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IT support talent, where did it go?

By e ·
People with good job skills in PC, network and server administration are so scarce in my area, was wondering if this is happening everywhere?

My company pays well, and has terrific benifits and job security, and 10 years ago we had no problem finding skilled and motivated techs when we recruited.

I don't like scoffing at people because of what they may lack in skills or ability, but I'm blown away at what some of the goofs made by our newer hires(people who have been with us from 1 month to 5 years).

Examples include:
We've written specific instructions that users must be in a certain group to use a secured network. Now, how long and how hard a task is it to add someone to a group? This secured network stayed "down" for a week because only some of the users were added, the three techs figured it must be the network was messed up.

We have an IT manager that makes pretty darned close to 6 figures over the networking and the pc support group. He attended meetings for weeks, and arranged a move of 30 pcs into a building, set a move date and had the pc techs hook everything up. Neither the pc techs or the manager could figure out why the users weren't getting email until their boss asked about networking - they never let me know about the site so there was no switch or connection to our network, they were plugging into empty wall jacks. This guy was my boss mind you, and thinks networking is like electricity and every wall jack just works.

Another example, the pc techs had to install a driver on about 25 pcs. This driver, I know because I tried it, puts a big message box up warning you to install a hotfix. Gives the url and everything. This is 25 installs, 25 messages about the hotfix, and guess what? The computers bluescreened and rebooted because of no hotfix, and no one could imagine why.

Again I'm not writing this to scoff at people, when I made the move from comptuer operator to PC tech I goofed through my learning curve. But these people are hired because they are supposed to be techs already, and even after years go by some of them still do this kind of thing.

Is it just our hiring methods that are the problem or is there really a shortage of techs?

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by Kjell_Andorsen In reply to IT support talent, where ...

It seems many companies set the bar lower for Tech standards these days, mostly because they really don't want to have to pay for really talented support. This means alot of people with little technical skills get into entry-level tech positions where they mostly follow scripted solutions and may not really learn solid troubleshooting skills. However their "experience" looks good on paper, and so they get jobs elsewhere where they need more technical ability and fail.

I've worked in tech roles for quite a few years, and seen many incompetent techs get hired, as well as some really outstanding ones. I'm lucky enough to work in a small company now that really understands and values IT and I would say we have a really solid technical group. I think one of the main reasons is that our CTO has always focused not so much on degrees and paper credentials as he has on proven experience and technical skills. I went through a pretty thorough technical interview where I had to prove I could troubleshoot and understand tech before being offered the job .

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India mainly

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to IT support talent, where ...

Sorry couldn't help myself.

Who's doing your recruitment? If HR are heavily involved, you can blame them straight off.

Sounds like you need to add a test or two. Not twaddle like what's the minimum recommended RAM for 2k, but install this with these instructions.

Give them two, one that goes smooth, and another with a gotcha, see what they do if they notice it.

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That's a good idea.

by stress junkie In reply to India mainly :D

I decided a while back that when my business gets big enough that I need to hire tech support people I will definitely have a technical test as part of the hiring process. Set up two or three computers, each with some problem, and see what the job candidate can do to diagnose and fix the problems. Nothing too obtuse mind you. It wouldn't make any sense to create a test that Bill Gates couldn't pass. Just some typical scenarios. Everyday sort of things like having a network cable unplugged or putting one machine in a workgroup when NT domain membership is required to access the network.

I found in my years of temp/contract work that I was never effectively tested on my technical skills. I think that this was due mainly to the fact that the people who interviewed me had no computer support skills themselves. The wrong people are always put in charge of hiring tech support personnel. Then when the only people in an organization that might have tech skills are the ones that are under performing there is nobody on staff who would even recognize the poor skills of the tech personnel. I've had clients tell me that they never knew "it" could be so good. They liked my computer support skills too. It wasn't unusual for a client to say that they had increased their hiring requirements for their direct employee system administrator due to seeing me taking care of their systems. They just had never seen a skilled person at work before I came along. Apparently there are a lot of unskilled people working in this field who are not found to be unskilled just because nobody at their place of employment knows what a skilled person should be able to do.

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I stopped officially being a first line support person

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to That's a good idea.

in 1992. I was still building boxes 'til 97, but I'm sadly out of date now.

I do remember however.

If the instructions don't match the situation, stop!

Just because it worked here, doesn't mean it will work there.

The reason why it didn't work wasn't down to the influence of jupiter or little blue men from rigel, it's because you did something.

You can learn more about how to fault find from hardware guys in four hours than you can from four years training by software types.

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by GirlGeek12 In reply to IT support talent, where ...

To get jobs in other fields because their jobs went to mumbai, krakow, or bangalore.

BTW- This is not meant to offend anyone...

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Bully--not offensive, but not correct, either

by Maevinn In reply to Forced...

The skill level of a tech has nothing to do with outsourcing. It has a lot to do with the pay scale being offered and the lack of adequate testing during the hiring process. And, a lot has to do with the expectations of the higher ups--if they expect the support to be awesome, they'll keep looking for new employees until they get someone who fits the bill--even if that means paying more.

I've worked with technically magnificent people who had no people skills, and a few that had good people skills but little technical know-how. I've done very well by being the person who gets the job done-doesn't mean I'm perfect, it means I sit there and work on the problem until it's resolved.

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the question was

by GirlGeek12 In reply to Bully--not offensive, but ...

Where did the techs go or are we not testing people correctly for the jobs?

I have been in IT for over 5 years and have been outsourced 2 out of 3 times in my positions. Many talented people that I have worked with were/are tired of the threat of the level 1 and 2 positions being offshored. They have sought out other positions not technical related. Therefore those talented people are no longer in the pool for obtaining technical roles in an organization.

You no longer have the career path that you used to. Who can survive out of school? Most Times you need to do help desk before you can do desktop or network administration. What company is going to hire someone right out of school to maintain their data center? How does one get an entry level position right out of school with no experience when the world's help desks are overseas?

With that being said, the guys that are making it to this level, have also not followed the natural progression of their career path. Fundamentals are lost. I firmly believe that you need to work your way up the ranks to really be a good and seasoned technician.

The second part of the question, the testing. I have yet to go into an interview and be tested on how to troubleshoot anything. I have however given specific examples of how I have troubleshot an issue. I have offered up the information personally not by being asked specifically.
The testing aspect may play into the situation also.

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Often untrue actually

by w2ktechman In reply to the question was

Many companies are looking for less 'seasoned' people in their tech support roles, this way they do not have to pay as much. Often in lower rank roles, such as a localised helpdesk or deskside support, they want people who can do basic troubleshooting, and know how to re-image a system.

Even with schooling, this new idea of 'if its broke, reimage' leaves many 'would be' good techs without any real troubleshooting experience, so they are doomed to a low level tech position unless they train for a specialization.

Luckily, many other companies still value their data/networks and will pay for more experienced people.

You are right though, because of the new strategies, many people have left the field, some good ones, some bad ones. I was thinking about it not long ago as well, cause every day I was receiving new 'news and estimates' for how long I was going to be employed here. After a few months, the stress of it builds up until you say "F*** it!"

Personally, I have had tech questions in interviews, and little troubleshooting tests as well. I guess it depends on who is interviewing. When I am interviewed by technical people (desktop leads, sysadmins, etc.) they tend to check skill levels.

You are also right about your 'natural progression' theory. I have witnessed it too many times to count. Many people get picked just because they know someone who knows someone, or because of paper skillsets.

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We share that ability

by w2ktechman In reply to Bully--not offensive, but ...

I try to provide great customer service, and mostly do. I figure I am not a bad tech either, usually I can find the culprit quickly enough, or find a workaround while I dig deeper. However, in my position, there is often not enough time to keep up with a lot of new technology.

Providing tech support means customer service is needed, people skills are a good part of that. There are many tech's that I have met that had no people skills or customer service skills whatsoever.
Some know more than me, and make great tech's if you lock them in a closet and say 'get it done', but any kind of interaction or urgency, and they fold everytime.
Basically, these people should not be in a support role, and they are not managing their careers well. There are some technical positions available to them, but they always seem to end up in a support role.

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I think you've already answered your question yourselves

by jkameleon In reply to IT support talent, where ...


> when I made the move from comptuer operator to PC tech I goofed through my learning curve. But these people are hired because they are supposed to be techs already,

There's no such thing as a properly trained ready made tech, who just sits around, and waits to be hired. Goofing through the learning curve is still the only way to gain experience. All the college can give is the basic understanding, and education process certainly haven't improved lately.

I guess I can consider myself lucky because of proper mentoring I got from my older colleagues on my 1st job in the good old days around 1980, when IT was considered a career, and IT people were still talking to each other. Once in the game, I managed keep my skills current ever since.

IMHO, the best thing you can do is to remain patient as much as you can, and explain all the why's to your people. Compared to that 6 figure incompetend boss you've mentioned, they are minor problem anyway.

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