Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Deep Dark Secret of the Information Technology World

How many of you know the big dark secret about the I.T. industry?

None of us, and I mean none of us, ever imagine ourselves as desktop support people. It's kind of where you've got to start out. As for me, I think it's one of the best ways of getting feedback on what's not working well.

It's a mine field of issues though.

User fault... yeah that's a pain but you can deal with those.

What if it's a problem with the Operating System? And what if the vendors don't want to acknowledge the problem? This happens a hell of a lot more frequently than you'd expect. This is one of the biggest arguments for open source software. Someone can fix it and release it.

And other hardware? Something along the lines of a photocopier/printer? At this point you're probably looking at support contracts - so the cost isn't in the initial purchase of a piece of hardware, but rather, in the support contract.

Some support can be fun. An issue that no one else has been able to solve. Something that takes a day to trace everything back and talk to various people to get a few ideas and trying to think outside the box. A bit like playing "House MD" only with computers.

But for the most part, no one enjoys doing desktop support.

You might get the impression from sitcoms that it's the users that trouble us.

There's a little bit of that. It's not that we don't relate to you well - it's more to do with perspective. In terms of "Oh my god! Things just aren't going right!", a desktop machine is really small beans. It's not like it's an Internet server serving up millions of pages a minute. So when someone is flapping their arms about, ranting and raving about how vital something is, your geek is normally trying to concentrate and figure out what is going wrong and if there's some way of negotiating the mine field that is support in order to make it work.

And generally, people aren't nice when you're trying to fix things. They're stressing you out. They're loitering asking how long it's going to take to fix. You're not a person - you're a geek who's just being difficult.

Once you've fixed things, you cease to exist in a lot of cases. You wouldn't have been needed if things were going right. The best you can do is smile, be cheery, carry on.

What I find really interesting though, is the number of people who seem to think that desktop support is all I.T. is about.

You've got to wonder why so many people do it. Not surprisingly, the I.T. trade is full of people who have realised there's money to be made. In fact, I'd say that's the majourity of people. I remember when I first went to Unitec to get into computers. In one of my classes we went around the room and stated why we wanted to get into computers.

Number one: Money/Security.

There was no number two. I was the only one who was there because I actually kind of found computers fun and wanted to do all sorts of interesting things on them. There's a good chance that I secretly wanted to make computer games. The course back then was "Business Computing". There was no such thing as a purely all things computer like course. So even the course had a money basis to it.

So A LOT of people go and do the papers, pass, get a desktop support job and that's them. They're set for life. These people don't like what they do. They get paid fairly well for it though. They're not the types who get bored and want to create things. They normally have a bunch of qualifications under their belt. You too can buy a book, memorise as much of it as possible and pay a couple of hundred dollars to get qualified.

For others it's a fallback. Their plans haven't panned out. Would-be computer game designers who didn't really know where to start. The burnt out programmers. The sick of pulling cables network guys (normally through attics and under buildings and mind the cat skeleton).

Anyway, it seems I've unwittingly ended up in desktop support. Let this nightmare begin...

Just to clarify, this isn't an indication of what I'm doing now. I am really happy to support something I've put together. I especially like it when I can figure out ways of making it work all the better (thus working with kids) - it really is not a bad way of figuring out what's going wrong. Supporting different OSes and different bits of closed source software and dealing with different vendors... boo!

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