MonthJuly 2013

Everyday Carry

Always Carry

There are a couple of things I find invaluable to my work and I keep with me everyday.

Pen

The first thing is I carry a pen, usually two. I prefer Pilot G2 pens. Everyday, I have a black one with a .38″ tip and a red one with a .07″ tip in my pocket. If you’re less picky, just keeping one with you will prevent the always having to ask to borrow one or to scramble to find one when needing to make a note for yourself or leaving a note for your customer.

Paper

Second is something to write on. I like to keep a small notebook in my pocket. I prefer the Field Notes books because they hold up well to the daily use and they’re small enough to be weightless and they can get bent up and have pages ripped out without losing their binding.

I also rely on Post-It notes. I keep a few in the inside of my notebook but I’ve known other techs to carry a couple in their pockets. They are perfect to making or leaving notes. They’re easy to replace and I keeping them inside a notebook keeps them in good shape.

I never leave my desk without pen and paper because of the number of people I see everyday combined with my terrible memory, I would never remember to do half the things I agreed to do or remember what I did to fix an issue by the time I got back to my desk to document it and make notes in the ticket.

Software

I carry a couple of USB keys with me as well. I have a larger capacity drive for utilities and software to install. In addition to documentation and space for backing up files, saving screenshots and other storage needs.

I have a second smaller capacity USB key I keep with bootable tools on it. There is a wide choice of portable applications that are perfect to keep with you and can be used to boot into or run from the drive.

Working in customer service has reinforced the only certainty is uncertainty. I never know what I will see from day-to-day. I never know what challenges will be thrown at me and what tools I will need to do my job, so I try to keep a variety of tools at the ready.

Getting Things Done in IT

I have the secret to planning out my day as an IT Support Technician. Stop.

Just stop. There is no amount of planning and scheming to make a day where the entire job is to respond to calls for help orderly. There is no Getting Things Done scaffolding to wrap my day in to make it better. There is no way I can have a tidy list of tasks and an order to them. It’s just not going to happen because the only constant is change.

I used to work for a print shop. It was my job to run copiers all day. I produced the customer’s print jobs and managed the queue of work. Every morning, I’d attend a daily planning meeting. We would go over the work we had in, the work we expected and set up a queue. We met every morning at 9am for about 30 minutes.

By 10am I had thrown out the plan because everything changed.

That is the life of a Customer Service Representative or IT Support Technician. (These jobs are the same.) no matter what the plan says, the overriding principle is to serve the customer. We are here to fix problems and make customers happy. And people don’t work on a schedule. They don’t care how many things you have to do or what you’re in the middle of or even how your day is going. When they call for help, we answer. Because that’s the job. That’s why we’re here.

I learned to top trying to plan out my day. There’s no system in the world that will bring order to the chaos of working with people. My failing wasn’t in not finding the right system, but in thinking any system would work.

Big Technology Secrets

People who don’t consider themselves good with computers have been trained to believe they will never be able to learn computers. People who don’t enjoy using computers, will continue to struggle with computers because they honestly believe they will never be able to understand computers.

Computers used to be the domain of scientists, programmers and geeks. Today, there is no reason anyone, and I mean anyone can’t be good with computers. Windows has not drastically changed in well over a decade. Windows XP was released in 2001 and has not changed how it looks and works since then.

Windows 7 is a nice collection of minor changes. But it’s really the same thing as it ever was with a different coat of paint. WIndows 8 is where the craziness happens. Just like the Ribbon interface in Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010. These are both big changes. But they are both understandable with a bit of time and a little learning each day.

I am not saying everyone should become a computer expert. But there are a few secrets that can make sure experience using them far more pleasant.

Computers are big and scary and there are so many moving parts they intimidate the average user. Let me share a couple of secrets of technology which will hopefully make computers friendlier.

First Big Technology Secret

It is very hard to break anything on a computer so it can’t be repaired quickly. Let me say that again. You really have to try to break a computer to where it can’t be easily repaired. And often times, if you try, the computer will warn you that what you’re doing is not a good idea.

There is very little you can do to seriously damage your computer. You’re not going to catch a virus or delete your programs without a fair amount of work. Sure, you can do things that confuse you or make a computer act oddly. But with some help, they can be undone. No permanent harm will befall you or your computer.

Second Big Tech Secret

Once you learn the basics, the rest is just details.

I’m serious. Don’t think about all the things you can’t do. Focus on what you can. You can surely turn the computer on and login. Now, you can find and open programs and files you need. Need to print? You know where that is! Need to save? You’re a pro already!

Now that you know the basics, the rest is just details. Make an effort to learn one new thing everyday. It will speed up your work and make you more productive.

For instance, you copy and paste often don’t you? Did you know you can hold the Ctrl key down and press C to copy and then hold Ctrl and press V to paste.

Isn’t this faster than moving your mouse up to the Edit menu, locating Copy, clicking it. Moving your mouse to where you’d like to paste. Going up to the Edit menu again, locating and selecting Paste.

Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V is much faster. And Ctrl + X is Cut. Now you can Cut, Copy and Paste like a pro. All without moving your hands from the keyboard. Now you are ready to type and keep working. It’s not a huge thing, but it will save you a couple of seconds every time you do that. Even 5 seconds multiplied by every single time you need to copy and paste turns into hours at the end of a month or a year.

Let me share another tip with you. I live by a mantra, Save Early. Save Often. Whenever I am working on anything, I make sure I am always saving it. When I have made a little progress I press Ctrl + S. This will open the Save dialog. I create a file name and save it. Now I can keep working without fear. Many programs such as Microsoft Word will automatically save your work. But you need to have saved it at least once first.

Even as I am typing this, I am pressing Ctrl + S every couple of sentences. This makes sure if something were to happen to my document, it’s being saved early and often. The worst feeling in the world is completing your work, and when you go to print or save it for the first time and there is an error, or your computer crashes. All that work you’ve just done is gone. It’s like you never did it! Save Early. Save Often. It will keep you from having to redo your work. And who likes redoing work?

If you are feeling adventurous, open the control panel. Look at what’s there. Everything is very clearly marked. Printers. Networking. Display. All of these things are self-explanatory. Do you need to add a printer? Click Add Printer. Are things too big or too small? Click on Displays grab that slider. Make it bigger or smaller and the screen will change. But don’t worry if you’ve made a mistake, in 15 seconds it will revert to where you were.

Third Big Technology Secret

You don’t need to know everything.

You only need to learn what you’ll actually use. There are a huge amount of settings and options. Most people only use a tiny number of them. Computer techs familiarize themselves with every menu and option so we can act as guides.

We dig into the nooks and crannies of an application to learn them so we can help our customers. Most people have absolutely no need to do this and can safely ignore most of the options. Just learn what you need and leave the rest. It’s not worth filling your head with knowledge you’ll never use.

Fourth Big Technology Secret

Computer techs don’t know what everything is either.

It may seem like your IT guy knows every inch of the computer you have. They know exactly what that weird error means and what this program is. The truth is we know a lot from seeing it over and over. And we search. If I don’t know what a program is, I’ll search its name and usually the first couple results will have what I need.

In most technology matters, my knowledge is a mile wide and an inch deep. I know a bit about a lot of things. But I only know a lot about a very few things. The rest I search when I need to. The knowledge is out there, you just have to know how to look.

IT Guys and Gals are not lords of their domain. We just do this day in and day out so we learn by repetition. Most of the customers I serve do jobs which are completely foreign to me and I’d be terrible at them.

Everyone has something they love and are extremely knowledgeable about. Everyone has something they know more about than anyone else they know. It may be computers, science, literature or music. Everyone has their niche. I hope this has made working with computers a little less scary. We’re all in this together.