Carl T. Holscher is a compiler, writer, tinkerer, coder, designer, thinker living in Bethesda, MD.
What frustrates you about working with IT people? What about Help Desks?
Today is a slow day. Most of the people have gone home. The heat is off in our building as repairs are being made.
I work in Information Technology. I am a support technician.
I am that guy who shows up at your desk when you have computer problems to whip your machine back into shape.
It has been a slow day. But that can change at any moment.
At the drop of a hat, my slow day can turn into a flurry of emergencies. The urgency (real or imagined) of a person needing to work from home and encountering an issue before they leave.
Hardware or software failing to work properly late on a Friday afternoon before the long weekend.
The sudden loss of vital data due to a mistaken keystroke or a software glitch.
There is no certainty to anything. There is no planning more than a couple of minutes ahead. There is no way to tell what I will be doing an hour from now. Thirty minutes from now. Five minutes from now.
There is no certainty. There is only uncertainty.
Every. Single. Day.
This is the life I lead. This is the path I’ve chosen.
While you’re off for the year sitting at home. When you go home early to enjoy the holidays.
I am at work. I am in the basement. I am here.
Just. In. Case.
I am insurance. I am protection.
I am as much a therapist and teacher as I am a technician. I rely more on soothing feelings and explaining technology than I do on technical knowledge to repair a problem. I am here to make everything better again to the best of my ability.
It is not always possible. There are things which can’t be undone. Wrongs which can’t be righted. Errors which can’t be repaired. Parts which can’t be fixed.
The human body is composed of thousands of parts working in harmony. A computer is composed of hundreds of parts working in harmony.
When our bodies break down, we get sick or injured. When we break, we need help. When computers break, they too need help.
There is no always a quick fix. There is no always a cheap fix. There is never a fix to meet the cost and time desired.
I’m sitting in the basement. In the cold. In my coat. With icy fingers. Tapping on this keyboard to keep them moving. Earphones as ear muffs.
I’m waiting for the uncertainty. The inevitable need for me to help. To repair. To explain. To add. To remove. To setup. To break down.
To leap into action at a moment’s notice. To assist the best way I know how.
I am here to make your life a little better and a little easier. I am here to help you get back to work. I am here to decrease the friction between you and the technology you use.
I am here. Waiting. In the cold.
Just. In. Case.
I am the insurance.
I am the protection.
I am the teacher. I am the therapist. I am the technician. I am here to help.
Tom, on Computers
This is VERY true!
I bought my first MacBook because I was tired of tinkering. I was tired of fighting malware. I was tired of half-assed software. I was tired of program that never worked quite right. I was tired of using subpar solutions. I was tired of things that never lived up to their promise. I was tired of my computer being something to be worked on. I was tired.
When I bought my first MacBook I used my computer. I abused my computer. I left it running for days. I designed. I wrote.
I had a computer that got out of my way and let me work. I didn’t have to worry about it. I didn’t have to wonder if I’d come home to a blue screen. I didn’t have to wonder if one of my applications had mysteriously stopped working. I didn’t have to wonder if I would have a working computer. I spend my days as a computer technician so fixing computers has never been a problem. However, the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was work on another computer.
It sounds trite, but Apple computers just work.
In thankless jobs like IT Support, it helps my motivation if I have something to strive for. I want a goal to look back on and feel I’ve accomplished something.
The problem with my chosen career is when I do a great job, there is nothing to show for it. When I work hard, solve problems and delight customers, I have nothing to show for it. 1
I have no product at the end of the day I’ve produced with my own hands. I have no sales figure I’ve hit and I’ve not made the company any money. 2
I’ve said for years my ideal day is when I come to work and sit at my desk and do nothing for 8 hours then go home. That means all the systems are working perfectly and all of our customers have completely working computers.
In the seven years I’ve done this, it hasn’t happened yet.
Because of this, it helps to have something to strive towards so I can look back at the end of a long day where I feel I accomplished nothing and say at least I did ____.
In this case, it’s the number of tickets closed.
Each morning every technician in the company receives a report of closed tickets across the company. We receive a daily closed ticket breakdown over the past two weeks. This is interesting and helps me realize why I’m so tired some days 3
But the real genius in the report comes on the following page. This page provides a leaderboard of technicians across the entire company sorted by average tickets closed per day.
This is where I draw my motivation.
Everyday, I strive to stay in the top 10 of the company. I’ve been as high as number 4 with the CSA 4 technicians way ahead of my with double-digit closes per day.
As it stands, I usually come in at between 6 and 7 tickets per day. This is where I draw my motivation from. I want to be at the top of that list every single morning when it comes out. I want to rank higher than every technician in my building. I want to outrank every technician in the field.
I want to be at the top of that list.
This list motivates me to get up and try to complete one more ticket per day. It causes me to work harder when all I want to do is sit at my desk.
The list pushes me forwards and provides some context for my day. This is the most important thing for me, as a technician with no clear measurement of what I spend my days doing.
This list brings meaning and a sense of accomplishment to my 45 hour work week.
In this age of knowledge workers, we no longer make products in a factory, nor do we sell a thousand products. What pushes you to work harder in your job? Have you found your own leader board to keep you working harder?