Developer

No tech can know everything


Sometimes, being a tech can be a routine, quiet, and almost boring job. And then there are days when the Web site crashes. As the Tech of All Trades for my company, I support dozens of pieces of technology. I know a little about most of them, a lot about some of them, and a whole lot about a few of them. I support SQL Servers, domain controllers, Active Directory, XP and Vista workstations, switches, routers, firewalls, WAN connections, FAX machines, and phone systems.

One piece of technology that is on my low level of knowledge list is the company Web site. I know enough about HTML and Dreamweaver that I can make basic changes in text and, on our old Web site, add new listings of aircraft that we sell and manage. However, we just put up a new Web site designed in CSS and PHP. I know some of you are great at design, but that is not one of my strengths. I had no problem when we decided to have an outside agency create it for us.

I think our new website looks great. It's really not a complicated Web site. In fact, it's just glorified brochure-ware with lots of pictures of expensive jets. Believe it or not, we really aren't looking to get a lot of new business from our Web site. It's more about showing choices in aircraft available for charter. I personally think it was designed more for one-upmanship on the competition. The rates on these things are $4,500 to $8,500 per hour. A typical trip is $65,000 to $125,000.

Now back to my point - the crashing of the Web site. We asked the outside Web design agency to make some serious changes to put in a back-end database. We wanted to make it easier to add and change aircraft without being a programmer. I get an e-mail from the agency this afternoon with the subject, "Website crashed - need immediate attention!" Wait a minute. These guys are the experts on our Web site. They designed it. Why are they asking me for help to repair it?

We go back and forth. I suggest they restore it from the backup they made before their changes. They e-mail back asking if I have a recent backup on my server. I start to get a bad feeling about this. The account manager escalates it to the programmer. He starts asking if we have disabled PHP on the server. No, why would I do that? He asks again if I can turn it back on. Okay, I'll humor him. I go to the admin panel of our Web site host, delete and re-add PHP support. It works!

Here's the deal. Sometimes, we techs can fix things without really knowing what we did to fix it. A typical example is the reboot of a server when you have tried everything else. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that. No tech can know everything about all the stuff we are expected to support. Even though I am an MCSE, A+ and Network+ certified, I still have to look things up all the time. In fact, a lot of my day is spent looking things up for people.

Google is my friend. I spend more time on Google than on any other Web site, even TechRepublic. I would never like to go back to the day when I had bookshelves of outdated tech manuals that were impossible to use in a pressure situation. If I learned anything in college, it was how to look things up. I think even for lawyers the main skill they learn in college is where to look things up. My company pays me more for my customer service and troubleshooting skills than my tech knowledge.

What do you think? I'm being partly facetious. Of course you have to know your stuff. Are you responsible for some technology on which you don't consider yourself an expert?

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