In my first job, the team was working on a server install. In the week, my boss taught me some of what he called the “Seven Rules of IT”. Only three of these were revealed to me, but I’ve figured out a few more since.
Know your fundamentals
If you know your fundamentals like the OSI model, TCP/IP, computer architechture, even if you’re unfamiliar with a situation, you can figure out what’s the issue.
No two days are alike in IT. No two sites are alike. That goes double if you are contracted in and didn’t set it up. Troubleshooting is the only skill that’s truly transferrable.
Never stop learning
Be prepared to relearn your skills every five years. Never be complacent with what you know. If you’re good, you can quickly absorb new documentation and have an instinct where to start.
Similarly, new staff are a loss-maker for 6 months. It takes 6 months to bring someone up to speed in a new job. They take too long to close tickets. If they ask questions, they can bring that down to 3 months. Always be asking questions and learning.
We’re in the insurance business
IT support gets sold because businesses need assurance that their computers will work. They need IT to deliver results, and so stay afloat. You have to make them feel trusted and secure. That requires a human touch, and personality is more important here than technical skill. Anything else can be taught, but if you fail on this count, you will always struggle.
Take your time
Even if a client is in your face screaming to get it fixed, have the resolve to take your time. If you fuck it up, you’ll spend twice as long trying to fix it. Don’t rush, research, ask ahead, and GET IT IN WRITING.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
While it’s temping to give clients more control of their IT system to take some pressure off you, you have to be very selective in permissions and security. Aclient trying to fix the issue can make it worse.
Unrevealed – input Jackman?
The final rule is Drinking and IT go hand in hand.
IT support is a depressing job. You don’t have much control over your work or hours, and you are viewed with suspicion and contempt much of the time. Most people are familiar with computers and think to themselves: “I could do his job in my sleep”. People think computers are simple – my child uses a computer everyday and they have no issues. Or the infamous words of Apple environments – it’s a Mac, they don’t get problems.
Computers themselves are dizzyingly complex, but once you understand the fundamentals, it’s easy to get a rough idea of where a fault might be. But there are complications. Otherwise this job would be easy.
The issue is the ecosystem of the computer and user. It’s not just one thing you are maintaining, but ten things.Workstations, servers, network infrastructure and the political/financial environment of the organization. And those ten things interact, so suddenly you have a hundred issues.
If you are doing a good job, people will generally not notice, unless you are doing very specific projects for people. If things are going wrong, expect to know immediately. Eventually something will go wrong in the hundred things you maintain, and you’ll be thrown under the bus. A client will kick a router like a football in frustration after a bad meeting, and bring the network down. Then it’s your problem. Someone will fuck up their install with malware while streaming porn in work, and then it’s your problem. An ISP will dig up cables, bringing the whole street down. And then it’s your problem.
Because of these two factors: the seeming ease of your job and the way blame falls to IT for every IT issue, no one trusts you. So a manageable workload gets buried under administrative tasks to ensure you are doing your job. Because no one trusts you. Because your work should be easy. Because you’re the IT guy.
These are the rules of IT.