I never expected to work in IT, and specifically in technical support. But that’s what I do at home. I field complaints about problems with the WIFI, cell phones, laptops, printers, gaming consoles, iPads and even thermostats, and our thermostat is the old-fashioned kind.
Never mind that I have a degree in political science, not computer science. Never mind that if anything goes wrong with my work printer or laptop I call Matt the real IT guy at the SCCE/HCCA office to help. Never mind that a few weeks ago I spent no less than an hour and a half at the Apple Genius Bar to get my iPad straightened out. Yup, that long to undo the muck I had managed to accumulate on the world’s most idiot-proof, unmuckable device.
Despite my own technological failings, I am responsible for fixing all things electronic in my house.
And how did I end up with this job? Two ways. First, I tell people to try restarting the device. Everyone knows that solves most problems with electronics. Well, everyone not related to me and living under my roof no matter how many times I tell them. Usually, they roll their eyes, slap their forehead, and my status as the Einstein of Encino is preserved.
If that doesn’t work, I simply Google the problem. It usually takes me to a discussion board where someone has the answer. Tonight I found the solution to “DVR won’t delete” in less than three minutes.
It shouldn’t be this way. My youngest son is 15, and he should be fixing things for me by now. But this is my fate, and I think it’s my own fault. The reason: I solved their problems so many times, people stopped trying to solve them on their own. It’s just simpler to ask me.
Now, most of the time the problem for compliance people is the opposite: nobody remembers to call compliance before they dive headfirst into the pool. Only when they realize the pool is full of toxic waste do they pick up the phone.
But there’s a risk on the other extreme, too. We don’t want people to start abdicating responsibility and feel like they don’t have to understand the potential risks. Thinking “compliance will fix this for us, call them” can be a bad thing, too.
It’s important to be the one with the right answers, whether you’re dealing with a balky TV remote or a potential antitrust violation. It’s just as important, though, to encourage people to think through the problem themselves and to not just give them the answer but help them become able to figure it out the next time.
When I worked in advertising in New York, every ad had to be reviewed by the General Counsel. Rich would sit there with you and, if he spotted an issue, explain what the issue was, why it was an issue, what you would need as proof for a claim in the ad, and what language might get you in trouble. By the time I left his office, I understood not only what needed to be fixed in that ad. I knew how to avoid potential problems the next time.
It’s advice we all should remember, and I wish I had followed years ago.
Now if only he could tell me why the printer keeps jamming.
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