For Luis Chirino, working as a technician at an IT services company has been a great way to make a living. What it hasn’t been is a job. Or not exactly, anyway.
“It feels more like a hobby,” said Chirino, an electronic engineer at Chicago-based ProdigyTeks who spends his days diagnosing and resolving network issues.
Same goes for Jake Garcia, a workstation deployment specialist at Anchor Network Solutions, of Lone Tree, Colo., who troubleshoots PC problems, among other things.
“It’s a lot like solving puzzles in my opinion,” Garcia said. “I think that’s probably why I enjoy it. My entire job is solving puzzles and running into issues that I’ve never seen.”
Indeed, one of the first lessons people like Chirino and Garcia learn is that being a tech is more than a route to earning good money, learning marketable skills and building a career in the hottest, most important industry on earth. It’s also a never-ending source of new and interesting challenges to tackle.
An Inquisitive Mind
All good IT pros love the job for that very reason, noted Paco Lebron, ProdigyTek’s CEO. “It’s not going to be the same thing every day,” he said.
Between customers and co-workers, moreover, it’s not something you do alone most of the time. “I constantly work with people, and I love it,” Garcia said, who likens his role to the retail jobs he held in high school. “It’s just a very, very social kind of job.”
By extension, he continued, you’ve got to be a “people person” to make it as a technician. “You definitely can’t be someone who doesn’t do well talking to people and really doesn’t want to talk to people,” he said.
Chris Heck, director of service delivery at Anchor Network Solutions and Garcia’s boss, agrees. “There are a lot of people who are very sharp and very bright technically, but maybe don’t have the customer service skills you need,” he said.
Given all the new problems you address, an inquisitive mind is essential for techs. Lebron can spot the people he’s looking for immediately during the interview process.
“They’re asking questions and they’re very curious about what’s going on,” Lebron said. “You can’t train that.”
You can’t teach the tenacity the job requires either, Garcia said. “You’ve got to have the patience to keep working and not get discouraged and not get overwhelmed when you run into something that you’ve spent the last three, four hours really trying your hardest with and you have no idea why it’s not working.”
The ability to collaborate with other techs in situations like that is also critical. “It’s definitely a team activity,” Garcia said. “You need to be able to work well with other people.”
Additional personality traits will help you handle the job’s tougher dimensions, like dealing with the occasional aggravated, potentially rude help desk caller. “That’s just something that’s going to happen,” Garcia said. “You’re going to have people who are upset.”
Even people who aren’t upset are going to dump a lot of information on you very quickly, which can take getting used to. “It’s just a lot all at once,” Garcia said.
Adapting to a sometimes hectic environment is mandatory as well. “There can certainly be some high-stress situations,” Heck said. “You need to have an ability to work well under pressure and handle things as calmly as possible.”
What isn’t required to get started as a tech, however, might surprise you. “You don’t need a high level of technical wisdom,” Chirino said.
In fact, a CompTIA A+ certification is all most newcomers to the field need initially. “It’ll help them get familiar with IT so they can walk in with one foot forward,” Lebron said.
You’ll gain plenty of additional skills from there too, either on the job or through continual education courses. “Technology keeps evolving,” Chirino noted. “I keep learning every day.”
Better yet, Lebron encourages techs to acquire new certifications on company time and rewards them for doing so with higher pay and year-end bonuses. “The more you learn, the more you earn,” he said.
Certifications, furthermore, translate into specializations that help technicians build a long-term career.
“You can go down a systems path. You can go down a networking path. You can go down a security path, and obviously cloud opens that up even further,” Heck said. You can also move into management by becoming a service desk coordinator, or pivot into a totally different part of the business, like sales.
And these days, though policies vary from one company to the next, you can potentially do all of that even if you’re nowhere near your employer. Chirino, for example, lives in Venezuela. “Everything is mostly cloud-based, so you can do this from wherever in the world,” he said.
You’ll never tire of the satisfaction that comes from helping grateful people put frustrating computer headaches behind them either, Chirino said. “Their feedback always makes you feel good.”
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