My own experience and the reality of the day to day grind.
After working a year as an analyst in the IT department of a medium sized corporation, I feel like it’s time to reflect and maybe vent a bit. To give some background, I did not graduate with a degree in Information Technology or a related field. I mainly just used my previous experience and expressed enthusiasm at the slightest opportunity to learn something IT related in order to land my first job. Although I do have a bachelor’s degree, I don’t think it affected my job search that much.
So, what did I learn after my first year? Well, I’ll bring up two of the most important points that are applicable to my experience in the IT field.
Start and Never Stop Learning
Technology is always changing. There’s always new tools and devices being rolled into production environments. In order to understand and stay up to date with the latest tech, you have to be willing to learn. If you’re looking for a career where you can learn a few things and kick back with a coke in one hand and a phone in the other, you’re better off looking for another job or a wealthy widow.
In order for a company to stay afloat, it has to constantly adapt to meet consumer demands and it must also do this to increase productivity among its employees. This means that you’ll consistently be thrown into situations where you don’t know how X technology works. If you thrive in those kinds of situations, you’re going to have a good time.
It really depends on where you work, but your ability to help others on the IT helpdesk will be determined partially by the documentation that’s provided by the rest of your team. Sometimes there’s a decent amount of documentation with a lot of helpful coworkers. Other times, there’s no documentation and coworkers that grunt when you ask them questions. Either way, it’s important to invest your own time to having as rich of a background as you can in troubleshooting basic technology issues.
Another thing that learning provides in the IT field is advancement. In order to progress in the field, you will need to be able to show that you have a solid knowledge base of current technologies and that you’re consistently working to expand on this. Certifications and job-hopping is often sold as one of the quickest ways to advance within the IT filed.
Keep Your Cool
When I first started working in IT, the fact that it was described as a position that required excellent customer service skills did not faze me. I always thought of myself as someone that liked to help others. In fact, I had experience working as a server and retail. However, I wasn’t ready for the onslaught that tech support encounters. If you’re answering phones on the helpdesk, the people calling usually want two things. They want you to fix their problem and they want you to do it now.
If you know how to resolve their issue, this isn’t that big of a deal. On the other hand, you almost never want to say that you can’t resolve their issue (even if you can’t). Over the past year, I’ve learned to rephrase what I’m saying to a customer in order to prevent them from freaking out and inflating their ego. Some people are fine, while there are others that make you question how they are working at the company in the first place.
No matter the situation, it’s important to not take anything personally. The person isn’t mad at you. They’re mad at their boss for giving them a deadline. The deadline makes them frustrated. Their frustration explodes when they realize that the file that they need in order to meet the deadline is suddenly not working. Sometimes, they take that frustration out on you. You’re just trying to do your job. So, don’t take it personally and be as positive as possible.
I wish this piece of advice only applied to customers, but unfortunately, it’s just as applicable for people within your department. You’ll have to figure out who you can go to for help in some cases. Other people are approachable, kind, and helpful, while some others are condescending, brief, and should be generally avoided at all costs. Like a high school cafeteria, you just have to figure out who you can sit with. This advice might not apply to smaller departments/companies.
One Year Review
Wherever you are, I think these two things are really important to keep in mind within the IT field. After all, you can only expect to grow within this field if you continue learning. In order to deal with those long and stressful days, you’ll also need to find a way to keep your cool.
Overall, I can say that I’m glad that I decided to explore the IT field. Although I’m just on the helpdesk for now, it’s good to know that there are so many different possibilities within the field. I’ve also realized that I need to transition from working in IT within a corporate environment to a school or non-profit organization. Although I do love helping people and fixing technical issues, it would be great to feel that my work is being contributing towards something other than a money making machine.