Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Tale From Tech Support

For me, there's nothing worse than when a tech guy needs tech support. IT folk can be pretty presumptive and impatient when they need technical support. They don't want to hear "Did you try rebooting?" because, yeah, of course they tried rebooting. They take being asked the question as an insult. But, sometimes you have to go through the steps in order completely understand the issue being presented.

A colleague of mine was away on sabbatical and asked if I'd handle a problem one of his students was having. The student had apparently been a network tech by trade and was now studying IT security. He was having trouble saving a file from a security program. Whenever he'd try to save the file, he'd get an error: Cannot create file. Save cancelled. I wondered if this wasn't because of an access issue. I asked him to screenshot the steps he was taking and make particular note of the path he was trying to save the file in. He came back with "I've tried many paths. This isn't a save issue. This is an issue with the program itself". Never mind that the error message quite clearly indicated that it was a save issue. Literally, the file could not be saved. And, of course, the guy had to pull the "I've been in the industry X years. I know what I'm doing".

As a favor to my colleague, I offered to look at the issue and went over to the class lab to have a look for myself. I told the student to run through the lab exercise for me. And when he went to save his work, I noticed the issue right way. He was using an illegal character in the file name. One of the things I always liked about tech support was that look people got when they realized that the issue they were having was so simple that they didn't even consider it. I call it the "brain dump" look because they look as if their brain is taking a crap all over their ego. It's a combination of realization, shame and sudden self-awareness.

That being said, I think all of us tech people are occasionally guilty of this sort of ego puffing. Who among us hasn't said "Hey, I'm having a problem with X and, yes, I've tried rebooting" when initiating a call? But, it's this intellectual myopia, the result of being too close to the problem, that causes us to overlook the simple things. Sometimes, it takes a second set of eyes to help us step back and really, truly look at the problem.

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