This is another installment of a series within the Career Management blog in which I feature a short survey of a tech pro in a particular specialty. It's not a comprehensive look, just a snapshot of what the person likes best and likes least about his or her chosen profession. (If anyone wants to talk about their job for the benefit of our readers, feel free to answer the three questions below and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Job snapshot: Systems Administrator
- Job snapshot: Programmer
- Job snapshot: Support professional
- Job snapshot: Technical Writer
- Job snapshot: Project Manager
- Job snapshot: IT Consultant
This week, Carlota Sage talks about her job as a knowledge base specialist.
What do you like best about your job?
The diversity! I'm in that technical "squishy" area: I have to be technical enough to understand the development and support engineers, but I also have to communicate to a non-engineer or often very low-tech audience. While writing technical self-help articles is a large part of what I do, I also have to have an eye for marketing and Web presentation. I also enjoy facilitating cross-functional communications between Support and other departments, especially the Documentation and Marketing teams. I am the approachable warm and fuzzy Support mascot in many ways.
I love that I personally and measurably improve the experience our consumers have with our products and our online self-service support. I also get great feedback from our overseas call centers - my knowledge base articles directly impact our call agents' ability to quickly and knowledgeably help customers on the phone, as well. It's a very gratifying position.
What do you dislike about it the most?
Having to manage management's expectations. Knowledge Management is the new hot "how to save tons of money on Support" thing, and managers often think that means, "Great! We can throw out a wiki and our customers will solve their own problems. We'll save hundreds of thousands of dollars!" The lower the technical ability of your general audience, the more likely this is to fail. Your Support Web site needs an authoritative, guiding voice and requires constant management.
What education/background qualified you for your job?
I began with Web development in the late 90s and moved to Content Management System implementation, technical writing, and training in 2000. I took a break to start my own company as an art agent in 2003, but I missed working in the technical field. When I returned in 2005, I found that my broad jack-of-all-trades background was well-suited to being the knowledge engineer in technical support departments. Curiosity and communication are my two most powerful, and most used, tools.
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.