Leadership

Video: Five 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. In this IT Dojo video, Bill Detwiler discusses several signs that you may not be cut out for IT support.

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. In this IT Dojo video, I'll discuss several signs that you may not be cut out for IT support.

For those of you who prefer text to video, you can click the Transcript link that appears below the video player window or you can also read Becky Roberts' download "10 signs that you aren't cut out to be a support tech," on which this video is based.

You can also sign up to receive the latest IT Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

75 comments
HOAGY
HOAGY

You are not a person that can concentrate when people are talking non-stop. This is true multi-tasking at its finest and is a skill you can learn if you don't have it now. The easiest way is to get married and have children. You develop a filter that allows you to hear the important stuff and shut out the rest.

reisen55
reisen55

A good friend of mine, who is a terrific technician, cannot handle stress to the point where he had a total breakdown. I had one myself at a hospital local area network that was RANCID, BAD, HORRIBLE to the extreme. When the end user are "patients" - people hooked up to tubes in rooms, that's hard. Worst job I EVER had and one where I dreaded just going to work. I have since begun a lucrative career in independent support coupled with JUST having found a good internal system admin position with a very very local firm to my home that is not outsourced!!! I count myself extremely lucky in these times. Other areas - you have to be a people person, have a great interest in technical stuff as a puzzle to be solved, etc. Good subject. Now, flip these points over 180 and you have the things that MAKE for a great support tech.

Julees
Julees

Cool. Know I'm in the right job - said yes to all. Enjoy your Ninja dojo videos Bill.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Thank you. I'm glad you enjoy them. Any suggestions for future topics?

not
not

Well, Bill I sort of read the transcript and saw the photo negative of the points. Having been IT for 27 years, it read to me to say one must enjoy being put down, ignored, blamed for other people's lack of preparedness, common sense, or superego. Also included are company disregard for work done well by those whom they'd just assume ignore, offshore, or otherwise marginalize, humiliate, or use as scapegoats for any reason or no reason, simply because they feel they can. Abuse of power,elitist thinking and meanspirited actions are not only reprehensible, and unwelcome, they foster a demoralised work force, and as we are seeing these days, often points to a greater problem in the lives of those executing these positions and activities. Refusal to contribute to education to perform their custom work, they exclude them from using the same funds to bring in scabs from anywhere else. New Law: If you don't staff every American based position with Americans then you can not sell anything in or to anyone in America. The NEW brand of Empoyer Employee relationships. This might be served as a side dish to 5 year technology moratoriums until operating and network systems are in existence long enough to prove they dont fail. Then they can hire somebody besides the latest college crop. What makes a good IT support person is respect, support for their education, proper acceptance of responsibility by all levels of management for the problems they create, and job security in house with full paid health benefits, subsidised by cuts in exective pay and bonus eliminations. They get nothing until the lowest man does. THAT's real business and job growth.

wjayd
wjayd

Should be Six signs!.. You need a thick skin, as you become the ambassador of all failed items technical (user OR system inflicted). As such, the deletion of key files, the hard drive crash (without a backup), the dropped or stolen laptop with key info, or the yanked plug at the wrong time, are ALL your fault, and the fire will be initially directed at you for not better protecting against such grevious impediments. You need to take such abuse (and complaints) with a grain of salt, as IT Departments rarely see "praise". Usually they get one of two things, silence or complaints, face it... no matter how good a process, people or skill set is, everyone on the outside, will armchair quarterback, and 20/20 hindsight let you and frequently your leadership, know how you could have better done the task(s)...

ken
ken

While I think the tone of the wording is perhaps a bit in-your-face, I pretty much have to agree with every single point. For example, right now I've got a co-worker: he's a hard worker, keeps up with tech... and is close to paranoid when it comes to what he thinks people are thinking about him. Gets him all stressed out. You have to learn to go with the flow when you're in IT -- or, at the very least, be able to have a good rapport with both end-users and management. $.02

flamemax
flamemax

Good solid information! One thing to remember though. Not all tech support roles revolve around helping end users. Many positions are based on supporting Engineers and Net Work Admins.

pworlton
pworlton

I admit it...I'm mostly burnt out on support work. I've been a tech for 13 years and I've completely lost interest. The big sign for me that I'm burnt out is that I've started to view support requests as an annoyance, rather than an opportunity to shine. I like people well enough until they come to me with their stupid computer problems. Secondarily, I really don't care to keep up with new technology unless I can afford to buy it for home use. Thankfully, I've managed to transition the majority of my job title into Web Application Developer which means if there is a problem, more than likely it's because I screwed up some code.

TBBrick
TBBrick

Unless you are the stereotypical programmer locked away in the dark room, surrounded by empty pizza boxes, Jolt bottles, and Snicker bar wrappers, that the management refuses to allow interaction with the end users, you are in support work. If you work with end users in any fashion, you better be good on the skills listed, plus the others added to list. #6. No one (however obnoxious) is worth losing ones relationship with the Higher Power, losing one's job, or going to jail.

kelc
kelc

The print version shows 10 reasons and the first one stands out as one that does not reflect any reality. It mentions "You don't respect other techs" No they are not all idiots but there are some that are reading flip charts, you can tell just by the conversation and steps they are asking you to perform in troubleshooting. I've been in places where they hired someone just to fill a spot and that person did not know anything as far as what was required. I've been in stores where the person working in the computer section did not know what an IDE or ESATA cable was. I don't think this has anything to do with respect or attitude, its reality.

kracor
kracor

That a person who is reading a flip chart becuase that is how they have been trained and the company they work for requires it of them is not worthy of your respect as a technician? If a person is fresh out of training, or if they've had ANY training at all, needs a set of steps that guide them until such time as they can guide themselves and they are extremely worthy of other tech's respect. They are at least making an attempt to do their jobs. One cannot demand instant, omnipotent knowledge of any job of every person that is performing one, be it in the field of computers or be it in the area of dumpster dumping. Some jobs are more skilled than others and require more time to become proficient at, so please don't feel that someone is not worthy of your respect simply because you've called tech support and it 'sounds' like they are using a flip chart. You reap what you sow!!!

tech4me
tech4me

Kelc posted he DOES respect other techs, just not EVERY tech, which makes perfect sense to me. Respect is earned through demonstration not on the assumption they will one day be worthy of it. If someone is fresh out of training, they don't really deserve your respect because they're not very good at their job and they're still learning. I'm sorry but I don't respect someone just on the assumption that behind that droning voice their mind is going crazy saying "OMG I know this, it's so obvious, I can't wait till we get to step 26". Why would you respect someone who reads a flip chart when (be honest here) ANYONE who can read can do that?

gfjim
gfjim

Maybe it's just the concept of "respect" you and I have, but

dmyles
dmyles

Well, tech4me has really created a stir here. And while I posted that I clearly understood some of the frustration, there were good points there just veiled under the guise of irritation. Kracor, I think you're right on the money with this post. Key words here, 'Team'. To lend an example, I am also a martial arts instructor. In our club, it isn't like the black belts dont share knowledge with the lowly white belts because they have no skills yet, the strength of the club comes from the fact that everyone shares the knowledge, and every senior belt is responsible for their younger 'brothers and sisters', students. This creates an environment where the experts are constantly lending their knowledge and strengths, adn the younger students become more enthusiastic and feel valued and learn much quicker. Also, creates an environment of equality, everyone is responsible for the successes and failures of our business. Tech4me, if you aren't already, maybe consulting is your path as you have lots of confidence in yourself, but appear a little jaded towards others in lower roles.

kracor
kracor

Yes, anyone who can read can read a flip chart. But I would much rather have someone on my work force who is willing to read a flip chart than somebody who is so head-strong that they 'know' exactly what they have to do to 'fix' a problem and end up taking two hours to resolve a 15 minute job. And those folks that are willing to subject themselves to a set of standards in resolving a tech problem are more valuable and respectable in my eyes than someboday who feels that 'their' way is the only way. Showing respect for someone fresh out of training is the surest way of being respected yourself. A lack of experience in no way should ever, in any job, determine whether you should respect a person. Lack of respect only leads to a degradation of team cohesion. If a person continually demonstrates a lack in the ability to learn their assigned tasks, then we as supervisors have the responsibility to determine where 'we' have failed that person. If that person is making an honest attempt to learn his/her job, then they are worthy of respect.

aidplus
aidplus

The Five signs that you are not suitable for tech support should read "may not be" suitable. I believe a lot depends on the ability of the Technician and its basically a catch 22 situation. Until you get to be good at any job, you are going to feel all negative about support, till you get to the platform where you are starting to cope. Then it becomes "yesterday I couldnt spell technician, now I are one".... Battening down and perseverance will get you through. Though the message will apply to most of us struggling, its deflating when stuff like this comes out. It doesnt encourage those who could have made the grade, and makes those who are doing OK feel negative about the job. This item certainly doesnt help those who could overcome their lack of people skills. These are also learnt...

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

"We can't find anybody that knows a thing about digital.I know it's late but the whole system just went down." "You there Bill?'

RechTepublic
RechTepublic

You write articles about why it sucks to be in IT instead of getting a new career.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Just because someone criticizes aspects of a profession, even their chosen one, doesn't mean they hate everything about that profession or wish to abandon their career. In fact, it's beneficial for members of a profession to regularly re-examine the benefits, hazards, and challenges that they face.

jrekus
jrekus

Excellent video Bill! Thank you. John (jrekus@ct.metrocast.net)

Damien5280
Damien5280

I know several that are tech support that must have this!

kbrewer
kbrewer

No need for the intro commercials. They play to the wrong audience.

dbecker
dbecker

Bill, what you present is right on target. These days, though, most environments have gone dysfunctional. A symptom of dysfunction is management demanding technologists lie so the careers of the managers can be saved. My manager subborned perjury by telling me to lie to IBM. I sidestepped the issue and did not lie, but this is one example of what is happening now today in IT. So you have to ask yourself: Can I lie for management when called upon to do so? If not, then tech support may not be for you.

frankharty
frankharty

We can always, always, always rely on dbecker to figure a way for us to blame management. I didn?t get the job, management conspiracy, my pay is low, management is corrupt and gets all the money, snow storm in London and Kentucky, must be management, and now management made me lie!!! Jeeze, the dog ate my home work but management made him do it. Get a life

dbecker
dbecker

We've already established you are a liar. To become a better manager, you need to become a better liar. You are just too obvious.

dbecker
dbecker

I got the job and my pay is high. Management is corrupt. Frank, haven't you kept up with the news? Or is it possible, being a manager yourself you are so corrupt that you are now forced to become an apologist? When I began my career, it just wasn't the way it is now. Business has so declined that lies, deceptions, illegal practices and outright fraud are now the norm. We wait beathlessly for the next revelation on the evening news. I was simply showing that if you want to be a technologist, you may have to lie to keep your job. I didn't. I told the truth. I have gotten fired for telling the truth, but these days I'm completely secure because management is able to tell lies without fear and anything I say will be irrelevant -- just like what you've tried to do with your posting [as management does] -- cover up the truth. You seem to have made a choice. I say it is a bad one.

Matt Miller
Matt Miller

Ahh......a serious read. I was really hoping for something tongue-in-cheek.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Week before last, we shot two episodes that will take lighthearted looks at the differences between end users say and what they often mean and what IT pros say and what they really mean. The episodes should publish about two weeks from now. So, stay tuned!

bauchter
bauchter

Is there a transcript? My company blocks videos.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

There is a link below the video player window (within the blog post) that should display the full transcript in a pop-up window. You can also use the following link to access TR's video player page for this video. There you will also find a See Full Transcript link to the left of the player window under the video description http://video.techrepublic.com.com/2422-14075_11-265233.html

RanEd
RanEd

Hello, Thank you Bill for your, five signs that you aren't cut out for tech support. I thought each item you choose was right-on. Young people need to hear this. Thanks Randy

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Thanks for the compliment! I couldn't agree more.

lizzz
lizzz

1. You throw a customer's hard drive across the room. 2. You hit the case with a sledge hamnmer when a part won't fit. 3. You think WD40 and duct tape solve all problems. 4. You can't spell technician. 5. You are a certified motorcycle mechanic.

Claptrap1
Claptrap1

6. Tech support doesn't test the user's PC overclocking ability making the motherboard unstable and frying the perfectly working processor in the bargain - just because they haven't seen that make of motherboard before - and then tell the user it's his fault (when the issue was a software one in the first place). 7. "USB headset? I have never heard of such thing!" Hello, where have you been since these came into use several months ago? This happened to my friend, when he used a different computer rather than his normal one: Simple matter of changing the preferred soundcard in Sound and Audio devices if the techie had known about USB headphones. My friend didn't know to tell that the headset has it's own sound chip: being a bit of a technophobe he hadn't taken the information quite in when he got the headset.

Claptrap1
Claptrap1

It used to be that if you needed tech support, you'd have to personally walk to their workshop. When the workshop moved to bigger premises, they kept the door permanently locked, with a "secret" camera that was cleverly hidden to look like a tear on the poster on the door. I say secret because I'm sure it fooled some of the users. No amount knocking or even the now possible email request from our supervisors would get any response: the webcam on the door was only so they knew to open the door to the big boss and fool him into thinking everything was ok. My room was short of couple of computers for nearly two years after the request was sent, by which time another one had broken down so at least three people were just wasting their time, not being able to work. Talking about jaded - or would these people qualify as not suited to tech support job? (I always remember one techie being very rude, too.) I must say in their defence though that it took only 5 days for to sort it out when the network decided not to accept anyone's passwords, so no work requiring a computer got done. By the time we were back online, at least those whose password woes had been ironed out, there was a substantial backlog of work waiting for us. I one person from the tech support asked me if I didn't break my computer at home by watching DVDs with it. She was also supposed to train users with applications but I ended up showing her quite a few things about a standard office application, things I took for granted everyone using the program for similar purpose would know... It's good to be reminded not to assume anything. Apparently, more than HALF of techs there come straight from further education college, having done a one year cisco qualification and another one of a year long. (So who's training them?) I really don't know what makes me believe that. :D

bens
bens

"All parts should go together without forcing. You must remember that the parts you are assembling were disassembled by you. Therefore, if you can't get them together again, there must be a reason. By all means, do not use a hammer." - IBM Maintenaince Manual 1975 I keep this one handy in case I ever consider option #2 :-)

kdalmer
kdalmer

...and I wish every support person would take a look at it. It be a refresher, it may make you appreciate, where you are in the field and for some it may make you realize you should move on ....

herrmann3
herrmann3

one of my techs just got his certified motorcycle mechanic.....guess he will be moving on soon..lol

tensasjohnny
tensasjohnny

Excellent....I have been working IT support for 20 years and agree with 99% of this video.

martin
martin

Hi, this video is pretty accurate in its delivery. Many times the problem is between the keyboard and the chair. You as a support tech need to get the message across very diplomatically without being offensive but also ensure the user learns from the experience.

syxguns
syxguns

When has that ever happened? Most users are not up to par when it comes to anything computer related. I can talk for 10 Min. before I realize that the person I'm talking to has absolutely no idea what I'm talking about. You must remember that the typical computer user doesn't know how to speak tech talk! If you even mention something as simple as IP Address they get confused!

Claptrap1
Claptrap1

That sounds almost like you don't really care if your listener is with you or not, though I'm sure that is not the case. How about learning some strategies of how to find out if they follow you. How do "How much do you know about technical side of computers?" before starting your talk (or however you want to establish the level of your tech speak)and "Do you know what I'm talking about?", "Are you still with me?" (like little ad breaks) sound to you?

Marc Bailey
Marc Bailey

I think you are confusing learning with technical savvy. Whenever I've worked directly with clients my regulars learn. If they've talked to me before (especially if it's about the same problem) their later calls begin "I did everything you suggested before and it's still not working" so we can proceed from there. The important thing is that you do not need tech talk to teach a user what to do. In fact, I believe that all techspeak should be forbidden in user support calls unless it is absolutely necessary or you have already established that the user is familiar with the terms. The user does not need to know what an IP address is, you just need to tell them how to find it and have them read it to you. Using the terms is just going to confuse most people unnecessarily. It's all part of the first rule in this video. You need to love the tech, but you also need to be able to communicate with the majority of humanity who doesn't share your passion.

Claptrap1
Claptrap1

I would love a tech support that has the time and patience to educate me what IP address is (well I know THAT one, it's just an example) if I don't know it already and THEN carry on as if I knew nothing. But now you can use the term when you talk to me through the steps. I know, it must be frustrating for you the techie, that I most likely need a reminder next time again (because I'm not a computer so I forget things, especially those that I don't need every day) but I should not need the full version and eventually I WILL remember, especially if I have the same problem again... Of course, end users WILL detect if the support person thinks that all users are brainless idiots, not worth of explaining anything to. I have actually come across this when requesting support over the phone: I have asked to explain some term or technology that had cropped up in conversation and being ignored or being told "it would be too complicated for you to understand" - even though I have never spoken to that person before! Hey, I'm not after your job, just the basic principle/rough explanation would do. Iget frustrated too when techies cannot tell the difference between a brainless idiots and ignorance which can be remedied by education. Some technically savvy think they have superior intelligence because THEY remeber the terms the next day and anyone who doesn't is a moron but I bet even those people would need to repeat words and explanations of grammar, were they to learn a completely alien language. Neither they would be ready to do show jumping after just five or so lessons... I also want to remind that people learn those things faster they deal with every day or at least find interesting. IMHO sometimes the best teacher is one that is just one step ahead of you, such person will be closer to your level of thinking whereas more advanced person's experience may complicate the way he thinks of the issue.

h.deering
h.deering

Well put. Right on target Marc.

Mullet4244
Mullet4244

And I think you have put it across in a very tactful, diplomatic and "teaching" way. Well done!

ruisert
ruisert

Exactly. Your reply is so very right on. Unless a user's job requires they know what an IP address, or any other IT term, is, then to expect it from them is just tech-geek snobbery. And they will be able to sense that attitude on some level, even if you don't come out and say it. Some people just don't have time to learn everything about their job AND yours. That's why you have a job. However, on the other hand, I've had people call in and say "I've got this error message and it says 'blah, blah, blah'". I explained that just because the caller didn't know what that 'blah, blah, blah' was, somebody else does, so read it out to me, please.

teorinkurg
teorinkurg

Can't find the video to play - Is this a joke or am I not cut out to be a support tech?

mailboweb
mailboweb

:o) Maybe you are not cut out for the job. Don't panic, a good techy knows that maybe your Java is disabled or you have "NoScript" configured not to run the video/flash code. If this didn't help, please call your local IT helpdesk :) It runs fine in FF3.

Melar
Melar

Stuffed up in firefox 3 though. *shrug*

syxguns
syxguns

I have no problem viewing the video with Firfox 3. I of course have IE Tab installed. I'm not sure if that comes into play, but it is very beneficial when downloading from Micorosoft. You might check it out and see if it helps. IE Tab for Firfox: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/search?q=IE+Tab&cat=all

teorinkurg
teorinkurg

Thanks Melar Yes Firefox 3 failed to show video. IE7 ok.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

If you're using NoScript or Adblock with Firefox, make sure you allow cnet.com, zdnet.com, bnet.com, com.com, and techrepublic.com.

tvshub
tvshub

My Firefox played the video just fine. It has never failed to play a video. Netflix, though, insists on IE - yuk. Must need 'user upgrade'.

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