The Job Experience: Tech Support, Year #1

 

jargon

Mike took me outside the building to a coffee shop.  He asked me a bit about my background and then launched into an explanation of what was in store for me in the support division of SoftwareCompany.

What we do here is create application server software.  This is a framework for developers to make programming easier.  Like if you were going to build a car, you wouldn’t make every individual part, right?  You’d order the parts — the engine, the windows, the stereo — and then you’d assemble them in a way that made sense for you.  You’d customize the build to create your own model of vehicle. Well, we’re sort of like the suppliers in this picture.  We provide the parts to the programmers, and they build their vehicles.  It speeds up the whole process of software development because they don’t create everything from scratch.

Oh boy.

In support, we identify issues with our software.  So, to continue the analogy, a customer might call up and say that the engine we gave them is broken. How do you know that it’s really broken?  You have to start troubleshooting.  Support is all about troubleshooting.  Asking questions to divide and conquer.  Eliminate possible issues and zero in on the real root cause.  Use deduction and logic to nail it.

Mmmm, hmmm.

There’s also a lot of soft skills and communication stuff because working with customers is not easy.   Oh and there’s plenty of RTFMing.

Note:  I had to ask what RTFM’ing was — it’s Reading-The-Fucking-Manual.  He unconsciously spelled the acronym out when he said it, completely assuming I’d understand.  This was my first introduction to corporate’s love of indecipherable jargon.

For this week, though, we’re going to take it slow.  When we get back upstairs, we’ll do product installs and some basic examples.  

At this point I was sweating.  I wasn’t sure if it was the caffeine from the latte I just drank, or anxiety from realization that there was so much to learn and do ahead of me.  Talking to customers.  Fixing real problems for a real business, tied to real revenue.  I felt the responsibility fall on my slight, nerdly frame.

It was heavy.

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16 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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