Guru's World 03/2001: So, you want to be a PC tech? Thu, Mar-01-2001
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Introduction:(8159 Reads)
I have a motto. I didn't copy it out of a book or translate it from ancient scrolls. It's a motto based on years of beating my head up against large, hard walls: "I have not seen everything and anything is possible."

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First, I'm going to go ahead and feed you people all of the stuff you would expect to hear from a disgruntled tech like myself.

No, assembling computers is not as easy as assembling, say, a short wave radio. There are fitment problems, there are compatibility problems, and there are common sense problems. I can build a Revell model of the General Lee. Want me to put together the Kompressor on your daddy's Mercedes SLK?

Just because you are an electrician doesn't mean you can build a PC. If you are an electrician and have never built a PC, then the only faith I'm going to have in you is you telling me how the power supply converts AC to DC.

I know that most people are ignorant. I know that people, all people, are born ignorant. And the ones that are stupid versus the ones that are just ignorant are stupid because they refuse to admit when they are ignorant.

Now that I've got that out of the way, it's time to drop a needle on the old Baz Luhrmann record "Sunscreen" as you read the following.

So you want to be a PC tech? So you want to be a better PC tech?

To be a better tech, you will need to learn to think outside of the box.

I have a motto. I didn't copy it out of a book or translate it from ancient scrolls. It's a motto based on years of beating my head up against large, hard walls.

"I have not seen everything and anything is possible."

This rule applies to many facets of life. If I come home and I find the cat walking on the ceiling, then I can apply my motto. If I'm working on a PC and BOTH the CPU is dead and the video card is flaky in the same unit, then I can apply my motto. If the T1 is down because a three toed sloth climbed up the pole out back, then I can apply my motto.

The "I have not seen everything" part of this motto actually stuck with me years ago when I was managing a bicycle shop in little ol' Vero Beach, Florida. We were looking for a new bike mechanic and ironically that same month, in a popular bicycle magazine, there was an article on how one should go about getting a job at their local bicycle shop. I can still picture the photo from the article in my head of a teenager begging on his knees, dressed in full BMX leathers, for a job from a guy holding a wrench, wearing an apron. Classic.

The article said, "Do not go into the shop and claim to know everything about bicycles."

How true this is. And it applies to everything.

A person that claims to know everything, obviously knows nothing, because if he truly knew anything at all he would know that the computer industry is very vast and each person in the industry may have his or her own niche or may actually know a great deal of the industry overall, but it is impossible to know every facet of the PC world and anyone that claims to know everything will be stubborn when faced with a challenge and will end up falling flat on his face taking everyone down with him when three to four hours are spent to troubleshoot something as simple as a bad sound card, for example. This will make you difficult to work with and will inevitably cost the company money, and your career may end up cut short as soon as you are "found out". You can have put twenty PCs together in a two week period of time in your previous job as a clone jockey at the local mom and pop shop, and you may not have had encountered any problems at all, but this doesn't mean that down the road, as the industry changes so quickly, that you'll be prepared for the next thing that comes along, or even be prepared for what one of your superiors or customers may plop down on your lap. When faced with dilemmas, be open-minded to suggestions. Ask questions. Hit the Internet. Look for answers to your problem instead of making stuff up that just "sounds good" just in an attempt to save face.

The "anything is possible" part of the motto is more recent. Of course, I've actually always believed that, in life, anything really is possible, but only applied it to my work motto after speaking to so many people that wouldn't believe what I was saying to them, simply because they had never heard it before. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't everything in your life happen at least once?

Like I said before, we are ALL ignorant about EVERYTHING at one point. If we weren't, the universe would likely cave in on itself.

A more applicable example of this is a story of a guy that called me insisting that the motherboard he had was defective. Based on his symptoms, I told him that it was more likely that his problem was the CPU. He refused to believe this. Why? Because he had never had a defective CPU before, so why would he now? Of course it turned out that his motherboard was fine, but even if it wasn't, both parties must be open to all possibilities. He wasted BOTH of our times by shipping the motherboard back only to find out that nothing was wrong with it when proper troubleshooting measures were taken.

Another way to become a better tech is to never stop learning. Not to say that you will never come into work one day and say, "gee. I don't think I could learn anything today", because if you did, that would mean you were not following the previous "I have not seen everything" rule. I also don't mean to imply that you can't take a week off and not completely get lost in the industry. But any given opportunity you have to learn needs to be taken. If you are approached with a project to tackle, "I don't know how" is not always a proper answer. Of course, it's not fair to your immediate supervisor that you "fake it", but assuming you know your own limitations, don't be afraid to push the envelope a little and attempt to take on something you have never taken on before.

Also remember that the industry is always changing. You can be in this industry like 15 years, like I have, but if you miss four or six months, that doesn't mean you're going to be able to jump right in and take over as the next guru tech support guy when platforms have changed to socket processors instead of slots and RAM is no longer SDRAM, but is now DDR and RDR! THINGS WILL CHANGE. Be on the ball.

Be optimistic about potential hardware failure. Even the worst of hardware only has a failure rate of 5%. I've found that of all the components I may get back, only 40% of them are actually bad. Of those, it is easy to speculate that over 1/2 of that product no longer works due to misuse or neglect from customers. Unfortunately, most people do not know how to handle computer components. What is also unfortunate is that it is difficult to prove when a customer is actually the reason behind a failure. This brings us to our next rule.

If you're in retail, think of your customers as your immediate supervisor. Listen to them and try to help them as best as possible. If things boil down to an arrogant customer that refuses to listen or insists that they are right, that customer needs to talk to someone else, preferably outside of the company, or needs to be told, "Sir, thank you for choosing Such and Such. Have a nice day." The customer has been informed at birth that they are always right and sometimes it is only counter productive to attempt to change this.

Other than the customer, remember who your boss is. If you are a system administrator or an IT for example, the fact that your boss is an ignorant moron should not be a down side to your job, but an upshot. Use it as an opportunity to educate your immediate supervisor. If you openly suggest things to him, with an angle on how much your suggestion will help productivity including his own, he will appreciate this. If your work atmosphere is one where you cannot contact your immediate supervisor for these types of suggestions, then your problem is deeper than something that has anything to do with "tech support" or computers.

Work well with your coworkers. Don't step on the toes of the guys you have to work with every day. If you have a suggestion for the boss, it's going to float much better if you've checked with the guys first. If you put Norton's Network Anti-Virus on all of the stations without checking with the other techs and the tech that's been there for five years longer than you have prefers McAfee, be rest assured that that individual is going to make your life a living hell.

Always remember that there will always be compatibility issues. Not every part is going to work in every platform and when combined with any other part. It doesn't matter even if the parts made by the same company. Many companies sell parts made by other companies. If you can accept that there may be a compatibility issue at hand when you are troubleshooting an item, by using a process of elimination, then you will save yourself a lot of troubleshooting time in the future.

Keep in mind that you WILL be wrong and you WILL screw up. It's bound to happen, and when it does, it'll hurt, but LEARN FROM IT. Get your head out of your ass, inhale and say, "I screwed up" and LEARN FROM IT. Didn't have the fan mounted on the CPU correctly and the CPU fried? LEARN. Dropped a hard drive? LEARN. Sold the guy with the HPUX a standard VGA monitor? LEARN. When you start REALIZING you make mistakes, and then begin to learn from these mistakes, you will grow in a way that books can not help you.

Keep in mind that people around you WILL be wrong and WILL screw up. It's bound to happen, and when it does, point and laugh very loudly because deep inside, you know, that they would do the same to you. This will make you feel better about yourself, but don't forget to LEARN from this person's mistake so you are not pointed at and laughed at some time down the road. If you can not learn from other's mistakes AS WELL AS your own, then I'm sad to tell you that the planet you forgot to get off at has MORE OXYGEN in it's atmosphere than this one, to help you with your thinking processes and you should not amount to more than an eggplant on THIS PLANET.

The final thing I can tell you to do that will help to make you a better tech?. Learn to RANT!

"And trust me on the sunscreen."

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