The Job Experience: Tech Support, Year #2

The Unstoppable Conveyor Belt of Tickets

Imagine you are positioned at the end of a conveyor belt.  The belt runs at a certain predetermined pace. Placed on the strap are tickets that make their way down to you, the worker.  Ideally you remove tickets from the belt (close them) at roughly the same rate at which they are delivered.

The problem with knowledge work is that all items are not created equal.  This isn’t a Ford factory where you know that riveting one part to another always takes thirty seconds.  Some tickets you close in five minutes. Others take five months.

If you are unlucky and get too many of the five month variety in a short period of time, you will need to find a way to turn the belt off or risk getting swamped.

To do this, you must contact your manager or some other figure of authority and explain why you need assignments to stop for a while.  Nobody likes to hear this. Some other overburdened engineer else is going to have to pick those tickets up.  You could almost hear your manager thinking:   Stop making my life more difficult, stupid little support monkey!   Shut your dirty filthy lazy mouth and get back to work!  

I would have preferred chicks to tickets.

Conveyor Belt Chicks:     Preferable to tickets in every possible way.

It required effort and some silver-tongued convincing to get someone to turn the thing off.  Also, you needed to take care to limit the number of requests you made for this favor.  Let’s say you ask for this to happen every two weeks or so. No big deal.  But if you’re asking twice a week or more, flags get raised. Managers start to wonder why you always need off queue time.  What, are you stupid?  Not working efficiently enough? What, exactly, is wrong with you?

It’s like the off button for this nasty bit of machinery is a) placed in an awkward, hard-to-reach location, say on the tip of the wing of a ceiling fan mounted 40′ above you and is b) wired to an electrical current so when you finally punch it, you’re getting a full jolt of current through your system.

After a while, you learn to avoid doing it except in cases of extreme emergency.

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9 Responses to The Job Experience: Tech Support, Year #2

  1. I really like your write ups so far. The page formatting is also spot on.

    I definitely know how it is under management that interacts with you on an almost purely negative basis, but having weekly 1:1’s? Ouch. I get through my current job by trying to be the quiet, competent employee – which means I’m somewhat appreciated, but more importantly left the fuck alone!

    • livingafi says:

      Thanks a lot for the feedback on page formatting. I wondered about it. The posts are pretty lengthy for a blog.
      Right, weekly 1:1s are just… ugh. I’m more similar to you — very focused, high determination and attention to detail/quality, and therefore I think that my work speaks for itself and I should be exempt from micromanagement. But no. The weekly touchpoints must continue! There’s always room for improvement! The bar is always rising!

  2. Liked the LOTR references, if only work were so glorious and meaningful. Once that trilogy ended, all was right with the world (although it does drag on a little too long after the scene at Mt. Doom…) In reality, the analogy would be that, before computers, goblins were more like Balrogs, less common but more difficult to defeat (Great Depression, WWII). Globalization, computerization, communication helped keep the goblins from getting too big to handle, but that means they are constantly being fought to keep everything working. Ultimately, the goblins will always be there, our job is to take on the battle from the previous generation and hope we don’t have to deal with any more Balrogs… Enjoying the series!

    • livingafi says:

      I love the extended analogy, btw, very cool. Are you saying that since I’ve completed my trilogy of Job Experience Posts, so I should be done? 😉 Unfortunately many years of work follow. I keep thinking the that each year I’ll have less to say, but when I start unpacking the history, there’s a ton of stuff there. Believe it or not these posts represent an effort to keep the overall length somewhat manageable. I know, I know — I need to try harder.

      • Wouldn’t that be awesome, if we put in 3 years and were done! Then could cuddle up in our hobbit-hole and reflect on the nuances of those years for the next 30 years… That would be an acceptable situation, probably for everyone, as opposed to 30 yrs of work and a few interesting musings from the minority. Hollywood and Penguin do not dominate the market on telling life’s story, we do. Keep on keeping on bro!

  3. Pingback: Confessions from a High-Paying Job | microBillionaire

  4. Brittany says:

    I’m surprised how similar the daily grind is, even in such different professions! Your description of tech support reminds me of my couple years doing phone triage as a nurse. Just one minute between calls to document recommendations/forward to doctor/make appointment/take whatever necessary action. Messages and phone calls bouncing back and forth to doctors, patients, pharmacies, nursing homes, hospitals. We also had a “bucket” of outgoing calls to make–completion required by the end of the day, whether or not incoming calls slowed. In any case, there were always problems to solve, people to contact. I’m really fortunate in my new job! So much less stress, better pay. I’m 25 years old, unsure when I’ll attain FI. I’d like to think by 40, but with an estimated 2 kids in the future and the financial volatility of my husband farming FT, only time will tell! Devoured MMM, now your blog. Really helping me understand the logistics of FI. Slightly jealous of you guys with the high tech/engineering incomes! Hope you’re thoroughly enjoying your almost 2 years (so far) of FIRE!

    • Brittany says:

      Wow, the similarities continue! I had an on call rotation too–usually every 6th weekend Carrying around the phone felt like prison…I never did get used to it either.

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