MonthOctober 2011

Finding Motivation

In thankless jobs like IT Support, it helps my motivation if I have something to strive for. I want a goal to look back on and feel I’ve accomplished something.

The problem with my chosen career is when I do a great job, there is nothing to show for it. When I work hard, solve problems and delight customers, I have nothing to show for it. ((Save a pile of Thank You emails.))

I have no product at the end of the day I’ve produced with my own hands. I have no sales figure I’ve hit and I’ve not made the company any money. ((In fact, IT Support is considered as a necessary evil because we don’t generate any money for the company.))

I’ve said for years my ideal day is when I come to work and sit at my desk and do nothing for 8 hours then go home. That means all the systems are working perfectly and all of our customers have completely working computers.

In the seven years I’ve done this, it hasn’t happened yet.

Because of this, it helps to have something to strive towards so I can look back at the end of a long day where I feel I accomplished nothing and say at least I did ____.

In this case, it’s the number of tickets closed.

Each morning every technician in the company receives a report of closed tickets across the company. We receive a daily closed ticket breakdown over the past two weeks. This is interesting and helps me realize why I’m so tired some days ((18 tickets! No wonder I was so sleepy by 5:30.))

But the real genius in the report comes on the following page. This page provides a leaderboard of technicians across the entire company sorted by average tickets closed per day.

This is where I draw my motivation.

Everyday, I strive to stay in the top 10 of the company. I’ve been as high as number 4 with the CSA ((Help Desk)) technicians way ahead of my with double-digit closes per day.

As it stands, I usually come in at between 6 and 7 tickets per day. This is where I draw my motivation from. I want to be at the top of that list every single morning when it comes out. I want to rank higher than every technician in my building. I want to outrank every technician in the field.

I want to be at the top of that list.

This list motivates me to get up and try to complete one more ticket per day. It causes me to work harder when all I want to do is sit at my desk.

The list pushes me forwards and provides some context for my day. This is the most important thing for me, as a technician with no clear measurement of what I spend my days doing.

This list brings meaning and a sense of accomplishment to my 45 hour work week.

In this age of knowledge workers, we no longer make products in a factory, nor do we sell a thousand products. What pushes you to work harder in your job? Have you found your own leader board to keep you working harder?

iPod Mini: My Apple Gateway Drug

This was my gateway drug.

The iPod Mini. I bought it in blue despite swearing I would buy the green one. I even went to the Apple Store with the promise I would not buy one unless they had the green one in stock.

I had saved my money for quite a while and I was excited.

They did not have the green one. They did have the blue one. So I caved and bought it.

I had broken a promise to a friend to not spend the money unless I got exactly what I had wanted. However, in the end, I did. I got precisely what I wanted.

The green iPod was not the shade of green in person I was hoping for as I saw on the display model and I was afraid the Blue would be too powder blue. But it wasn’t. It was a beautiful, rich, metallic blue that called out to me.

That little iPod wanted to come home with me, so I granted its wish and fulfilled my wish to own what I was coveting most at the time.

I had my little blue iPod Mini and it served me well for many years. I was very happy with it and it did not fail me. It fell out of fashion when I picked up a black 30GB iPod Video years later. It eventually got sold to a student at VCU who replied to my Craigslist ad because I needed the money.

I will always remember the little Blue iPod Mini as my gateway drug into the Apple universe. It was solid, indestructible even in my possession, which was a major plus as I am hard on my things. It never died. It never gave up. It was scratched and worn but it still performed perfectly.

I came across this one recently at a friend’s house and had to grab a quick shot of it since it reminded me of that happy day I bought one of its kin into my home and into my life.

Steve

Thank You Steve Jobs and the thousands of people who helped your vision become reality.


This is how I found out about the passing of Steve Jobs.

I have no great words this evening. I have no stories or anecdotes. Yet, I sit here typing on an Apple Bluetooth keyboard, beside a Magic Trackpad. I type onto the screen of an iMac with my iPhone not far away.

My wife is laying in bed with her MacBook and her iPhone.

I am saddened. I feel there was a passing of a true visionary tonight. Say what you want about Apple and how Steve Jobs ran it, but he changed the face of technology. He changed how we think about, write about and interact with technology.

Technology is no longer a tool or a menace or an inconvenience. Technology is a part of who we are. Technology is a part of our daily lives. It is woven into the fabric of who we are and how we think and act. How we shop and conduct business. How we communicate near and far.

Technology became much friendlier after Steve.

The smiling Mac, a welcome face to the beginning of my journey into the Macintosh Apple IIe I spent so many hours playing with in elementary school. The PowerMac G4 I spent countless hours producing newspaper layouts in college. The original MacBook I carried with me everywhere I went for nearly 4 years.

Steve Jobs made the world a better place. He taught us how tech is not cold metal and plastic. He brought it into our homes and into our hearts.

He did this. He did this with the help of thousands of Apple employees past and present.

Thank you Steve Jobs. Thank you Steve Wozniak.

Thank you for setting into motion a vision of what technology could be.

Blind Choice

I’ve read a couple of stories this week about people choosing their own devices in the office. This was true at the media company where I used to work. Even within our small IT department we had 1 Palm Pre, 1 iPhone, 2 Androids and two “dumb” phones.

The rest of the company was a mix of Blackberries, Androids, iPhones and the occasional Palm or two. I think there was even a Window Phone I saw once or twice.

I take issue with the claim that people buy their own devices because they chose it and it is what they want to use. People who are not tech savvy ask their tech savvy friends, co-workers, spouses, family members. They don’t do much choose what is best for them but what is recommended to them by a person they trust who is good with computers.

For a little background I’ve worked in ground-level IT since 2004. I’ve worked as a Desktop Support Technician ((That guy who shows up at your desk when you call the Help Desk.)) and Help Desk Technician ((Those people you love to scream at when something break.))

Lately, as policies become more lax and there is a better variety of smartphones on the market ((Remember when there was no Android or iPhone?)) people have gravitated towards a variety of devices which I can sum up as this.

  1. iPhone. Because they’re on AT&T already, or Verizon and want one because everyone has them and they’re easy to use.
  2. Android. Because they’re on T-Mobile or Sprint or don’t want to spend the money on an iPhone and associated contract.

The iPhone people are usually set once we setup their corporate email for them. They have few questions overall.

The Android people… look out! They’ll be waiting for you. The biggest frustration in trying to help with Android phones is trying to find which version of Android they actually have.

What dessert powers your phone?

After that, the next step is looking at the device, who made it, and which candy coating they slapped atop Google’s stock Android interface.

I used a Motorola Droid for over a year and was very comfortable with Android. I had a Google Experience phone which was code for “Stock Android phone.” There was no glossy, clunky UI over it.

The Android phones in the wild today could be running Android 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, or 3.0 and have HTC Sense, Motorola Blur, Touchwiz, or Timescape UIs running on top of that.

Now we’re at two layers of confusion for the user.

As an exercise, try walking someone through adding a Gmail account to their shiny new Android device over the phone. They’re at the store, or at home or ((My personal favorite)) about to board an airplane and they need help.

Maybe this will help you.

Android is a wonderful OS and has a lot of power and potential and offered a low-cost alternative to Apple and a freed a lot of people from Blackberries.

However, trying to support them in a business setting can be very time-consuming and frustrating for all involved.

The phone’s owner expect the IT staff to be experts on their phone. Having to learn the basics of navigation and naming on the user’s phone slows down the support process. ((Count the number of ways to get access to “Corporate Email” there are on Android phones.))

Normal people do not make technology purchases without consulting the trusted source. Whether it be their spouse, family member, IT Guy at work or ((God help them!)) the salesperson at the store, they will ask someone for advice. In many cases, they’ll follow that advice blindly.

They don’t know what they want. They’re not sure how to figure out what they want. They’ll follow the advice of the trusted source or sales rep and hope for the best.

So, What do you do?

There was a great post at 52Tiger about what we do for a living. Dave Caolo writes,

I loathe this question. For now, let’s set aside the notion that a person is defined by his or her means of earning an income. Instead, consider the answer itself. Many people have one ready. For example, “I’m a teacher” or “I’m an electrician.” Nearly everyone has a point of reference for those jobs and immediately understands what a teacher or an electrician does My answer confounds people.

For much the same reason, I also hate that question. How do I answer it? The answer bounces around in my head as I evaluate the asker.

  • Do they really want to know or are they making polite conversation?
  • Are they technical at all? Will they understand what I actually do?
  • Do I want to divulge that I am a “Computer Guy” for fear of follow-up questions? ((There are ALWAYS follow-up questions.))

“I fix computers” is my usual response. It is simple. It answers the questions and I don’t have to explain the difference in what a help desk does ((and the stigma associated with it)) and what I do ((Desktop Support)).

I also try to fend off the litany of questions about to be hurled my way if I show I am the slightest bit competent in the ways of computers and the internet.

As soon as I am dubbed The Computer Guy this also means I am knowledgeable about every piece of consumer hardware and software available.

  • When is the next iPhone coming out? When Apple decides to grace us with it.
  • What do you recommend for an antivirus that’s free? Microsoft Security Essentials
  • Did I get a good deal on this external hard drive I bought at [Insert Big Box Retailer]? No, you did not.
  • My wireless doesn’t work very well at my house. Do you think I need a new router? I don’t even know where to begin with this one?
  • If I bring in my laptop from home, will you work on it for me? No, In fact I am required *not to work on personal computers for people at work.

What do you do is a very loaded question.

So, my dear readers, “What do you do?”