THE COMPUTER INDUSTRY'S WHIPPING BOY: THE LOWLY COMPUTER TECHNICIAN
Date: November 24th, 2006
Article by: Karl Van Der Walt (Hardware Reviewer)
Edited by: Nathan Glentworth (Owner / Head Editor)
The Lowly Hardware Technician
Seeing I have been in the PC business for over seven years I have noticed something about the support industry.
PC support companies build their business on the backs of high school and college graduates, the people who get a job just to get by until something better comes along. These people are called hardware technicians; they bear huge responsibility and work for low pay, often for little better than minimum wage. Hardly any of these people take their job seriously and those that do are usually looking to get into a more prestigious field like Network Administration or Security. Who could blame them with such a poor pay rate? But there are a few, such as myself, who specialize in this area. The problem is this, although the market for our skills is virtually limitless, the pay is scant. The only way for serious hardware specialists to make money is to “go it alone” or start their own tech company. When we start our own firm we then have the problem of finding reliable staff. Now, considering that WE started our own firm because we were not satisfied with low pay and an excessive workload, the odds are that anyone else who we would consider reliable would be looking to do the same. So, we are left with one option: Training the staff ourselves. Naturally, just when you have someone trained, they leave and try to “go it lone”. You can see how this becomes a problem.
The problem is that the PC tech companies put little to no store in their techs, and then pay ridiculous wages and still expect premium service. Without us, none of the other specialists can do their job yet we are the ones that get overlooked. People only notice when something is wrong, if we have done our job right and nothing is going wrong then the same people start to wonder why they are paying us when there is obviously no work for us to do. Laugh if you will but this is the frustration that we PC techs face almost on a daily basis. What's worse is that even other people in different PC related fields tend to look down on us. Usually they think that we must have tried to get into another field, like the one they are in, but obviously weren't good enough. At the end of the day, how can people take us seriously when so many people baring the same title as us don't take the work seriously? Much of my work is caused by other techs doing a bad job. I spend most of my time fixing other peoples mistakes and poor workmanship. A computer NOT serviced is far less likely to have a problem than one that is maintained by a careless store employee.
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Then there is the “know-it-all” technician. Most of us have had the misfortune of meeting them, the guys that go to a client, treat the client and any other PC technician there like idiotic morons that can barely breathe and then completely mess up the job with their "superior" intellect. To make it worse they will then proceed to blame the first thing that comes to mind, the client, their fellow PC Technician or any other poor soul that happens to be a suitable victim. These guys really make things difficult for the rest of us, while they often know a bit about what they are doing they have no place in the field, they are the guys you want to keep in workshops and away from clients or better yet, not hire in the first place. I have often had altercations with people like this; hugely over inflated egos and a condescending attitude mark them well. Its not only limited to Technicians though, there are also businesses that put profit first and clients and employees last. These businesses hire the bare minimum staff at the lowest possible rate and then charge the earth. A good work ethic is to always put the client first and offer the best service possible, if this is done right then the money always takes care of itself and you will always have clients. I make it a point to always leave the client smiling. It's the little things, making conversation so the client doesn't notice the time going by while you work or doing the job as quickly as possible to suit there schedules rather than dragging it out to charge more. Technicians often forget they are dealing with people. Just because someone does not know what PCI or AGP means does not make them stupid or inferior.
Then you have the problem that most businesses only hire “qualified” people. The people doing the hiring seldom know anything about the field they are hiring for and so demand things such as MCSE or A+. Now these qualifications are all well and good but having them does not make you a good technician. There is no substitute for experience and while I understand the point of view these people have, it's the wrong approach. When I have a large contract I often hire a few guys to help ease the load, I always pick experience over qualification. The one time I was looking for qualifications I ended up hiring a moron who nearly cost me my reputation and a lot of money. Anyone can read a book but not everyone can apply the principals in said book to real life. I have often seen technicians dive into a book as soon as they hit a problem; these guys almost never become any good. Its one thing to be taught to paint a specific picture using a tutorial, but another thing entirely to learn the technique and be able to paint your own. Techniques are learned from others and from practice; you cannot learn a trick from a book in most cases.
Why do I continue to work in the field then?
Because decent people like you need me and so long as I am working for myself the money is enough to live on. In addition interesting people from almost all walks of life need my services, which makes the day-to-day chore a pleasure. I have and always will be a technology buff. I find nothing more satisfying than building a new system with new technology and putting it through its paces. I can only hope that someday people like me will be treated with the respect and gratitude that we deserve and that the people who employ us will pay us what we deserve. This is a very satisfying and rewarding field and will be much better when people acknowledge our efforts.
So please people, next time you notice that you haven't had a problem with your PC at work in a long time, remember that there is someone responsible for that and that they have obviously been doing a good job. It doesn't take much effort to say thank you and it makes all the difference to us. Everyone likes to be appreciated, even the guys behind the scenes.
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