IT Policies

Is there no career opportunity for the Help Desk pro?

People have varying views of the career potential for Help Desk pros. One is that it's a dead-end job; the other is that it's a good opportunity to learn about the company and flex your people skills.

In a piece published today on Computerworld, Thomas Hoffman writes that people look at the career opportunities for Help Desk pros two ways: One, that the Help Desk is a dead-end job and two, that it is a perfect opportunity to see how a company works and flex your people skills.

For the first view, Hoffman quotes Fred Wagner, a FileNet and Kofax systems specialist for the city of Long Beach, California, as saying, "If you're hired just to work on a help desk, that's all you will ever do."

Help desk technicians who work in "stovepiped" IT organizations -- that is, companies where systems analysts, network managers, and other IT professionals are segregated from one another -- can go 10 to 15 years without being promoted into IT infrastructure, business analyst, systems administrator, or other types of roles, he says.

The second viewpoint, one that extols the career merits of the Help Desk, claims that

"a job on an IT help desk can open doors to other IT career opportunities. Help desk technicians, these proponents say, gain valuable experience working with end users throughout the enterprise and learning what makes the business tick."

Proponents of both viewpoints agree on one point, however. If you're the type of Help Desk pro who wants to keep your head down and just "fix PCs," you're not going to get anywhere.

I'd like to hear from some Help Desk pros out there. How long have you been in your positions? Do you prefer it that way? If you've gone on to other positions, what were they?

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.

144 comments
mhamid
mhamid

I have started my career in small computer shop building PC's, Servers, Troubleshooting Hardwares & Softwares issues, both on sites and on our workshop, then moved to be helpdesk contractor with a government organisation luckily my manager was the kind of managers who encouraged intiative so he used to drow operational plans for the year and send it out, so while we doing our normal helpdesk job we get to put our hands up to participate in infrastructure projects which was very good for my career, then when my contract expired i have found another helpdesk job with another government agency, but that agency had everything segragated, that mean as soon as you show intiative they put you down, and i agree with the statment that state helpdesk is the dead end of IT, you should only do it for a year or two years maximum, try to gain industry certifications while you doing it and then move on, so thats what i did, and now im Data Centre Administrator with large financial provider. So it all depend on how hungry the individual for growth and achievments, the more responsability you take the faster you will grow.

dsnethen
dsnethen

I would like to think that the Help Desk can be a profession all its own. Working at a help desk is not rocket science, but there are rocket scientists that can't do what we can do. Now I am not on the front lines anymore, but have been. However I am now in a professional, customer service position and I am proud to be a help professional. I understand many view the help desk as the way in and up or the way out, but I also view it as a "way" of its own. Visit www.thinkhdi.com and see how one can grow and improve themselves as a help professional. I value the help desk experience as a great way for people to move up as well. I have seen people really good at the help desk, but also really good technicians. They move on and then take those great customer services skills and experiences to other areas.

parvez
parvez

I think this is not true. I've been in this field for more than 20years and have learned a lot. We are managing and maintaining some 15 servers with different flavors. And it is really a great fun to work on servers and as the same time providing the users supports to 400 clients in the institution. This institution is not an ordinary company, it is a research centre that gives lot of opportunities to communicate with the scientists, lab tech. and other professional and at the same time to learn new things while troubleshooting their (hardware or software) problems. It is definitely a dead end for those who do not want to learn. Thanks Parvez

kelly
kelly

I just started work as IT Support Manager at a small company in Garland, Texas (suburb of Dallas) where I was told before I was hired that I should prepare myself to lose all my employees (Help Desk and Desktop Support) to other areas of IT - Telecom, LAN, Inter/Intranet, Development - within the next year. This means I will need to hire NEW staff to replace these employees as they move to other opportunities. I've also been given a training budget of $5000 per employee for annual training. Relatively new company that's doing well, and needless to say, I am VERY excited to be working here! KC

drowlfs
drowlfs

I work on a help desk. Actually I started there 7 years ago, stayed 2 years, left for University for 4 years, then resumed my position a year ago. In that time, through the numerous acquisitions of the main company, the focus has changed from "help desk is the core of the business" and happy customers equals paying customers, to "help desk is an expenditure and not a cost center" (even though help desk does get paid in fees, that's seen as guaranteed income regardless of what we actually do, and service contracts are thrown out the window). But since my first year on help desk, there has always been a place to move laterally in the organisation. And as team leaders and managers quit, there has been place to move upwards in the help desk chain also. So where I was originally a help desk guy, I am now a help desk team leader. In our current structure there is only me and one other person (that's a cost cutting measure by upper management) so it looks almost impossible to move anywhere as my help desk talents are so critical to the continued success of the product. But that's a short sighted way to look at things. First of all I do excellent work - I tackle the hard problems, I don't lay blame on others or bad mouth anyone, and as a side effect of staff loss I carry more and more knowledge that can't be replaced, every day. That alone is enough to get a raise, which I've done. But I can't stop there. I've started producing work outside of my role and demanded more pay for the company to have access to those things I've created and continue to create. Things like setting up a wiki for customers to build a product community, organising our documentation, rewriting some of our core applications from VB6 to VB.Net. I could possibly change roles if I had to. But I don't see why I have to - if I continue to work on myself and my skillset, and apply it to things the company can make use of - and force them to pay for my new talents or else lose out on the gains and revenue they can create - then I don't have to change jobs! Basically things will be as easy or hard as you want to make it for yourself. Maybe my help desk job is different to most (it's not script support - it's more akin to a systems analysis role of a specialist product), but I think pretty much anything is possible, even for scrooge companies like the one I work for. Oh and there's one more thing. I never let the company feel like they "own" me. I refuse to give my support to things that I think are unethical or are just plain stupid (one of those is the dress code... when I work on the phones all day - so I'm presentable with a shirt and tie, but jeans - not a suit). I don't feel bad demanding raises when I do a good job - that is something I learned from my brother (who also gets raises every 3 months). I take my own initiative and I "own" everything I do, correct or incorrect. I speak out. But I never lay blame on others. Maybe that whole combination of things gives me a slightly better outlook than the average dude who just sits there reading a script and then gets angry he's not moving up in the organisation. What he doesn't realise is that in the end you have to create your own value, and sell it to the company.

moegig900
moegig900

I have a MCP in windows 4.0. I have worked in helpdesk enviroment before,but it was several years ago. Now its 2008,and I am working on my MCSA my first test is next week on Win XP. My question is do any of you think I will be able to land a job in a helpdesk enviroment with that XP Cert under my belt.

rtocci
rtocci

I worked in a helpdesk role for 11 years before laterally moving to another department. It helped me in many ways, but the biggest portion was communication. What most IT professionals lack are communication skills. Written and verbal communication skills are essential to working with people inside your company, and to people in the field, as I did for so long. I learned how to write clear documentation, how to read and reread and then proof an email before it was sent to 25 people, and afforded me time to learn other technical skills that I adapted to my job even if the technology was "not supported". I moved to our corporate data center earlier this year. I am now charged with documenting processes essential to my job. In other words, a manual for my position. Why was I charged with this? Because it had not been done at all in 10+ years, and I had the most experience. I also took those technical skills I learned on my own and put them to good use here, though I still learn plenty by just doing my new job. Some of my former colleagues have worked helpdesk for years more than I have. In fact, I was a short timer compared to some. One woman has been in a helpdesk capacity for 37 years, going on 38. I turn 38 this summer. THAT is a long time. And her people skills rock compared to mine.

pavls
pavls

I was working w/ IT Director who started his career long time ago as a Help Desk. Maybe this is an exception.

Jim87231
Jim87231

Help Desk Pro is certainly a dead end job. Management in too many companies view the role as a necessary evil (and overhead expense) they are forced to accept. Then, of course, the holder of the position is faced w/ the predicament that if he/she is too good at performing the role, he/she will be stuck in it for a lifetime. I got out 20 years ago by jumping ship to an opportunity that enabled me to build my programming skills while also performing help desk work. I then had to jump ship one more time to a company that hired me as a systems engineer -- a role which could perform Business Analysis, Systems Analysis, Programming, and QA roles. The help desk roles gave me good experience. Too bad it wasn't appreciated by my employers back then.

billballew
billballew

This is true over the long haul. I have 30 years experience in hi-tech and became an expert on many systems no longer in existence. Unix seems to be the only hanger on, but it too requires a someone under 40. No one wants experience and qualifications stop at playing games and loadin an ipod. If you are into computers and hi-tech, make your money now and save it because unless you can start your own very viable company or make it into upper management. You are definitely dead end - no matter the job. Downsizing will trip you up and you will be on the street or greeting at wal-mart. I gave up and started a real estate company - and you see where that got me. The best advice is - keep plugging and really, really build that roth IRA, quit early and go fishing. - B

LarryD4
LarryD4

This topic depends dramatically on the mind set of company and their own opinion of their helpdesk. I have worked in a few helpdesk environments and some were sweat shops that only cared about call volume and getting the ticket to second level support. Other companies I've worked for were all about educating the helpdesk staff and getting expert support to their users. They also had a strong helpdesk infrastructure where level 1s were supported by 2s and 3s and they strongly promoted from with in. It has appeared to me that the larger 'corporations' that depend on IT for their day to day business. Realize that they need a strong helpdesk and have in turn the best path for promotion and career progression. My only question is why hasn't the major hardware manufacturers figured this out?

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

It's all a matter of perspective. In any event, if you have ambitions, make the most of any job. If not, move on to something that makes you happy and until then survive by doing the minimal if your really unhappy.

jason.fertig
jason.fertig

I'm another guy who got his start in help desk. I started out working for a little product company and then got a job doing phone support for a dial-up internet firm. You've got to set expectations for *yourself*. If you don't aggressively seek to improve yourself, learn more, take more responsibility, then you will be stuck in your position on help desk for a long time.

fabiola.c.villena
fabiola.c.villena

I started with my current employer as a Help Desk analyst. I worked in that position for about 2.5yrs. I was lucky enough to participate in a "Job shadowing ???program that didn't last long. Basically, I got a chance to work with the next level of PC support group, Deskside Support, for one month. I got along great with the group, and picked up on new processes fairly quickly. Shortly after this experience, one of the Desktop Support analysts moved to a different department and I got the offer to fill the empty seat. This is pretty much where I am now. I'm a Desktop Support analyst. I've been here for another 2.5yrs, and I'm almost ready to take an offer to move to the Windows Server Administration group in the coming week. I'm the newest analyst in the Desktop Support group, and I'm also the first one to get out! My current manager also started in this company as a Help Desk analyst. He moved to Desktop Deployment, then Software Quality Assurance, and eventually got promoted to the current position he holds now. I can't say the same story has happened for a lot of Help Desk analysts. I have come across several Help Desk analysts who are extremely smart, but just can't seem to get the promotions. I think good interpersonal skills play a huge role on whether Help Desk pros move up or get stuck. And, I also want to mention, the nature of the job of a Help Desk pro in my company doesn't allow for much extra time to network across the IT organization. Yes, while I was working at the Help Desk, I got a lot more exposure to pretty much all business applications; thus, I had many opportunities to chat directly with managers and upper management as well. But again, I think they key is to work hard, have interest to learn as much as possible, and show initiative to participate in as many projects as possible. This worked for me, I've seen it work for at least two other co-workers. Of course, I'm telling my story working for a major corporation, and I'm sure Help Desk analysts in smaller businesses would have a very different story to tell!

nellboy
nellboy

Hi, I worked for 5 years at EMC as a help desk pro, in engineering tech support. I concur with those that say it's a dead end job, it really is. All the work is procedural, and requires zero creativity. Work quality is evaluated by metrics. While I was there, I saw very little appealing career opportunity emerging, and I have since gone back to college to do something I actually want to do. Most of the people I worked with felt the same way - trapped but powerless to do anything about it. The five years I worked in tech support are ones i'd rather forget.

It_Inserts_The_Username_Here
It_Inserts_The_Username_Here

My basic job is supporting users, however, my job is not just limited to that. Between working with customers I also watch e-mail to correspond with customers, internal IT work, testing of different items plus company infrastructure changes. I think this is great because not only do I get a little bit of everything to keep the job interesting, but when it comes time to move eventually I have different types of experience instead of just supporting users over the phone.

Keep It Simple
Keep It Simple

I started out as helpdesk/desktop support person for our business unit in a major manufacturing corporation. I was more of a gopher than anything. I've been at it for 10 years and with down sizing and corporate changes I still have the same basic job. I have also branched out to software, server, and network support along with remote end user support for end users that the corporate support people don't want to claim. I love my job helping people and try to be a pro at what I do, whatever I am doing. "Dead end job," is a really poor statement which has a ring of dissatisfaction to it. Your job is what you make of it and not necessarily what it makes of you. We need really good helpdesk people. We need people who are willing to start out at the bottom and do an execellent job at whatever it is. That is what made America great from the beginning. Stop whining, get back to work and do your best.

liquidxit2
liquidxit2

Ive been doing help desk and system administration for a few years and I do say that help desk does get your foot in the door. But I find that most other jobs you get with help desk experience are side grades and not up grades from help desk. The bonus to the side grade is that the glass ceiling is much higher then that of help desk. Personally I loath help desk, high burn out rating and lower pay. But alas Im the one man IT department for an engineering firm so I perform anything and everything IT...including help desk.

shrade774
shrade774

It's an awesome start. Combine a few years of this experience with a degree you may already have and certifications you have interest in, and your hard work can really pay off. You have the distinct advantage of getting to know your company very well, and have contact with and build relationships with people on all rungs of the corporate ladder. Of course, like with anything, you have to put in the work, but if done right, it can really pay off!

tdm1torres
tdm1torres

Several years ago when I realized that I wanted to change career tracks and go into computers, I went back to college to finish my degree. I also started looking for a job in a technology department. I started on the Helpdesk and worked there over 6 years. A couple of years ago, I moved into a sysadmin position. The helpdesk is a wonderful place to learn not only customer service skills but also technical skills, because you'll see it all. I do agree, however, that Helpdesk staff are not taken seriously by other people in the technology department (at least where I work). Education is the key. I am only one of two people (out of 25)in the technology department where I work going to school or working on certifications on their own time. I think the difference is that technology is my career - not just "a job."

oesterle72
oesterle72

Helpdesk is the first stepping tone of a lot of IT careers. I got my start on the CVS world headquarters helpdesk and have been everything from a Field Technician, Systems Engineer, VP Of Service, CIO, and now I am working as a Technical Support Manager for one of the largest Medical Device Manufacturers in the world! Keep Positive and learn all you can! Jaime

reisen55
reisen55

At one company I worked at, briefly, the helpdesk was totally ignored by management. It was an automobile firm that was interested in SELLING CARS period, and the IT department had no communication with the help desk AT ALL so we knew nothing all of the time. Horrible. Training: non-existant too, so we knew nothing of the primary dealer application, NETSTAR, used to inventory and management parts, car sales, etc. Management thus though the helpdesk a worthless thing and, in fact, required all people employed therein to be CORPORATIONS of one form or another so THEY COULD AVIOD ANY BENEFIT PACKAGE expense too. Crazy. ***** Federal Reserve Help Desk: they pay a good rate but offer no upward potential at all and no benefits at all and work you to death. I interviewed there and turned that one down. ***** Aon Group before outsourcing: Call your IT tech, and we come and visit or remote control. Good response time. Aon Group after outsourcing: Bangalore. Nothing more need be said ***** Independent work: I love it and cover my clients always by email and phone 24/7/365 by remote or onsite support.

jbcoops
jbcoops

There are several issues here. I've been helping educators and students learn how to use tech in the classroom for over 10 years now. It's different than the business sector but there are also similarities. In education, as in business, there are walls (and perhaps fewer doors) regarding the "House of Helpdesk." If you're just helping Joe Blow network his computer, then you're dead end. If you're showing the company how to improve productivity by incorporating new tools/systems/etc. that you're staying on top of, then you're on an open ended track. Unfortunately in education, Helpdesk is viewed more as a complete techie job, and it's very difficult trying to find a door to get educators on board with 21st Century learning (and tools, support, curriculum transformation). Thanks to No Child Left Behind tech is viewed more as either a way to keep your grades or take high stakes tests. Helpdesk is not used as a way of helping students and teachers become part of a global educational collaborative. Although I help educators (from kinder teachers to phds.) online every day, I still can't convince my local district to hire me to support all the teachers with technology and curriculum. Education is more atavistic than business in regards to innovation. Business recognizes the need for change as long as it shows a potential for profit. Profit in education today means higher mandated test scores, and outdated studies argue that there is "no significant difference" between students who use tech and those who don't regarding test scores. Hopefully my district in particular (since my kids are going to school here!) and education in general will transform sooner than later into understanding that support can be sustained, proactive and transformative, not simply reactive and technical. In that way it won't be dead end for all stakeholders. --Jeff Cooper Education Technology Support Consultant

chris.blurton
chris.blurton

Personnel who work the Help Desk are, for the most part, taken for granted. IT administrators and specialists consider Help Desk personnel to be idiots and non-technicals. The Help Desk is the brunt of jokes and they are "beneath" them. When a Help Desk person calls these "pros", they act like they are wasting their time, with trivial issues. After all, they have higher ambitions and big fish to catch. The fact is, that the Help Desk is the front line for many IT organizations and an important part of the customer service quality control. A well oiled Help Desk will keep customers, externally and internally, well cared for and should be of vital importance to any CIO's agenda. The well trained and supported Help Desk will most certainly add to the reputation of any IT organization. The Help Desk is not just one person, but an organism, that moves at a fast pace. When the network or application goes down, the customer will immediately call the Help Desk. If they try and call an administrator, they may or may not be assisted. The truth is, most administrators break out in a cold sweat, if they have to deal with a customer. They are in their comfort zone, with their little program and their little server. A customer is way far away some where, pressing the wrong key. The bottom line is that any good IT organization will have a strong 1st and 2nd level Help Desk, to tackle the big gorilla in the cage, or the customer, who has a problem with Microsoft Outlook. Hopefully, the administrator didn't press the wrong key!! To overlook your troops is to lose the battle!! I'm sure that was quoted by some general or CIO somewhere!

555Soul
555Soul

I have only been in the field for 1 1/2 years and am still 'green' but am being moved over to server side because I wanted to learn more. This is the way of the industry. If you want more, you can get it, but if you want to stay where you are, we need technical support analysts too.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I started out in retail, and worked my way up to manager. One of our staff left disgruntled with his treatment, and took my assistant manager and me with him, for a helpdesk role at MCI supporting Internet. I worked my way up there to senior support engineer, and I saw other helpdesk engineers moved into NOC roles - but it was evident that I wasn't going to get this opportunity. The guy who had been my assistant manager left for a bay area high-availability organization, became the manager there, and brought me there in a senior support engineer role. When he left for Nokia and the company was bought out, I found a position at Intel in Folsom as an eBuisness support engineer designing, implementing and supporting supply line web based applications and services. Eventually I was the sole owner of an Intel platform that transacted over $11 billion dollars of Intel business anually. A huge part of this was luck and networking. Knowing the right people at the right time, but a significant part was my passion for information technology. I have very little in the way of formal training. I carry an MCP in Windows Workstation 4.0 NT and I've got a couple of obscure software certifications - I've been through a bunch of Intel U classes that I never tested out on, and I've never finished my degree as a history major. I think the fellow from Long Beach sounds like a horible recruiter and/or employer who is most likely focused on paper-achievements. I've passed by dozens upon dozens of paper-tigers in my career who had education that should have made them far better IT employees than I am, but many of them couldn't build a PC or fine tune a driver if their lives depended on it. Some of them were actually really poor in their specific field of expertise. Help Desk seems like the logical entry level step into IT for me. Those who have excellent skills at dividing and isolating issues in a role like this, generally remotely, are likely to be able to apply those same skills to resolving systems and applications issues higher up the food chain. Help Desk employees learn better crisis management, better soft skills, better ways to leverage contacts and resources to resolve issues. In my experience, IT engineers at higher levels that skip this step of their career are often inferior primadonnas isolated within their view of what their position is. I've worked with too many people that knew all the complex book theory about some issue, but didn't have any real-world understanding about how systems, software and other outside variables interact. So, I think it depends on a lot of things. Your organization and their culture of promotion, your contacts and networking skills, and your own ability to convince others that you have potential, ability and drive. I think that it is more likely that HelpDesk employees are often dead-end "professionals", who just stumbled into a technology career but, like their paper-tiger IT peers, have no real passion or desire to explore or understand more about what they do. This probably holds true in any career. If you're there just because of the payday, you're probably not doing what you should be doing.

rhw0411
rhw0411

I have worked the helpdesk industry for 10 years. At times I was known as a network technician and at others I was known as a software specialist. In between those two titles I was whatever a company needed me to be. I trained people how to use everything from Lawson Financial to Excel. I think the problem with helpdesk is that it states a very limited scope when in fact most helpdesk associates are more than just helpdesk. You can???t not have people skills these days and be a helpdesk tech. More people are becoming qualified to do the job, so you have to have that advantage. People skills are the first that one should really develop well. Most of the helpdesk people know solve relay complex user problems that go beyond the call of duty. So of course when a higher ranking position becomes available they should be considered. That???s unless they are so good at their job the company wants to keep her on helpdesk.

Master G
Master G

on the company, how IT is segregated if it is, type of management you have and if the company actually care about your future , what attitude you have and where you going with your career. All of those count towards your future and if you only going to be a help desk guy or girl. I started as Help Desk guy in school - right after graduation i got a Service Desk job - I was pulled off the phones occasionally by manager because I got involved with the different teams in IT ( network,server,developer,telecom) - I learned as much as I could there and I got offered positions on all those as a result of my involvement. So i went from Help Desk >> Service Desk >> Field Station Engineer >> Sr. Network Administrator >> Network Manager - In the course of 4 years and I still think I could've done better. It depends where you want to be and what you want. If the company doesn't care just find another job and don't be afraid to apply and show what you got to offer.

joe.mangrum
joe.mangrum

I started this way, and this is a matter of how much you are looking to put into it. If you are willing to keep on working and learning, then the more you can move. Yes, this is a great starting point- but I have friends that choose to stay there and they are happy just doing that so this is more on what someone is willing to put into it

mpitconsult
mpitconsult

I've been working on helpdesks for nearly 10 years, and i'm looking to move on to the next rung of the ladder. I have found that employeers are generally looking for people with experiance of the role ie 2nd line support analysists. Experiance counts more than qualifications they're secondary requirement. So for a helpdesk techie to progress up the ladder is oftern very difficult if not impossible, helpdesk is not necessary a dead end job, but the progression is very difficult to achieve.

higherednerd
higherednerd

And training. How are we supposed to keep skills current without training? Even if we were Einsteins, we are not telepathic.

catfish182
catfish182

I have been doing this for almost 4 and a half years. I started doing only help desk but now I do the help desk and desktop support for the other users in my building and i have been, for the last 6 months, learning the system admin job (network admin some call it). I put desktop support on my resume since i am doing it but i didn't list sys admin work but i listed the duties i performed. Not a single person believed that a help desk person was doing anything else but being a phone jockey. I have outlasted the past 5 field technicians and i am one of the only two people that knows detailed information about all 9 client locations. I can VPN in to any machine and work on it remotely. It doesnt matter as no one beleives it. Last week i asked for a title change. I don't mind doing help desk and the work i do is good (I feel it is. My boss must also feel that way as i am still employed) but no one thinks its true.

higherednerd
higherednerd

I'm managing user facing support, not help desk, but in some ways it is similar in terms of career progress. The problem is, that if you are any good at all, people will flock to you. And then you will be overwhelmed with service requests to the point where you will be so busy that you will never be able or allowed to do anything else. You will be seen for what you are, not what you could be. Others will be trained and mentored, you will be utilized. And if you are female or minority, that goes double.

ejsilver26
ejsilver26

As a help desk technician, I made sure to network within the organization and know EVERYONE. I did community involvement, team-building activities, etc. Anything that was "outside" my job description, I was doing. I volunteered to help out in a department that I wanted to get into, training, and made sure I was "in" with them. After a few months, they put me into the Trainer Workshop for new trainers, and shortly after I was offered a job their. So, is it a "Dead-End Job"? I knew lots of people that had more experience and more "skills" that were still on the phones when I left the company. It wasn't that I had better "tech" skills than they did, it was that I had a goal and I went after it. I made sure that I had the skills for the OTHER job, not the one that I had. I got a mentor (2 levels up from the one that I wanted), and I made sure he prepared me for the job. So, anything can be a "Dead-End Job" if you want it to be. But it can be a stepping stone if you work at it.

szlzezezpzzz
szlzezezpzzz

The IT field evolves every day especially present day. Do not discourage young people like myself. I have talked to plenty of peers that are very successful. As long as you do your research and keep up to the evolving technology you will be fine. You confined yourself to technologies that died while you should have been learning a new one while it died. thats what you get yourself into in this field. This is how my personality works i get bored with the same routine i fulfill my needs with a eolving field of work.

AppSupSpec
AppSupSpec

It's only a dead end career if you don't continually learn new technology. I've seen a few older people come into my company and talk to me about trying to move to my department (from a non-IT department) to try to be a programmer again. After they tell me what languages they used to program in their prior career with large, multinational companies, I laugh and tell them that we don't program in COBOL, Fortran, or whatever they mention and that we do .Net, VB, and a few other newer programming languages, so they all end up only having the possibility to work our Help Desk. But unfortunately, some people do the same thing for the same (mutli-national company) for 30-40 years. They have no time (at work) to learn new things. They don't keep up with the changing times... THAT is when computers is a dead end career. Now, I started with my current company in the Help Desk. I eventually got promoted through there to a point where I could move out (learning more about our enterprise software packages and other aspects of the company's IT department along the way) and into a development position. I would say that Help Desk can lead to bigger and better positions. Maybe even out of the IT field altogether if things are right.

rjs6143
rjs6143

I got my start working first for a small one man IT shop doing desktop and network support for dentists/orthodontists.. very up close and personal support with receptionists and doctors alike. Taught me the soft skills and definitely picked up useful technical skills. Then I got stuck in retail for awhile, and my self-made business card for doing home pc support accidentally landed me a job at a decent sized software/tech consulting company. Which was a blessing(my neighbor knew IT manager and he was needing a little extra help getting some projects finished up) I learned a ton from my supervisor and by hands-on playing around. Using my people skills I did troubleshooting in person most of the time, rarely by email or phone. Made contacts with EVERYONE and got to work on projects that were originally way over my head. Now I'm gaining a foothold into a true career path because I have more than basic skills in programming, sharepoint, active directory, server administration, etc. Even though it hasn't helped my career a ton at this point I still feel the benefits of working a support type job will outweigh the downsides. Also, If you can't network and talk with your coworkers and be driven to do more than answer calls then you probably don't deserve to move up and out... eh? -R

dmiller
dmiller

I have read over or so statements on Helpdesk work. In my experience I'v gone from IT Manager, Data Center Manager, Technical Services Manager...All jobs ended due to company closings or moving to the Helpdesk. Helpdesk work was the only thing I could find in IT at one point, after six years of being involved in Help Desks I can honestly say "It's the WORST job in an IT environment". PERIOD!!!

MWC922
MWC922

I started being a technician for a company that had contracts with industrial companies in terms of data machine sales and service. I later got a job in a mechanical engineering and fabrication company as a help desk/ technician for their MIS dep't. I'm now doing a degree and opportunities are definitely opening up. The hard work does pay off. However, once you become experienced in a sector in the economy other sectors (financial, etc.) don't really have an interest for your experience. So when starting a career in IT, one should try to get in the sector where the opportunities of growth are greater.

k.granado
k.granado

What an Insult! "Stumbled into a technology career" from someone who actually did exactly that, coming from retail to Intel. I have been in IT Support for 14 yrs and I love my job! I started at a Support Center with thoughts of moving forward from there but found that I love it so much that I have made it my career. Besides, for some reason, once a person makes it to an Admin 2 level, they suddenly become too good to answer their phone, return calls or deal with users at all. I work for a company that actually has Network Admin 1's on the helpdesk/support center phones! I alternate working the Support Center and Desktop Support at my main location... I am in the perfect place. I love being the connection between the user and their computer. I love helping people understand their computers and teach them that it is just a tool and how to use it effectively. It is the most rewarding job that I have ever had. As said before in this post, no two days are the same. I love a challenge, I learn something new every day, I keep up on all the latest technology, and I make good money because I am good at what I do. I am better at my job because I think of it as my career and not just a starting off point. Personally I can't stand to call a Support Center, whether it is Dell's support center or my local banks and have someone answer the phone while reading from a script. You can hear them reading it and they don't have a clue how to help you. When I call for help, I want someone who knows more than I me on what I am calling about. To me, that is the whole problem with IT depts. today. Companies use the Support Center as a answering service and the end users, their CUSTOMERS, suffer! I take my job seriously, it is challenging, rewarding, and always exciting. I never have a day that someone does not tell me "You are so great, thank you so much." or "You?re the best!" Ask any Network Admin 2 or IT Manager when is the last time someone told them that?

joe.mangrum
joe.mangrum

i agree with you. when i started for the first 2 years i did some shadowing at lunch and off hours. made friends with desktop, network, and server guys and they let me tag along and learn. i got no pay and it was my personal time, but looking back it was the best time spent. started as helpdesk, now i do servers implementation and administration. also find something that separates you from the rest, get good at vbscript, automation or something that makes you stand out. my it knowledge got me in the door, but my knowledge on how to look at what a company needed, and where they lack people for that need has been what moves me up. do not give up, and keep going, and the more you learn, the better off you are

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

Training is definitely HOT TOPIC. Management suuuure loves a good skill set, yet is not willing to train.

jtaylor1369
jtaylor1369

I am doing somewhat of the same thing, whereas my job is a hybrid hardware/software (IT desktop support and programming). When I've done face-to-face support, I am usually able to fix the problem with no hassle. This will create a situation that when you're good, word can get around and then you'll wind up doing more than you can handle. That's a good ego booster, but then it may put pressure on you at the same time to do well at every job. If you don't learn other skills or try to shoot for other positions, yes, you can get stuck, but you still have a job in IT.

ksharp25
ksharp25

By Dead End job I feel I should clarify what that means to me, to me, it is defined as "a job which you will hit a certain pay ceiling with no chance of going higher or expanding beyond in duties". I started out as a Help Desk agent. Eventually I came to know the dedicated client our team served well enough to be Team Lead which is just a glorified supervisor help desk agent of the rest. Any education we got to expand our knowledge had to come on oour own time outside of work. The company had great benefits as far as free classes provided approved by manager and there was a spot. Our business was a certified Microsoft training center. I got two certifications through there. After 4 years of client support and knowledge with 2 Microsoft Certs, I thought I would be prime material to move to internal Level 2 Deskside Admin or System Analyst or Network position. Wrong. They hired outside everytime. Because "yes we understand you have 4 years here as Help Desk experience, and you know alot about computers. But, you just dont have the trench experience of doing non-help desk duties." Eventually the company sold out its training and other benefits that made the place tolerable. I got new agents on my team who really didnt know the MSCONFIG console from the CMD prompt and if they did, had no real knowledge of how to utilize them. If our SOPs and Procedures didnt have a screen by screen procedure for the exact issue, I had to walk them through ideas to troubleshoot the issue. basically tickets were logged of the issue and passed on with little to no troubleshooting which irked higher level admins. There was a paradigm Shift in the company that IT experience isnt needed, just any ape off the street with good people skills and who can answer the phone can do Help Desk and we dont have to pay them IT level pay. I was told candidly again by a Manager I was "in" with that at this company I will never as Help Desk be paid more than $11.50 an hour. There is no need to. I had to take my certs and training and get a job elsewhere as a System Admin entry level. I have made 2 moves now in the past 3 years since leaving and am now at a decent $21.00 an hour with upward growth room. Far too many companies and IT organizations see and view Help Desk agents as kids and phone monkees off the street to play nice and be receptionist to pass on issues so the "real" IT folks can work on them.

HelpMeDesk
HelpMeDesk

Couldn't agree with this more. I've been a Help Desk support person for 8 years. Turned down the next step (Level 2 support) three times and turned down opportunities to move into different departments in my company twice. I have a great time helping people and making their day better when dealing with that frustrating computer problem they can't get around. Been told over and over how much help I've been and how much people appreciate me. I really like my CAREER.....

roblespaulo
roblespaulo

I think that help desk is not the final goal, thinking career wise. it is a good place to be if thats all you want to acomplish but if you what to grow as an IT,you need to move on. as bigger the possition the greater the responsability therefor the pay increases. it is great to know every body and work betwen the End User and the computer but why not go beyond between the Server and the end user computer. or even better whats wrong with inter company servers. if you are a Network specialist and the connection between 2 of youre branches crash thats responability. thats a good monthly pay check too. At least thats my motivation in IT.

liquidxit2
liquidxit2

Personally I found help desk to be very rewarding for the first 2-3 years, but then the issues became repetitive and I started to burn out. Now don't get me wrong I don't mind helping people, but doing just help desk for a living isn't for everyone. Personally help desk was fine in high school and while paying my way through college, but I wanted something more technical. Depending on the end users dealing with them can be either a nightmare or a joy and after designing a network and getting feedback as well as explaining and doing the initial teaching is fun IMHO. But dealing with the same issues day in and day out is not fun.

btd
btd

Agreed. I've seen many situations where a warm carcass that can read a manual is considered a well trained support person to some management. They treat the position almost as a "fast food" type job; there'll always be another body to take your place when you burn out and leave so why should they care whether or not you learn anything. That said, one of my first IT jobs was doing phone support for a small software company, the only chance for advancement was if my supervisor died or quit (whatever came first), and training was "there are the books, the phone's ringing, good luck". Lack of training can force some people to excel, making them think on they're feet and outside of their comfort zone. I learned a lot, most of it doesn't fit the textbook scenarios; but I would not have burned out as fast on phone support had I been properly trained to begin with.

dcolbert
dcolbert

"Dead end professionals". I'm not talking about a person with passion and drive who likes a support role and decides to stick with it. I'm talking about a person who bounces around looking for something other than the entry level alternatives (retail, food industry, labor) and "stumbles into a help desk job" - but just isn't a corporate person or "customer-interfacing person" or is otherwise just a bad fit for the help desk. But, truth be told, there isn't a lot of room for a CAREER in most call center/help desk environments. A single guy content living in a small apartment with a lot of tech toys may be content, but you're unlikely to make a real living family wage in a call center roll. (Probably depends on your measure of success and security as well). Now, some call centers are exceptions to this, some support roles are exceptions to this. I know 2nd tier support agents at EMC making in the high $80ks/year in a total WFH support environment. This is a well compensated support role. But there aren't many like this. And I interface with my supported end users, with my executive management, with our clients and vendors and with my own IT staff. I provide support solutions at all levels in my current role, and I am not isolated in a corner office doing ROI reports, budgets and payroll. Better yet, I would never disqualify a candidate based on their history as a "call center support staff agent". I'm also a firm believer that business seems to want to push people, often in directions that they don't want to go. If you're content in your position, if it rewards you and you truly enjoy it, then I'd have no problem leaving you there if you performed well in that capacity. If you wanted more "opportunity" or to expand into something different, and you had the aptitude, I'd be happy to help you in that career path, as well. Intel has this silly "continous improvement" philosophy - that says "If you are completely compentent and consistently meet or exceed expectations in your current role, you are stagnant", and the solution is to "challenge you by expanding your roles and responsibilities outside of your comfort zone". I guess that is one way of looking at it. Personally, it seems like their philosophy is constantly changing the rules on their employees until they find something that the employee fails at, so that they can give them a "Corrective Action Prgram"... a "CAP"- IR, Improvement Required. Like all things, there must be a balance, and the best intentioned goals can be badly implemented. I understand the idea behinid this philosophy, but I think that you can also find someone who just excels at what they do, is content to do it, and should be left alone outside of being well compensated for the work that they do. If you're a Support staff who fits that description, then congratulations.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I'd settle for being a help-desk agent in Baja California. :)

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