support-techs out there, take this article with a grain of salt. These are 10 qualities of an ideal support technician, not real support technicians. All of these skills can be learnt.

micah.mcneil
micah.mcneil

This is very true article. It's ridiculous the way front-line support techs are treated in some organizations. This really needs to change drastically.

micah.mcneil
micah.mcneil

This is very true article. It's ridiculous the way front-line support techs are treated in some organizations. This really needs to change drastically.

streetleveltech
streetleveltech

I have to disagree with the author on her second point. I worked as a desktop tech for several years before I was offered a position on my employer's networking team, which is the job I'd always wanted. I never wanted to be a desktop tech but when I was offered the job I took it and gave it everything I had. I considered the job a stepping stone, but I always treated the job and my users with respect. For me, my work was part of the process of learning and developing my skills so I could move on or move up, so I studied, earned my A+ and Network+ credentials, I took part in my employer's tuition benefit program and earned a Masters degree in Information Technology all the while doing my best to meet all my team's SLAs and, most of all, developing relationships with all my users to understand their needs and the needs of the business. I believe what's important is to keep a balance between ambition and whatever job I happen to be doing so I can set my sights on a higher position but still give my all to my present responsibilities. R. Jones

stuffstorage
stuffstorage

After 30+ years in international technical support (Measurex - 1970's; Dysan (1980's; Phase Metrics (1990's; and Lumisys (1990's), you are RIGHT on the point on this article. If you aren't VERY flexible, personable, and knowledgeable - please don't enter the field. Regards, Jan

pviavatt
pviavatt

I think it's right on the money. I am a self employed Computer Tech. My clients are home users and small business owners with less than 6 computers and only a few are server based networks. Beleive me you have to have patience and be able to listen to what they are telling you. 80% of my work is troubleshooting so if you are only interested in building or souping up PC's you will become boored very quickly. About 20% of my time is spent consulting with clients about what they should purchase and what upgrades they need. I formally worked for CompUSA and have been on my own for 5 1/2 years now. I'v seen many come and go, most know a lot about computers and networks some more than me, there problem was they don't listen to the clients and just want to dive in and fix it because they think they know what the problem is. Everything is an ID10T Operator Error. Well it was a good article and I agree with the writer. Phil

gwcarter
gwcarter

In my 45-year support career I found that I had to be an expert at everything. Support is a job for true generalists. When I was a Customer Engineer with IBM I was taught that I must "Engineer them Customers" and that has never ceased to be true. I am not blessed with either great communication skills or superb people skills, but by respecting the users' needs to get their problems solved I was able to survive and even prosper in support jobs. Yes, technical expertise is required, but one cannot apply it effectively without the regard that all users have a right to expect. Naturally, extra effort is required to stay "expert", but that comes with the territory. I found support to be not an entry-level job, but a distinct career path. The facts that both management and developers did not agree was not relevant. Professor Peter wrote very truly that "... an ounce of pull is worth ten pounds of push". Every career support person needs a strong base of user support to advance or even survive in his chosen career, and he can only earn that by effectively solving the users' problems while maintaining their respect. Respect can never be given; it must be earned. Even if you render support to anonymous users over a global network, where you might never have contact with a given user more than once, you can build this respect over time by applying your technical skills effectively in a positive and dupportive manner. In my daily work I must contact a number of support organizations as a client, and while there are several groups I have grown to respect highly, there is one I call with great trepidation because I know they won't want to bother with my silly problem, and who tells me that first I must jump through a number of hoops before I will be allowed to waste their valuable time.

kmdennis
kmdennis

Becky, I read the article and it brought back memories. (At the end of this you will probably draw the right conclusions about me) Let me try to comment on each section. >>>The ability to do well in any job and to enjoy it depends to a certain extent upon our personalities, skills, and attitudes. the really outstanding techs are the ones who take the time to learn the industry they are supporting>If you ???require??? frequent approbation to feel confident and satisfied with your performance, being a support tech may not be the best choice of careers.> being a successful support tech will require you to devote considerable time to developing comprehensive problem-solving techniques that can be adapted to any situation.

KaryDavis
KaryDavis

I have chosen the Tech Support position as a career because I truly enjoy this aspect of IT. When I first decided to get into IT I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I tried a bit of everything. I quickly learned that Tech Support is my niche. The statement that someone who chooses support as a career is not ambitious or has no desire to learn the latest trends is very far from the reality of the job. I'm in constant learning mode as my user's needs and technical requirements change often have me researching the latest and greatest solutions. I also work for a company that has developers, a network admin and Director. I am considered a key component of this department and am highly valued for my soft skills. My technical skills may not be on the same level as my co-workers, but when I need a higher level of assistance, I am able to go to anyone in the department for assistance and we work together. Our Director considers my position on the same corporate level as the developers and network Admin and we all work as a team. I may be low woman on totem pole... but I never feel like that working here. I liked the article, and the fact that I was able to answer a resounding NO to each one has no bearing on my opinion!! ;o)

Stephen Borchert
Stephen Borchert

Thank you for an excellent set of reminders. Although support sometimes considered only a stepping stone on the way to "better" positions, it's actually excellent preparation for those same positions. It's better to deal with issues at a user level before finding you have no patience in front of an executive. My point is that even those who are only passing through will need these same skills for any IT job.

Absolutely
Absolutely

If that's a problem for you as a hiring manager you're probably skipping over the best applicants just because we're ambitious. Way to flatten the bell curve.

dave-richardson
dave-richardson

My college and I were saying if you answer yes to any three you should get out

misitio
misitio

One of my responsibilities at work was hiring and supervising tech staff even though I???m not a techie however it made me a better end user. I was always surprised at how many candidates had attended IT training and that was the last tech thing they had done. They could have saved themselves a lot of headaches (and money) if they had known about your 10 points criteria.

pgm554
pgm554

#1: You don't respect other techs Respect is something to be earned. Unfortunately, with all of the offshoring and cost cutting done by a lot of the major companies these days,what respect I have had in the past has been replaced by pessimism. Experience has taught me to be wary of most tech support these days. At best, most of the tech support that I have delt with in the past (Dell,Novell,ATT) are batting about .500. So your number one is ,in my opinion,wrong.

burnite
burnite

Great article, sounds like it was written with experience. I am also a Support Tech or IT Assistant. I love my job and I am making $50K plus working part-time!! (sounds like get-rich quick scam ad) I get to play with the latest technology, people are always amazed at my impressive skills in computing (started as hobby-who knew?) Because of my inter-personal skilss, I have been greatly rewarded with recognition, and monetary gifts. Best job I have ever had, I don't need to be the Network Admin or DBA (they always seem stressed)

jimmie.kepler
jimmie.kepler

I have been doing level one and two desktop and telephone computer support for a dozen years. Yea, that means I am old, but it also means I love helping people. I see too many people viewing these as foot in the door or even temporary jobs until they can become an admin. On the help desk team I work there are 6 people. Their tenures are 10 years, 9 years, 8 years, 7 years, 3 years and 18 months. Almost all are college grads. It seems the 20 somethings just out of college view the position as a stepping stone instead of a career. Our customers benefit from our tenure. Our company saves dollars from reduced turn over. Our families benefit from our employment stability. We enjoy a great team to work with. The article is on target. By the way, the positions are more than entry level. We have the following positions: 1) support analyst, 2) senior support analyst, and 3)lead support analyst. And of course there is the support manager.

detours
detours

Sure, you have to start in tech support, but if you don't have most of these qualities, you definitely shouldn't stay there. Some people aren't cut out to do it longterm, but imho, EVERYONE in IT needs to learn how to face the customer. I spent 2 years in tech support before I went into QA. And even though I hated the sound of a ringing phone for years afterward, what I learned from facing customers stayed with me. Patience, follow-through, methodical approach, envisioning a problem you can't see, stress release ... and most importantly ... never losing sight that real people have to use the software after GA. One company I worked in started a "Tech Support for a Day" program. They brought in all the product and project managers and most mid-level executives to hit the phones once a year. They left with a new respect for our jobs and our input at product design and defect meetings.

uberg33k50
uberg33k50

This is article is totally off. The first two headings seem to contradict each other. In 1 you say that support techs should be respected for their knowledge then in #2 you say that support tech is the lowest rung of the IT ladder. You go on to say in #2 one should "aspire" to be a tech support...what self respecting person "aspires" to be the lowest rung of the ladder? Headings #3, 4 & 9 apply to every tech job. #5 - 8 & 10 apply to almost any job you can name. What is it with these "10" lists any way???? Sometimes less is more. Most of the time I find these lists filled with common sense that most people should already be aware of and therefore a waste of time to read. This one doesn't even have that going for it.

GSG
GSG

I think this was resurrected by a spammer, that had it's post deleted. I wondered what happened when I saw your name there. You could always flag yourself and ask a mod to remove the evidence. :-)

Backdoor Man
Backdoor Man

then I might understand what you're talking about, but....I DON'T. I'm sure that "eezeec root" thing is a real problem. And, obviously, I am not cut out to be a support tech! :)

DancinKatieh
DancinKatieh

Thank you for this. I agree. It is important to listen. Even though I am on the "Help Desk" side of the call, I have sometimes learned a thing or two from the client. Thanks "pviavatt".

rattler720
rattler720

Most Tech. Support people do not think their position is IMPORTANT. This is completely wrong. Tech Support and IT personnel are THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE in any organization that must deal with problems about their products or procedures. These people must have the ability to communicate effectively with the people they are talking (CHAT) with and must ascertain their level of expertise of the person they are dealing with. SO many Tech Support people have a "Canned FORMAT" they use when attempting to assist a person that is asking for support. This "CANNED FORMAT" in most cases has nothing to do with the problem that is being or will be presented. Tech Support personell are NOT sales person's and IF someone has a problem they certainly do not wish to have someone sells them a product. This degrades the effectiveness from the very beginning. Find out what the person knows before you insult their intelligence. There are THREE (3) CATAGORIES of people using Tech Support. ONE - (1) - The person that does not have a clue on what is happening or any knowledge of how they arrived where they are or how to get back and can barely turn their equipment on and off PROPERLY. This type of people must be lead STEP BY STEP through a process that is both problem solving and educational. TWO-(2) - The person that has a general working knowledge of what is going on, however; probably has not read any instructions, manuals, or been online to the "Knowledge Bases" of "SELF HELP". They fancy themselves as a "pretty savvy operator". This is probably the most difficult person to deal with and this is where the "Soft Skills" come into play. YOU must be able to (in a manner of speaking) tell him he is an "IDIOT" and make him like it or you will never be able to assist him in his problem(s). Other words - YOU MUST BE SMARTER THAN HE THINKS HE IS BUT NOT LET HIM KNOW IT. THREE(3) - This person has expert knowledge in certain area's and may or may not have Certifications in many area's of computer's and software. IF you start treating him as you have the first two - you will lose him and either make him mad or your boss will hear from him about YOUR inability to give good Tech Support. Most cases this type of person can be found out by asking them to describe their problem (as you should ask the other's also) and at this point in time you should be able to ascertain APPROXIMATELY what knowledge he has about the area's they are requesting assistance. The BIGGEST MISTAKE ANYONE IN TECH SUPPORT CAN MAKE IS TO 'UNDER ESTIMATE" the person they are attempting to assist. YOU can always back up in your assessment of a person, BUT you will never be able to go forward from treating someone as an IDIOT that is an engineer, designer or worst of all another Tech Support person or IT professional.

jmorgus
jmorgus

I agree that respect needs to be earned. I usually will start by giving the tech on the line the benefit of the doubt, but I don't extend that very far. When it is obvious that tech is chart flipping, or keying data into a knowledge base, they AREN'T a tech, they ARE just an entry level. When supporting my customers, it is difficult to respect an obvious off-shore "tech" who is reading a script. I had one customer bring in a consumer product. My company sold and supported the business line from this particular vendor and, while I had the certification to repair this particular product, I couldn't get parts. I tried to get an RMA for the user (the computer was under warranty per the website and manufacturere date) and spent over an hour with a "tech" who was reading a checklist. I had to call in the businees line to get my customer taken care of (requesting an exception, since this was a consumer product - sometimes the computer companies are also unhelpful).

Ravnor
Ravnor

I've been a Tech Support person for a small department for quite a few years and, despite #7, one of the major things I like about the job is the appreciation you get from users when you help them solve a problem. Yes, I also enjoy working with technology (or I wouldn't be here), but it takes both tech skills AND people skills to be a good Tech Support person.

ssampier
ssampier

I must admit I was a "support tech" for phone company for two years. I wasn't a monkey reading a prompt. I had to think on my feet while dealing with the customer on the phone and in person. Unfortunately, we WERE the lowest rung on the ladder, making only $10 an hour (I was up to $12) without benefits. There really wasn't advancement. Now I'm a system administrator for a small education organization. I take great pride that I can effectively deal with both the technology problems and the customer problems.

JamesRL
JamesRL

One of the companies I worked for, we had job swapping/shadowing for a week between the help desk and the desktop technicians. It really improved relationships and understanding between the groups. When a new piece of software was introduced it was usual to have one of the senior developers sit in the help desk area to take escalated calls. That was both educational and a morale booster for those on the desk. James

No User
No User

You hit the nail on the head. Becky's 10 step lists are a bundle of contradictions. Finally someone else sees it. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one to see that. Thank You!!! Becky lets face it you want to beat IT folks over the head and make them namby pamby pantyweights. Little no life grunts that exist for the sole purpose of being a servant. Irregardless of what an IT person should or needs to do, life is a two way street and everyone else needs to take the reality ride and get with it. We are not sociologists nor psychologists and we certainly aren't whipping posts. Trying to force that nonsense on IT folks often results in arguments and other issues. All of which can be prevented by removing the baggage that the non IT folks (and perhaps IT impersonators/wannabes) have layered on over the years and get back to what it is really all about. "It's IT stupid." The position is being filled by someone who is here for IT not to hold your hand, spoon feed you and wipe your back side. The sooner non IT folks get with that the sooner things will get better for them and all concerned. If we wanted to be care givers we would have majored in pre-Med. I'm not saying that you should not be pleasant and have fun and in fact be fun to be around sometimes. Nobody wants to deal with a grouch or someone who thinks they are better then everyone else. Life is life and most days will be met with blissful indifference (another day in life) as it is for the rest of the folks. IT is a job and as a "job" it's a "job" just like all the other folks have who use the computers. IT is not a serfdom. Becky it's time to hang it up. Perhaps your intentions are good but your 10 step lists stink.

anne.powel
anne.powel

The article wasn't written for you, it was written for someone who might be applying for a tech support position. And no, common sense isn't always at the top of people's minds when they are excited about the possibility of a new job. When you were young, didn't you ever take a job just cause it sounded like it might be fun? I know I did. For a person just out of college or tech school I think the article is good. There's a big difference between building a network or rebuilding a pc in an educational environment and the things your customers/users actually ask you to do in the real world! This coveres the main parts of what anyone needs to consider, cause even if the job is entry-level or "lower" level it's still necessary for a lot of companies. And you (I) can still make a good living doing tech support for the right company.

qkennemer
qkennemer

The first one says that, UNFORTUNATELY, most businesses and people view the tech support position as the lowest rung. She's not saying she believes this in the manner that it's just a foot in the door, but you should really want to aspire to be a tech support specialist instead of just looking at the position as if it's another 9-5 that will get you throughout the week. You should WANT to help people, instead of feeling like you HAVE to.

nhahajn
nhahajn

It's hard to respect someone that has such a strong accent you can barely understand them. I think the support tech should speak the same language where the call is originating from. If I am calling from a english speaking country I expect the tech to speak english as their first language. Most of my experience calling tech support has been that it takes about 5 minutes to realize they are reading from a script and that I know more than they do. I hate it when after a half hour going through their checklist their "solution" is to reinstall the OS.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Becky makes some good points. I don't care how genius IQ smart you are with computers, if you can't work with users and your peers, you should find another position in IT, and stop being a desktop tech or help desk person. That requires you to be able to listen as well as talk. That requires you to be empathetic. That requires patience and persistence. Yes that requires some "soft" skills. Live with it. Many IT jobs do. The one I think she missed is: If you spend all your time talking about "users as lusers" or telling stooopid user stories, its time to find another position. I'm not saying that you bend or break rules to service customers. I'm just saying that a help desk's job is not to fix computers but to solve computer problems, and there is a human element in that. James

PetersML
PetersML

a shoulder to cry on. It's one thing to listen and be courteous of an individuals problem but it is TECHNICAL SUPPORT. Your there to resolve a technical issue not hold their hand. Maybe the individual who constantly has problems shouldn't be in the job their in or more than likely needs to resolve their issues with a trained, well paid professional who can resolve their personal issues. In comparison, a psychologist makes a lot more money than a person in tech support but my impression from the article is that it doesn't matter. Is it no wonder many look at technical support as a stepping stone.

uberg33k50
uberg33k50

misread the article. Just because she said unfortunately does not negate the fact that (as Bart99 points out) they are entry level jobs. I can tell you that if an individual applied to my company and their greatest aspiration was to be a support tech, I would seriously question their desire to keep up with changes and their ambition and drive. I certainly don't mean to imply that they are not capable of being good at what they do but more often than not they are just learning. Perhaps there should be a distinction for the higher levels of tech support. Some of the second and thrid layer tech support guys I have spoken with are very good.

bart99gt
bart99gt

Regardless if its unfortunate or not, that's reality. Desktop support and even entry level network/server support personnel are usually paid the worst and are generally viewed as the most expendable personnel in the IT department. Increasingly these jobs are being farmed out to service companies or technical recruiting firms as contractors...which means there's almost ZERO chance of advancement or meaningful pay raises in that position. No wonder why most people consider them to be a stepping stone. Except for the guys that are already well entrenched, the days of someone doing desktop support for 10-15 years and actually making more than $50k a year are long gone.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I was finally provided the Gold Support number that I should have had in the first place. Level 2 techs who are actually allowed to think!

mkatz
mkatz

..a tech that keeps insisting I boot to the diagnostic CD after Ive told him repeatedly the power supply is dead and I turn the PC on. (Dell Warranty support at its finest.)

No User
No User

Certainly vary from company to company. With Help Desk you don't need to be in the same country or continent for example India folks supporting folks in the USA. Some of what she said was the IT person being at the PC face to face with the user and even using a remote you can't do that from India. She mixes it up and it falls apart. When I read her 10 steps I'm often confused with who the intended audience is as per her examples, she mixes different professions together and rolls them up as if they were one. Much of what you said I agree with however it is the norm for Help Desk to close as many calls as quickly as possible. They generally have a time limit and they are gaged by how well they perform with in those parameters. Which of course leads to at least 2 things, one being a pressured situation with a time limit and second not much time to be personable. So if her audience is Help Desk folks whom she is both giving examples of and trying to reform then is just doesn't make sense. Her audience seems to be a hybrid mangled mix of several professions all rolled into one and it falls apart because of that alone. Her second huge mistake is that she treats the entire IT audience as if we were locked in a closet all our lives and neither know how to conduct ourselves around people nor in a business environment. To that I say you are talking about a segment of society as a whole and absolutely not specifically about IT folks. Some people have Red Hair some have Blue Eyes and some act as if they were locked in a closet all their lives and neither know how to conduct themselves around people nor in a business environment. It has no direct correlation to IT folks specifically and that in a nutshell is how she paints the picture.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Thats the term she uses, and I take it that she means help desk and/or desktop techs. And understand that in some companies those definitions vary greatly from others. I don't see where she mentions others, unless you mean where she says techs aspire to other roles like DBA. And I would agree a dba should be kept away from users. :) And if you haven't been on the desk recently, most desks use some kind of remote support so they do both talk and see the problem. I do not think everyone in the chain has to be a great listener, but I do think the front line, help desk and or desk side support must be. We used to have a saying - the problem isn't resolved until the customer says it is. You may fix the technical problem, but until you close the issue with the user, it isn't over. I never had a problem providing great service and being able to say no at the same time. I serve the company (who pays me) and the users (whose presense justifies my existence). I have no desktop techs or help desk people on my team, but we still work with them. And trust me, we still focus on great service, both to our own staff, and our end customers. James

No User
No User

Becky blatantly contradicts herself through out her 10 step lists. The current 10 step is a perfect and undeniable example of that. Additionally she also mixes different IT professions and rolls them into one. That alone makes many of her 10 steps off the wall and cumbersome to relate to. All IT professions don't work on the user's PC. In fact it would be expected that Help Desk would see neither the user nor the PC at all. How can you compare the Help Desk relation to users with that of Programmers, Network Engineers, SysAdmins, DBA's and on site Tech Support? In fact in large companies Tech Support is usually segmented such as the initial User setup/login, Hardware, OS/Windows, Applications and PC Connectivity. They have a different person specializing in each area and in their own way they all go to the PC and interact with the user. All of the above are part of IT as a whole but not their relation to users in fact some may very well have no relationship at all and never see the users perhaps except for walking past them in the hallway. If you are going to talk about at the PC face to face with the user Tech Support then stick with it. If you mix in other IT professions then it starts to fall apart. As far as being personable where did I state that IT folks should not be personable? Where did I state that anyone in any profession anywhere should not be personable? I'm certain that you wont find that I did. There is a world of difference between being personable and being expected to be Dr. Ruth, Dr. Spock, Sigmund Freud and Mahatma Gandhi (the list goes on) all rolled into one. The problem with the view from the other side is that it's "Extreme". If you are not on your knees with a donut in your mouth saying thank you sir may I have another then you are a dirty rotten no good such and such that has no business being in public let alone in IT. In fact any disagreement at all with the folks with that Extreme view and they are telling you that you are not qualified to be in IT or at least the IT position you are in. It is that Extreme mentality that desperately needs to be gotten over.

No User
No User

Irregardless of your occupation at work everyone needs to get along if for nothing else then for both sanity and work's sake. It makes it all go down a lot better. Where do folks get off taking such a hifalutin attitude that everyone but IT folks get that? Here is a twist on the whole thing. How about all the other folks stepping up to the plate and minus the actual IT portion it's self they treat IT folks exactly like they prescribe for IT folks to treat them. The old lead by example routine. Whats good for the Goose is good for the Gander and whats good for the Gander is good for the Goose. In the face of such nonsense IT folks need the Missouri attitude. "SHOW ME"

InfoSecAuditor
InfoSecAuditor

No offense, mate, but that's in Oz. Things may be a bit different here in the States. Also, AU$50K is about US$40K. That doesn't buy you much in most of the metropolitan areas in the US. Come to think about it, AU$50K doesn't buy you much in Oz either. My monthly rent in Sydney was over AU$1800 for a tiny two bedroom. In my experience, the tiered support career ladder only exists in large, well established organizations (read: State, Federal and some larger local governments). Trying to land a job in some of these organizations can be challenging, as there are factors that may work against you (internal promotions filling the positions, other applicants using veteran's preference points, cronyism, budget issues (keeping the position open, even though the budget isn't there to fill it), etc.) Larger corporate organizations see the cost "savings" (though I have my own opinion on how much you save/don't save) in outsourcing their tech support function. From my perspective, tech support is a dead end career field. I gave it 9 years of my life. That was enough. Note: For what it's worth, the salary survey is pretty accurate for the position I held in Australia. I was a security consultant and fell well within the range posted.

ljack223
ljack223

I've done front-line tech support now for 8 years at a major University, and I still make less than $45000. Underappreciated? Underpaid? Boy, howdy!!!

romieship
romieship

On behalf of all the support techs out there I have to say "Thank you!" As a front line support tech I have really only one complaint about the job and that is the way it is generally viewed by the rest of the industry. It is true that this view is totally perpetuated by the "back-office IT guys". I believe they do it out of fear because as for most of my immediate colleagues and myself, we have just as much education, knowledge, skill and most of the time we have as many or more certifications then our second and third level support staff. I use every bit of that knowledge everyday in my job in addition having to use excellent people skills. I get offended by those who think that their job title makes them superior to others but when they have to actually come face to face with a real live person can do little more than grunt at them. I am confident, however, that as the industry evolves more and more emphasis will be placed and more value on those with the people skills in addition to the technical skills

SaintGeorge
SaintGeorge

Janitors, plumbers, garbage collectors. Come on, most of us are here in transit or stuck!

DancinKatieh
DancinKatieh

Yeah, some may USE this position as a stepping-stone to get the first bit of experience, however some of us really like helping people in this capacity. Now granted, I work at a shipyard and I know all of my clients because I only deal with the shipyard employees, so maybe that is a reason why my job is less stressful. I'm not saying that it is totally NOT stressful because at times it is very much so at times. Anyway, I happen to LOVE my desk support career. It is fulfilling in knowing that I can help someone. Maybe I am truly cut out for this kind of job. Yeaheeee! But like this article talks about, maybe most of us are NOT cut out for the job because of our outlook on it and our personalities. If you think Desk Support is but a mere stepping stone and it is beneath you, fine, that?s you, but I personally know that I am not only a support tech myself, but I am grateful for them as well. The GOOD ones anyway.

tobybray
tobybray

This article makes some very good points and has attracted some great responses. A point that needs to be considered is whether a person has the ability to perform a job in a department that sees Corporate Dysfunction on a daily basis, yet has very little input in to how it can be fixed. A tech sees the big picture, yet only works on a small piece. S/he needs not only a good skill set, but the ability to do his/her job in light of the fact that the rest of the company seems h--- bent on blaming IT for a lot of their internal issues.

mjwx
mjwx

Whist a fair few support techs move on there is a career in support. Particularly in large companies there is a tiered support structure. Tier 1 seems much like you describe but if you excel at tier 1 you get promoted to tier 2 (normally with the associated pay and benifits), and after tier 2 there is tier 3 which are kind of like managers (but they actually do work), these guys earn 50K and have fancy titles like "systems deployment manager". http://www.hays.com.au/salary/pdfs07/Information%20Technology.pdf navigate to page three to see the going rate for support techs in Australia. There are entire coprorations that have a dedicated business in providing tech support like CSC which large mining companies like BHP outsource their IT needs to. If this kind of structure is not for you there is always Insulting (consulting) which if done well puts 50K in the low pay range. There is money in support so long as you know where to look

adammpowers
adammpowers

In days after layoffs most top techs were forced to take these jobs.... only having to grunt throught the trenches once again. Its not an easy job having to go from a network admin job back to desktop support. Worst yet to be overlooked by new applicants fresh from college with a degree, rather than actual hands on.

bart99gt
bart99gt

You proved my point...there are either folks who have been doing it 10+ years at the same place, or those who have been doing it for 2-3 years tops, then move on elsewhere because raises are few (and relatively meaningless...last support job I had my raises usually went straight to the IRS they were so insignificant!) and promotions non-existent. In larger markets, what I described is very much the truth. Help desk and desktop support jobs where you are actually working for the company whose name is on the front of the building are few and far between. Then you're usually looking at working for the government or working for a technically savvy company that does realize the value of keeping folks in those positions happy.

haggis_the_dog
haggis_the_dog

At the company I work for, the majority of the "support tech's" or helpdesk folks have been with the company over 10 years. Most are making over 50,000$. That said, it is the industry and the back-office IT guys that perpetuate the myth that the helpdesk/support tech position is the bottom of the rung. In truth it is a difficult job - answering people's questions, getting little or "need to know" information from the Sys and N/W admins, supporting every piece of software, hardware, periferal or other device that walks into the organisation, trying to transform or position every techinical changes into value-add for the company. The position is something to aspire to, and is something that adds critical value to an organisation. It is unfortunate that it is primarily the Sys and N/W admins in an organisation that dont recognise this ...

unhappyuser
unhappyuser

Doing it now, for the past 5 years. They exist. You just have to hunt for them.... EMD

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