IT Policies

Grade your job: Help Desk

Are you a Help Desk pro? If so, you can help us out with our poll.

We're starting a new feature in this blog that I hope you will participate in. For the benefit of those just entering IT or for those who are looking at a change in IT specialty, I'm going to gather some feedback. Each week, I'll feature a particular IT specialty and ask those of you who practice that specialty to help us score it.

This week we'd like your opinion about help desk pros. If you're a help desk pro or have ever been a help desk pro, could you take a moment to answer the polls below? Try to comment more on your feelings about the job itself and not the company you're currently working for or with. After we've covered a group of IT jobs, we'll compile them into a download that will give a snapshot view of what's available in IT.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

13 comments
chris.pratt
chris.pratt

Having started in 66 as an operator and having done just about every task in the business at some time or other, I have spent the last four years happily as an IT Support Analyst, also seconding as the IT Compliance Officer. I had previously retired on two occasions but missed the buzz of the IT arena, unfortunately now having to stand down through poor health I am determined not to dissapear off the radar. To all those who expect a great deal from the industry be prepared for the blind alleys that pay a lot of money but only last for a couple of years. Look what happened to Wang!! If you can't remember that you have not been around long enough to comment, but I wish you all good luck. OLD OPERATORS NEVER DIE THEY ONLY LOSE THEIR BITES.

uberlist
uberlist like.author.displayName 1 Like

I think the comments on this survey are just as interesting as the survey itself. It's amazing how the entire Service Desk industry has matured over the years. It used to be just an entry-point requiring little or no skills. Now there are entire frameworks and certification paths that support this space. Companies that outsourced are starting to reverse those decisions as they see the importance of a quality front-line. If you get on-board with a great team and/or a really good company, you can easily build a rewarding career in the helpdesk/service desk space. I've been at it for 15 years. I could leave but I don't. my take. Uber Globalbench Inc. Get the Job. Get the Raise. Get the Promotion www.globalbench.com

nrn_1
nrn_1

I absolutely love my role as a help desk pro (managed services) especially in the knowledge that being able to work my magic behind the scenes means clients are ever thankful for the rounded support they receive. However, the stiffest challenges always seem to come from within (Management) who either unknowingly or just without care continually aim to eliminate the human factor in supporting users which often leaves me between a rock and a hard place like having to tell users... " terribly sorry as while I'd love to spend 2 minutes shedding some light on the topic of assigning file permissions or inheritance this would unfortunately be classed as educating the user which is not within my remit" I hope for the day it is realised how non-customer focused this approach appears. CRM must not be limited software analysis and audits; encourage the human factor too.

cory.schultze
cory.schultze like.author.displayName 1 Like

I think your poll results depend entirely on the employer, the employee's history and their attitudes. It would be very difficult to base job satisfaction on pure statistic, especially as people and their situations can be so unique. However, for what it may be worth: Being a helpdesk pro has always been quite stressful for me, but I've now developed a much more efficient way of handling stress. My job title greatly undercompliments my job roles and what is expected of me is most certainly not worth the pittence I receive. But I'm trying hard to believe that my efforts will be recognised and I will be developed to a new role and title, or at least appreciated by the employer. That said, I am personally quite content in my job role and receive much praise from colleagues. The job is secure and forseeably so. To close, there is most certainly a much less fortuante situation out there, should a choice be presented.

az_nemesis
az_nemesis

I agree that how people respond will be heavily influenced by the specific situations in which they find themselves. I have worked in public education support environments for about 5 years. I started in a public school district, then ended up at a large public university. The amount of stress I feel might well be related to working in an underfunded and unappreciated "industry" in a state that is fairly hostile to that industry (Arizona). My colleagues and I are miserable all of the time. When we are hired, we come in optimistic and thinking things will be great. Within six months, those feelings are long gone. Burn-out is quick and brutal here. We are poorly compensated, expected to know everything about everything, and have to master more and more (without any change in compensation). Despite the fact that there are degrees, not to mention years of support and development experience, held by most members of our staff, we are treated like idiots by most of our IT "colleagues" in systems and development. We might learn about a new system we're supposed to support a couple of weeks before it rolls out. So, we scramble to find out what the system even looks like in order to support our clients. We are the face of central IT during a time of rapid and widespread IT change on campus, so we are distrusted by the campus community. So, we catch it from both sides. It's truly a miserable job, and most of us are desperate to get out.

Lost Cause?
Lost Cause?

I work at a School District where I fix computers, printers, networks and VOIP. I used to work in the mining industry (Copper Smelter) as a shift supervisor. My wife tells me that she has never seen me with less stress than I have now. I enjoyed my stint of 23 years in the "Heat". Now I enjoy the IT Heat. In my job now of 11 years I have not seen anyone get burned almost to death. My last job was extremely dangerous. This one - not so much. My last job - we had large equipment running from 4160 volts. This job - most of my contact is with 5 to 12 volts DC. There is always going to be management of some sort that most of the time will have no idea what we do to make sure things run smoothly.

Professor8
Professor8

I did hot-line work at the U and a NASA Research Center, and during one period it was great, but during another it was the worst experience I've ever had. In the first period, it was relatively egalitarian, everyone co-operated and pitched in, we all had immediate (though sometimes shared) access to the latest, greatest docs. We were involved in interesting programming, SQA, DB, pre-compiler, OS dev, and other projects (but, reasonably enough, not quite as much as the "applications" and "systems" group people did). We all pitched in to write articles for the news-letter (and to fold and pre-sort them back when it was still sent via campus and US Snail), prepared and delivered topical lectures, etc. At NASA, of course, the expectations were stepped up. Bug reports to vendors were expected to be orders of magnitude more meticulous; a series of very controlled experiments had to be conducted and a great deal of data compiled, narrowly circumscribing the nature of the failure. But there was a great deal of respect. In the later period at the U it was very hierarchical, my front-line people had every dirty job that others didn't want to do dumped on them (e.g. making recycling runs, data entry...). There was very little respect and very little pay. We were under-staffed, under-equipped with others' cast-offs, including obsolete docs. But the worst part was that management wanted us to do things that are illegal. The thing that differentiates the consultation function (hardware and software) from a real job (e.g. software product development) is that you're on a hamster-wheel, going nowhere. You work and work, succeed and succeed, minute by minute and hour by hour and day by day..., but every day management and the customers still demand, "Yes, but what have you done for us lately?". The informal praise and certificates never add up to genuine respect and reward. It got to the point that I detested the term "help desk" (My people are not pieces of furniture!), and stayed away from telephones as much as possible for a couple years. Software product and tool development are much more fulfilling and rewarding all around.

Byron.Godfrey
Byron.Godfrey

I was a supervisor for many years before changing my career to 'IT guy'. The people I support are (almost) always happy to see me because I'm going to fix the problem and get rid of the cause of their frustration. As a supervisor, I never heard comments like "Thank you! You're the best!". Now I am told that daily. That's about as good as it's going to get in the work world in my opinion. And another bonus, now I spend very little time in meetings.

pghegseth
pghegseth like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I managed a help-desk for years and enjoyed working with the staff and assisting users with their difficulties. The pace was often overwhelming and many of the management policies hindered our ability to satisfactorily resolve some issues. For the most part, it was an enjoyable experience. If there was a fault with the job it was the constant interference by management designed to continuously justify your existence (or more likely their existence). Definitely not a boring career choice; however, the pay should have been better. It's funny how our social structure seems to pay people with customer-facing roles so little while reserving the lavish salaries for management. Customer-facing roles have a direct impact on customer retention and profitability. Now, I operate my own business as a technical adviser and customer satisfaction and retention is the most important aspect of my job.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer like.author.displayName 1 Like

I'm sure it's just me, but I don't know or care how much others in my field earn. I feel adequately compensated; I guess that's all that's important. I haven't been job hunting in almost twenty years, so I don't know how easy it is to land a job in this field. I enjoy the dynamics of the job, and still get a big kick out of troubleshooting; more than I ever got from programming.

jd
jd

I'm retired now. I managed the help desk and did training at a large refinery for some time, plenty of questions and problems to keep me from getting bored at my job. I'm busier than when I was working helping out at church and community. Only change I would make would be to get into the field earlier in my life.

dkalin
dkalin

FYI -- Poll has a typo in the TechRepublic newsletter link description, and another in the last question

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