The Job Experience: Tech Support, Year #1

Becoming Employed


My friend wasn’t kidding about the market being hot. I had a job within a few days . Here’s how it worked. I called a headhunter and described my background and education. He called back with an interview date and time with SoftwareCompany, and I agreed to show up.

The whole process was embarrassingly easy. During the interview I was asked simple questions relating to my field by two different engineers. I spoke to my prospective manager for a total of fifteen minutes. I smiled and nodded a lot. I told them I really liked computers and programming and looked forward to making professional use of my skills.  Back then I could say that without it being a lie.

For this investment of about two hours, I received a job offer at the end of the day.  Sixty thousand dollars.  I’d be making more money in a single year than I’d earned in the previous nine combined. None of it seemed real.  I was so flabbergasted by the dollar amount that the thought of negotiating didn’t ever enter my head.

I signed the papers on the spot, instantly joining the ranks of countless 9-5ers. It was the happiest day of my working career, and I hadn’t yet made a dime.

Month 1

The following Monday I showed up to the office wearing my only pair of khakis and a light blue dress shirt borrowed from my roommate.

I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The night before I was so excited I barely slept. My whole life I’d been told that working is this great thing, a way to contribute and give back to the world, a means to make a name for yourself. And now here I was, on the brink of starting this great new adventure in my life. I felt important. And special.  Maybe even a little bit scared.

Someone from HR picked me up at the front desk and showed me to my work area.  This was my first exposure to a cube, and I didn’t really know what to make of it.  They consisted of fuzzy, bluish gray walls, off-white desks, and pull-out shelves to hold keyboards.  A 19″ CRT monitor took up most of the cramped real estate.

So this is where you sit.  Just hang out here a bit, I’ll have your manager stop by when he’s out of his meeting, said the guy getting me situated.

Yeah!  Yeah, of course! I said. My voice was higher than usual.

Also, I’ll get someone from IT to come by later so you can log in.

I waited for an agonizing two hours, scared to go anywhere because I might miss whoever was going to come down and set me up.  I had to pee and I was thirsty.  Finally a young looking Asian guy showed up.  He set my PC up in about two minutes and tried to get away as quickly as possible.  I interrupted him, and asked if he had any idea what I should be doing next.

Oh, it’s not my job to tell you what to do.  Didn’t you talk to your manager yet?

Nope.  Some HR person checked me in here.

Oh, he says.  Do you know what department you’re in?

Uhh.. engineering?  Support?

Well which is it?


Ok, you want Paul.

He walks me down a hallway with cube farms on both sides.  We turn left and right a few times and I start to feel like I’m in the hedge maze at the end of The Shining, except the trees have been replaced by small prison cells.  Would I ever find my way out?  I could not believe the number of work areas packed onto the floor.

Suddenly we’re there, and I’m looking at Paul, my manager, the guy who interviewed me.  He seems distracted.  Later, I realize that he was on calls with upset customers all morning. They’re referred to as escalation calls in the biz, and they suck.

Paul apologizes for making me wait and marches me down another corridor through yet more cubes and drops me off next to another engineer.

Mike, show <livingafi> the ropes.  He’s going to be taking tickets in a month.  Make sure he’s ready.

Me:  Gulp.

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17 Responses to The Job Experience: Tech Support, Year #1

  1. Sounds like fun, sign me up!

    • livingafi says:

      Yeah. It really *was* a good job overall, that first year. The pain endured was roughly worth the compensation — a fine trade. Just wished I saved more of it.

  2. Gamergirl says:

    Oh, I had it even worse than you on the ‘needs based financial aid.’ My father made a cool half mil a year, but refused to contribute ANYTHING to my eduction. I literally could not even qualify for loans. I worked two jobs the entire time I went to school. THEN THEN THEN!!! While doing this, my father once had the audacity to sit me down and browbeat me because my grades were down.

    Anyway… at least your parents contributed something.

    • livingafi says:

      The fin.aid system has some pretty horrible inflexible formulas. It works out for some people and punishes others. Really sorry to hear you couldn’t qualify — at least my dad made under a certain threshold which allowed me to take out loans @5% or so directly from my school. And wow, your dad’s behavior… sheesh. Not OK. Even though I think the cost of education is out of control, it does end up working out for most people. Options for employment without a degree are pretty limited.

      • Gamergirl says:

        Yeah, its TOUGH if you don’t have a degree. Due to my dad’s ‘non-support’, I am still the only one of his kids to graduate school (last time I saw him he was musing about why that was, and I really had to hold back from really giving it to him). Anyway,
        All of my siblings are just barely scrapping by, barely able to afford rent (if that- one of my much younger brothers lived out of his car for several years).

  3. Gamergirl says:

    Heh, this post struck a cord with me. I too remember the first time I was too candid with a manager. He phrased somehting like a question “Hey, Gamergirl, can you handle this *big freaking project that is really time consuming*?”

    I replied with “No, manager, I’m really swamped just trying to do my monthly tasks.”

    Thats when I learned my managers politly phrased requests, were, in fact, not requests….

    • livingafi says:

      Yep. They’re not asking, they’re telling. It’s really best to play the “happy to help” game. “Yes, I’d be happy to help with that.” You’re going to have to do the work anyway, might as well be nice about it — and you’ll get on better with your manager in the bargain. I do make some exceptions to this rule, especially if I’m already absolutely stretched to the max — but that’s because of the power of FU money. Generally I’m still a H2H type employee b/c it makes the job experience, if not quite pleasant, at least less unpleasant.

  4. Brian Mota says:

    I really enjoyed this article and can relate to it in so many ways. I also work in the IT industry for a small business. It can be very stressful and demanding at times. I do like my job for the most part, however it is still work. I would much rather be home enjoying life, which is why I started to invest in the stock market in the first place. I am looking forward to your future articles!

  5. Really cool rendition of the early days, especially the transition from college bum to eager beaver trainee. My first year was spent wearing a tie. Young people were a minority my cube farm, although I’m a different kind of engineer, and I didn’t get any socialization through work. I was beginning to suspect I had made a terrible mistake… so I started to implement my plan of escape. Luckily I had some good travel opportunities (first to the Philippines in 1999) and my all-tech stock portfolio was going gangbusters, which kept hopes for a better future alive…

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  12. ajf101 says:

    I can relate to this. 2 solid years of tech support in a call center straight out of college. And BOY did they love their numbers. You couldn’t fit into the structure, you didn’t last long. (Two years was considered “long”.)

    Literally got into a fight with my boss one time that went something like this after a lunch that didn’t particularly like my stomach:

    “Hey boss, I need to use the restroom”.
    “You already took your 15 minute break.”
    “Yeah, but I REALLY need to use the restroom.”
    “No. Only one break. More than that and you’ll fall outside the 30 minute max for breaks today.”
    “Don’t care. If I don’t go now, I’m going to go in my pants.”
    “You can’t. The queue is above the level where CSR’s are allowed to take a break.”
    “Nature ain’t waiting. I’m going to log out of this phone, and I’m going to the bathroom. I’ll be back as fast as I can. I’m off the phone, and the company isn’t paying me to do it.”
    “I’m going to write you up.”
    “Fine.” *Started to walk away*
    “Is this a number 1 or a number 2?”
    “Go f*ck yourself.”

    He did me a “favor” by only doing one write-up encompassing both cussing him out and taking an extra break. Two write-ups was basis for being fired.

    Not sure I would have cared, really. The following month, they started the mandatory 6th day overtime…

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