Why We Love the IT Support Career?

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In almost all of my posts I was talking about the stressful side of the IT – the long hours, end user issues, migrations, midnight calls and the like. But if everything is that bad, why are we still working in IT support? Of course, there is the good side of the story! Here is my take on what we love to work in IT support.

I will start with my coworkers. When you are working in IT support, most of the people around you are task-oriented, engineer-minded people. To say, people focus on the tasks, try to solve problems, and make something work. When you are working with like-minded people, your stressful day really becomes enjoyable. Even taking a small walk to the nearest coffee machine with your colleague can be the only thing that can get you through all the challenges. There is the beauty of having someone like you around and with the ability to make you laugh when you most likely need it.

We also have our “that’s it” moment. This is the moment when our end user understands what we have been telling him for hours or the moment that we finally figure out why that damn thing is not working. In the former case, the end user will not click “yes” on everything he sees (toolbars, “free download”s, give permission to share his personal data etc.), in the latter case, we will feel triumphant. We fought hard to earn this victory to establish our base as the IT admin in the serverland! (note: uneducated masses call this feeling “motivation” or “job satisfaction” – they never played Diablo or Warcraft thus they don’t understand. Shhh!)

Another triumphant moment is when we have our snapshots or gold-image virtual machines readily available. That remote desktop server is acting up? Move your users to other servers, boot two-three of your gold images, add them to the farm and voila! Everybody is magically happy. Need additional computing power for the users in the next few hours? Shutdown the VM, add resources, boot. Depending on the resources, you may even don’t need to reboot. Virtual machines are really one of the brightest things in our IT lives.

Migrations our favorites also. It is a magical word that, once said, makes everyone alert and make every IT professional understand what state his colleague is in. Migrations can take hours or weeks depending on the complexity of the migration and the problems encountered. Almost all of us, the IT pros know that we need to migrate our systems to have many of our problems automatically resolved but at the same time we know that the migration period will bring additional changes and the new system will bring unknown problems. During all these we will have to deal with budgets, time constraints and other non-IT issues. But when we finally succeed, our fears about the system are gone, our company will enjoy a more reliable infrastructure and our users will be getting more done. The feeling we have is zanshin – the mental state of relaxed awareness – and it is worth every moment that we spent on the migration.

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Another migration scenario is moving to the web. This is one of the long-lasting victories I have for each and every client. Complex systems are shut down, critical data is backed up and migrated to the cloud and the SaaS solution offers superior features for (in most cases) less payment. Anyone who has maintained a legacy email system (consider Postfix) for some time and then finally migrated to Office 365 or Google Apps will easily understand what I mean. Once the migration to the SaaS infrastructure is complete and the client sees his data on her mobile, the expression on her face is worth all the pain.

The job market is another favorite. I believe that almost no other job has the flexibility of the IT support when it comes to managing your own career. If you feel terrible and want to breathe, you can just take some courses and change your direction – say you can take a project management course and switch to that path or take operational and CRM courses and pursue a career in account management. You may not hit the exact spot right away, but at least you can take a step and move forward.

Vacations are the last item on my list. From the day one, in every job, in every client, I made people aware that when I am on my vacation I mean it – no emails, no phone calls, no texts whatever, except when absolutely needed. That behavior of mine spread over to my colleagues in time, even to the ones who neglected vacations for years. When we take over our colleague’s tasks, send him on a vacation with nothing left behind, have him completely charged, the expression on the face when he walks in the first working day worths everything. It is when we see every second that we carried out his tasks and refrained from calling him in the direst situations on his face.

Here are the things that come first to our minds when me and my colleagues ask ourselves why we love working in IT support. What is your take? Why you love to work in IT support? Let us know in the comments below.

References

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How to Advance Your IT Career

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During the breaks in my classes and with many of the IT professionals I work with, I always hear that their career is coming to a halt. Their feeling is that they are walking in a tunnel with no hope of light. I try to tell them that fatalism is not the only solution; these brilliant minds have much more to do than to await some kind of doom.

Many of the IT Pros, especially who are working as system and network administrators, tend to think that systems and cables are all they know and they tend to freak out when they are introduced to something new. This is something that nobody will believe such brilliant people would say. “Something new” means “some new opportunity.” I recommend every IT pro to go out of the data center and work on something else. One of these is documentation, which looks more than boring to almost every administrator. However, it helps you to develop skills to explain things (technologies, applications, processes whatever) plainly. This skill is then recognized and will make you become a valuable person to talk to; at least you can speak technical issues with the mere mortals in a language that they can understand.

“Something new” is also going into the business. Insisting further on not learning the business side of the things and sticking with the technical issues will put you on a stall or possibly worse, in a downward spiral. You are working in a service job and you have to know the business that you are serving to. Learn what adds value to the business and work on that, starting with the financial statements.

Next thing is the IT pros’ (read: our) inherent dislike for sales and marketing. We work with logic, tasks, checklists and processes whereas the sales/marketing people work with communication, perception and intuition. From our side, sales/marketing is the dark side. My wife is a marketing manager. We have been together with my wife for 10+ years, married for 6+ years. She is an excellent communicator. When she talks, her interpersonal skills immediately surface and she sells. While it is obvious that I cannot be a communicator like her, but taking some sales/marketing related courses will be a good idea for all of us lacking these skills. After all, isn’t career all about selling yourself and your ideas?

To push things even further, we IT pros need to develop our soft skills. As I have just touched, communication is the first skill to master. I have talked extensively on these soft skills before. I will give a small advise here: volunteer for the presentations and leading the meetings. At first you will be uncomfortable but day by day you will get used to it and you will be visible as a leader and will prepare you for the future supervisory role.

Networking is another element and as you would guess, I’m speaking about the business (non-IT) networking. Your performance as an individual is what you must do in order to “earn” your salary but your success to know people who are performers as well is also as important.

Never underestimate the value you can add to anything that you do, even if it is a mundane task of recovering a user’s file from a backup. Restore the file on the user’s desktop/documents, call the user and make sure that he has the file he asked for. If not, restore the file he asks and append the filename with the backup/last modified date, such as file_20140813.txt and tell the user that you have done like this so that he can go back and forth and find the pieces of information he needs. With this small renaming, you did many things: [1] you made the user understand that you are really trying to help rather than closing the support ticket [2] you are emphasizing with him and thinking what if the file you restored does not have all the information he needs [3] you gave him an idea about how to better name his files. Now he is the winner, because he can go back and forth in time with the information and you are the winner because the service you delivered exceeded the expectations. Over time the word will spread and you will be seen as the “enabler” rather than the “IT guy.”

Risky and failing projects are the good areas to shine at. Nobody will volunteer for a failing project just because of the fear of putting the “failed” sticker on their heads. On the other hand, it is highly probable that the project you took had already hit the bottom and the only way is up. If you put the right effort on the project and turn it around, you will get noticed. Turning a failed project into a success is more valuable than being on the success boat that everybody is trying to jump into. What if the project fails? The experience you had on the road will be way greater than the experience you would have on the success boat.

Staying current is another thing you should do. Once flooded with tasks and projects, it is hard to keep current with the IT trends and other areas of interest. Just reserve some time of yours every other day and skim through some RSS feeds and go through a magazine. You will both be on top of the things related to your work and keep yourself fresh on the developments and practices.

Up to a point your career is your responsibility and in the non-IT world, everything is about the human element. In today’s turbulent environment, an excellent system administrator can find himself looking for a job tomorrow just because of a quarter’s income statement. Therefore my recommendation is to stay current and to improve your skills.

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Web Development Can Be A Good Career Option If You Have The Creativity In You

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LulzSec’s Hacking Career Slated to End

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Well-known Internet mayhem group LulzSec recently announced to its followers that it will cease its campaign of web-based attacks. The group implemented numerous DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks on a variety of targets during its 50-day spree of chaos. Many of the attacks were a result of poor security measures.

Utilizing Twitter Feeds

Ironically, the group left numerous tips on its Twitter feeds for its victims. For instance, when Fox Broadcasting was attacked, LulzSec released a Twitter update stating, “Don’t use the same password twice. Your laziness will not end well.” Another guideline announced was to not using prepaid credit cards to conduct online purchases. The slew and successful hit of targets included giant conglomerates, law enforcement agencies, governmental organizations, television networks and ATMs.

The Goal of the Mayhem

LulzSec stated in the letter that their goal was to have fun, entertain other followers and share “lulz.” During the period from May 6th, 2011 to June 26th, 2011, the group left information technology experts wondering who they will be attacking next.

Fox.com

One of the first attacks conducted by LulzSec occurred on May 6th, 2011. The group targeted the Fox.com website due to a leaked database of X-Factor contestants. LulzSec also defaced 14 LinkedIn accounts of Fox Broadcasting employees.

ATMs

Through the 50-day period, the group harvested 3,133 individual bank account details from ATMs in England which were posted on Twitter and Pastebin. The details included machine identification number, latitude and longitude, the address, company owner and transaction amounts recently made.

PBS.org

Next on their list was the PBS.org website in which the group posted a fake story claiming the dead rapper Tupac Shakur was still alive in New Zealand. Also, many passwords were stolen and a number of web pages defaced. The attack was in response to a documentary on Julian Assange which displayed him in a negative light.

Sony PlayStation Network

The Sony PlayStation Network was the next target due to the lack of security measures. LulzSec stole information from 1 million user accounts to prove the company did nothing to improve their security. Other hacker groups condemned LulzSec from exposing the user data which could have led to identity theft.

The most interesting aspect of the group was their telephone hotline. By dialing 614 LULZSEC, angry callers could request a target to be DDoS’d. During its reign, the group missed more than 5,000 calls and had over 2,500 voicemails. Additionally, the group redirected phone numbers to World of Warcraft customer service, a hosting company and FBI office in Detroit. LulzSec proved their point by wreaking havoc on Internet companies and groups that they simply did not like.

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