I was digging around YouTube the other day and came across this IT career video created by CollegeGrad.com—a career Web site specializing in entry-level jobs. Judging from the computer hardware, office furnishings, and clothing, the video was produced sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s.
I assume CollegeGrad.com created the video to give those with absolutely no IT exposure a glimpse of the help desk life. I'll give them credit for explaining the critical aspects of a help desk tech's job in under two minutes. Unfortunately, in their effort to give prospective IT support pros a "practically perfect" impression of the help desk, I think they missed a few facets of the job. Here are key characteristics of a help desk technician's job that I think CollegeGrad.com should have included:
- It's almost always an emergency: Whether it's a user without e-mail access or a crashed domain controller, almost everything you do is an emergency to everyone but you. "What's that Mr. CEO? You can't access your personal stock portfolio through your favorite financial Web site? I'll be right there. These server updates can wait."
- Every user's teenage niece or nephew could do your job better than you: I'm all for second opinions and people being educated about their health care, but I doubt doctors often deal with their patients' "helpers". I can just imagine the conversation. "Mr. Jones, you have appendicitis and we need to operate," the doctor said. "Wait. Wait," Mr. Jones replied, "My nephew just got an A in high school anatomy and thinks you should use a new appendectomy technique that goes through the foot. He read about it on the Internet."
- You're always one-step away from obsolescence: Remember those certifications you just spent $10,000 training for and a year getting—they've just expired. Sorry, you'll need to take these new courses to keep pace with current technology and keep your job. I'll admit this is a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. Everyone benefits from continuous learning and all professions develop new knowledge and techniques over time, but IT is at the high-end of the scale.
- The calls for support never stop: Unless you make a conscious effort to disconnect yourself, someone somewhere will inevitably ask your to fix their computer. Whether you're trying to build that new desktop image, eat your lunch, or visit your family for the holidays.
IT...for better or worse
Don't get me wrong. I've poked a little fun at CollegeGrad.com's rosy picture of the help desk, but I think IT is a good career choice—if you make the right decisions and understand the job's true nature. What do you think? Has your IT career met or exceeded your expectations? Take the following poll and let us know.
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
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 support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.