take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Comfort zone 

Every Monday, I am living proof that putting a specialist in a generalist role may not prove to be particularly productive. For Monday is the day when I "help out" on the frontline IT Helpdesk. Where "help out" translates to something more akin to "answer the phone, look bewildered, ask stupid questions and type a poor description of a user's problem which will go in a queue for someone who really knows what they're doing to solve".

They may as well just drag passers-by in off the street than have me on the Helpdesk. Out of my comfort zone doesn't really go any way toward describing just how useless I am. But, weirdly, despite the fact that I'm flailing around in the unknown world of Windows 2000, Citrix, NT, Netware, dozens of applications I've never heard of and hundreds of users who haven't a clue who I am, I don't mind it so much. The time passes quickly and I get to wear a headset so that I can be the switchboard operator out of Hong Kong Phooey. Minus the blond hair. And the spectacles...

Of course, this doesn't mean for one moment that the role is not fraught with frustrations, ah no...

Dear user customer

Yes, I know I'm not one of the usual people you speak to. I'm sorry to bewilder you by my presence. Saying "Who's that?" and still sounding none the wiser when I tell you my name again gets us nowhere. I've told you you're through to the Helpdesk and that's what you wanted, so let's get on with it.

Now, you know your name off by heart - clever old you! I don't. I know *my* name, silly, of course. But not yours. You could be one of 900 people. Qualifying a mumbled first name with "from [insert company name]" does not help to narrow you down. There are a number of other people from [insert company name] who you could be (apart from me, of course). So howzabout you tell me your first name and your surname, slowly and clearly. That is always a good starting point, but it's amazing how many people fall at this first hurdle.

Once I have your name down, unfortunately this doesn't automatically give me telepathic powers which tell me exactly what you're trying to do with which software on which platform at any given time. This information is probably quite important if you want someone to help you with your problem. I appreciate that, to you, it's just "the computer", but to me, it could be one of several platforms and operating systems and one of dozens of applications. So if I ask you some questions which to you seem completely obvious, just try not to make me feel like a complete halfwit for asking them because they're far from obvious to me.

Finally, unless your problem happens to concern an application written in the specific language and on the specific platform from which I have made my career (hint: there aren't many applications which fit this description), it's probably quite unlikely that I'll be able to solve your problem myself, on the spot. So please don't hate me if I log the call and pass it to someone who does know what they're doing.


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