There are two basic ways to be good at something. Sometimes, proficiency is due to hard work; other times, it comes from an innate aptitude. Is there a trait that makes you uniquely suited for working with technology?


Some of you may have read my post from last week, “Save Money by Making Your Own Ethernet Cables.” Discussion around that article broke down pretty evenly. Quite a few people responded that they cut and crimp their own Cat5 cords as well. A good portion of commenters said they buy finished cables from reputable wholesalers in order to save on both cost and effort. This rather balanced response exists in direct contradiction to the reaction I got from our director when she learned I was making cables. I believe she said something like, “What are you, crazy? Can’t you just buy those?”

However indelicately phrased, my boss may not have been far wrong. I can be a little…weird, sometimes. I have a specific way I load the dishwasher or — often — will reload the dishwasher (if someone else has done it incorrectly). I like to make sure that the pieces of furniture in my living room align with each other as well as with the boards that make up the hardwood floors. Sometimes, I will invest more effort than other people would to save a very small amount of money, whether it means spending five minutes on a phone survey to acquire a $2.00 pet food coupon or…making my own Ethernet cables.

I like to think of myself as detail-oriented. My fiancee, when she’s being charitable, calls me compulsive. When she wants to poke fun at me, she compares me to Rain Man.

As I see it, that particular personality quirk — whatever it is — is something that helps me in my work as a support tech. For one thing, it can make me one heck of a problem solver. I have been known to fall down the rabbit hole while I’m working on something, forgetting to leave the office or event to eat meals. Or call home to let my loved ones know I’ll be late. (Sorry, honey.)

I think that I might be an example of how one might settle into a job that “biologically” or  “psychologically” suits him, as much as through any conscious preference. But then, this idea has been written about before. There was a piece in Wired Magazine some years back that posited an explanation for the increasing incidences of autism and Asperger’s syndrome among children born in Silicon Valley. The article asked if what seems to be “geekiness” in some technically minded people might actually be a predisposition to one of those conditions. Geeks marry and produce kids with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Setting aside how difficult such a diagnosis can be for a family, the article left me with the idea that one could be biologically inclined to a particular field of work. I find that concept fascinating.

So I ask you: what traits — physical or mental — make for a good support pro? What qualities have you observed in yourself or in others that led to a successful IT career? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this idea.

As a postscript, if you want to read about a few qualities that make for bad support techs, check out Becky Robert’s 10 Things list from 2007.