Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Helpdesk, a very good start to shape your mindset

I agree with Andrew Hay here:

Should the Helpdesk be a Mandatory Start for an IT Career?

Foranyone who has worked in a “front line” customer facing telephonesupport role, the answer is almost always am emphatic “YES”. I tend toagree with my colleagues for one simple reason - embitterment helps you succeed.

Why do I think IT folks need to have a sprinkle of bitterness be inthis field? The fact is that IT, like roadkill removal, is truly athankless job. Sure, guidance counselors, parents, and the media willall tell you that “Computers are the way to go” for a good salary,benefits, and career advancement. The problem with that mentality isthat it’s not the mid-1980’s anymore. More and more jobs are beingmoved to parts of the world where wages are lower and, to be perfectlyfrank, people are willing to do the crappy jobs that North Americansthink are beneath them.

To be clear, I’m not saying that working in IT is the hardest, orworst, job around. IT workers are taken for granted, much like theaforementioned roadkill removal worker. Most people enjoy driving towork on a road free from dead animals. When an animal gets run over andleft for dead, the roadkill removal person is dispatched to “dispose”of the remains. When was the last time you sent a “thank you” card toyour roadkill removal person? To that end, when was the last time yousent a “thank you” card to a member of your IT department? Show ofhands?

Now let’s jump back to my original topic with a metaphor: an ITcareer is like a human body and, in order for your career to live along and healthy life, you need a nice thick layer of skin to protectyou from infection. The “infection” in this metaphor referrers to theemotional challenges that every IT professional experiences duringtheir career. In order for IT personnel to adequately quote with thecritical thinking required to overcome most IT related challenges, a“thick skin” is a requirement — one that I believe should show up onmost job postings.

Working on the front lines of an IT organization let’s youexperience what it’s like to sympathize, and empathize, with those whoare having the problems. It lets you develop valuable customer serviceand communications skills while you work towards making the customerhappy. Along the way you’ll have numerous bad experiences which willserve as lessons that you can use to make yourself a better person.

No matter what role you hold within an organization, you havecustomers to answer to. This is something that working the front linesforces you to remember. Good or bad, working in the trenches teachesyou valuable life lessons that will only help you grow as an ITprofessional.

The help desk is the best place to see how those incredibly nice projects fail, cause problems or are twisted to be used for different purposes (and bringing different risks). Working there for some time will help to create that "wait a minute, this will cause issues" mindset that is so valuable for the security professional.

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