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Inspired by Claire’s request for professional wisdom, here’s my take on what IT guys wish people knew. IT environments differ a lot in size, so not everything will apply, but I’m sure we have enough folks waiting in the wings to add or subtract in the comments.
1) Yes, really. Turn it off and on again.
I know, you hate when we ask you to do that. I really understand the sighing, eye-roll-thing you do when I ask you to do it. It’s annoying to have to stop, save everything, close the dozen-plus tabs you have open in Chrome, and press the restart button. But here’s the thing: It’s one of the biggest reasons your computer is running like Canadian molasses in January. Mac or PC, the operating systems just aren’t 100 percent efficient. Over time, junk builds up, memory gets sequestered and never released, and those updates you’ve been ignoring really do need to be installed. We keep a running record of the longest time since reboot that we’ve found in my office. Right now it’s not numbered in days or weeks, it’s months.
Restart it. Trust me, it may not solve the problem, but it’ll help.
2) There’s one of me, and hundreds of you.
One of the things that fails to cross many user’s minds is that he or she is one of many, many people who want some of my time. I’ve worked in environments where the ratio of users to IT guys was 1-to-1000-plus. (That was a university). I know what you’re doing is important, but so’s the stuff the other 100 people in my In Box are doing, and there just might be someone higher up the chain with a problem that — rightly or wrongly — we have to make a priority. It’s not personal, and we don’t hate you. We just have a lot of people asking us for stuff all at the same time. And none of them are happy.
3) Don’t yell at your waiter.
Ok, so it might be a little personal. Have you ever heard the warning to never make the person serving your food angry? I hate to admit it, but this is true in IT as well. We’re only human. Some people are a joy to work for. There’s nothing more satisfying than being a knight in shining armor to someone who’s about to start sobbing into the keyboard. But the self-entitled jackwad who throws his title around yet can’t remember his password just may wind up at the end of a very long line.
Hey, I never said I was perfect.
4) Please, please, please put it in a ticket or an email.
One of the most vexing things in IT is when someone walks up to you with a problem, you have a conversation about it, and then you get a disappointed nastygram later because whatever you talked about didn’t happen. I’m a guy who prides himself on getting things done: It’s my job. But I honestly can’t remember everything (please see #2). If it’s not in an email, it didn’t happen, and not because I’m trying to cover my rear. I just plain forgot. Ten seconds after we talked, I ran into someone else with a completely different problem, and what you and I talked about got put in a box and put away. For that, I’m truly sorry. If there’s a ticket system for reporting issues, use it. I’ll recognize it, grab it, and get it done — if it’s something I can do; and if not, I’ll give it to someone who can. If there’s no ticket system, send me an e-mail. I check my mail constantly, and I’ll make sure your e-mail is marked “unread” until I get it done.
5) Everyone gets spam. If I could keep you from getting it, I wouldn’t be here.
We try to make sure no one gets the ones from the Nigerian prince or the “BIG … er … whatever” e-mails anymore, but you need to trust me here: If I could make sure every e-mail you’re supposed to get got to you and every baloney spam e-mail went to the trash bin, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be sitting on a beach, earning 20 percent, à la Hans Gruber in Die Hard. I hate those things as much as you do –and I get them, too. Forwarding them to me doesn’t really help, though if it makes you feel better, by all means do so. I’d just like you to understand that literally, every human being on the planet who has e-mail gets spam, even the ones who use Gmail (just not as much).
6) Yes, I really do need your computer.
By far the thing that makes me want to remote into your computer, disable your keyboard access, and shut it down while you watch is getting an email from you that says your computer isn’t working right, but you won’t stop using it long enough for me to fix it. This isn’t a TV show where I can click the “make it work” button without you even knowing I’m there. I might even have to take your computer and work on it in my office to get it running again. I know it sucks, and if didn’t have to, I wouldn’t. But if you want it to work, you’re going to have to hand over the keys and let me drive for a while.
If you have to, make me your excuse for taking that two-hour lunch. I’ll vouch for you. (And please bring me some fries.)
7) I, too, have bad days.
This isn’t one I’m proud to admit. But I have bad days. Sometimes, for no reason at all, I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and it takes everything in me not to bite somebody’s head off when he tells me his “computer is running slow” — even though he has a better computer than I do. One good thing to remember is that no one ever comes to me to say, “Hey, everything is working awesome! I just wanted to say thank you!” I don’t only put out fires, but 99 percent of the time, if I hear from users it’s because something is wrong, and they want it fixed now. Most of the time this isn’t a problem. I try to be an upbeat guy, smile, and say, “Hey, no problem, I’ll take care of that for you.” If you catch me on a day where I’m not that friendly, gimme some grace. I have bad days too. (Unless I’m that guy who’s always the jerk nobody likes. Trust me, we don’t like him either).
8) I promise, I don’t watch your webcam or what you’re working on.
A few months back, I started noticing a lot of stickers, tape, and random post-its over the top of the laptop cameras built into the monitor. After a few conversations, I discovered that people are worried they’re being watched or listened to through them. First off, a little tape doesn’t mute the microphone (just a heads-up). But more importantly, we’re not watching. Really, we’re not. I know what you saw on NCIS, and technically, it is possible to hack into someone’s computer to watch and listen to them. But unless you’re Angelina Jolie or some other celebrity, a hacker who does that kind of thing is more likely to find you by accident. The odds are slim. Most enterprise-level organizations use software that lets us remote into your computer so we can fix things. Some flavors of that software let us see screenshots of what you’re doing before we connect to you (so we don’t interrupt you if you’re doing something important). But I’ve got a lot of work to do, so if you’re surfing Facebook on company time, it just isn’t my concern. Now, if we’re told to watch your habits, that’s a different thing altogether. So don’t abuse your Internet privileges, commit corporate espionage, or watch porn. Deal?
9) We eat lunch.
It should seem obvious, honestly, given the general body-mass index of your average IT guy, but we eat lunch. I can’t speak for all of us, but I tend to do working lunches. It’s a great time to get caught up on e-mails, tickets, and anything that I can do while eating the food I brought from home — and still leave on time to beat traffic. It’s not a great time for you to walk into the office and give me a play-by-play of your latest computer malady when you could easily have told me about it in an e-mail. If you come into my office and I’m eating lunch, maybe just give me the Reader’s Digest version. Tell me you’ll send me an e-mail about it later. It’s nothing personal, but the fact that you can’t add an attachment in Outlook Web Access in Chrome might not be the food-abandoning crisis you think it is.
10) Yes, complex passwords suck. I hate them, too.
Passwords. Everybody hates them, me included. Capital letters and numbers and special characters — who can remember that stuff? Everybody has a dozen-plus accounts these days, and you’re supposed to make all the passwords different and change them frequently. I get it, it’s a pain. But it’s a necessary evil and a standard practice, and I don’t have any control over it. I wish I didn’t have to make you do it. I really do. Just watch the news, though: Stuff gets hacked all the time, and this is one of the easiest security measures to implement. We know you use the same basic password and change the numbers at the end; we’ll give you a pass on that, everybody does it. Still, if you can avoid it, please don’t give us the whole speech about how much you hate it every time it comes up. We know. We sympathize. But there really isn’t a thing we can do about it.
11) No, really, I don’t hate Macs.
The Enterprise network world (as far as users are concerned) is Windows-centric. It just is. Right, wrong or indifferent, Microsoft is at the top of this pack, and even with their menagerie of problems, they make a decent and affordable product that scales well as organizations grow. I say this as a user of Apple products: I don’t hate Macs. I know you like the personal one you have at home, and I know you hate Windows. There are days I hate it, too. But if you knew what it would take to make the occasional Mac work in a PC-centric Domain, you wouldn’t beg for one — if only out of compassion. More importantly, if you knew what it would cost to make everything an Apple product, organization-wide, and keep it that way, you really wouldn’t want us to, because you wouldn’t be getting a raise. Ever.
When Apple makes Enterprise solutions a priority I’ll be more than happy to consider it, but for the time being, enjoy the one you have at home. I know I do: It’s right next to my PC and my Linux box.
12) Sometimes, there is no magic wand.
Alas, sometimes you win the new-problem lottery. You see, not everything that happens in the IT world has happened before. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time it has, and even if I haven’t seen it, it’s been seen by someone just a Google search away. But when that’s not the case, you need to understand that there’s no magic wand. It could very well be that what you’ve run into is new. We’re trying to figure it out (and believe me, as much as we bellyache about it, we enjoy the challenge). It may even be that the hardware on your computer is broken, in which case, no combination of nasty e-mails, expletive-laden phone calls, and in-person butt-chewings can change the fact that we have to wait for parts and/or wait for the manufacturer to figure it out.
I’m really sorry. Please take the loaner laptop and be patient with us.
13) I really do want your stuff to work.
Ultimately, I would really like users to believe that I want your stuff to work. I don’t get any pleasure from your computer breaking down in the middle of a presentation or from Word crashing on you as you typed the last few sentences of that report. Honestly, it pains me, because I feel some responsibility even when it’s nothing I could have prevented. As much as I may like you, the only time I really want to see you is when I give you that cool new upgrade or when we cross paths getting a cup of coffee. In a perfect world, that would be the only time you ever had contact with me.
But it isn’t a perfect world. So let me take care of you as best I can, and trust me when I tell you that a little patience and a smile can go a long way.