Being a system administrator / electrical engineer / nerd, I get a number of people asking me computer and electronics related questions.
Sometimes I don’t know the answer (gasp!). The person who asked the question is completely surprised, disappointed, and even resorts to responses such as “I thought you were smart” or “Aren’t you the computer guy?” or my favourite “Didn’t you learn anything in University?”
My response is always a smile and a laugh, but far too often I have found myself biting my lip instead of saying what’s really on my mind.
So I’ve compiled a list of things to do and not to do when bugging your corporate nerd.
- Keep it to the point. IT guys/girls don’t want a story (unless it’s funny), they want the facts, what was done and why, what happened, the sequence of events and outcomes. If the IT guy/girl wants to know something, he or she will ask.
- IT guys/girls usually have a system of completing complaints and open issues. Some use bug tracking software, others use post-its, some use their brain to remember. They often have a system to prioritize issues as well. It can be an A/B/C or Critical/Non-Critical system. They are not ignoring you and will get to your problem eventually when the time is right. If you feel the issue is pressing, email him/her and explain why you think it is important and ask for an answer as to why/when it will be fixed.
- Going over his/her head to his/her boss is a no-no. I had this happen once. A person was irritated that I was not getting to her problem fast enough. I explained why I wasn’t and she then told my boss that I wasn’t fixing her life-threatening situation. My boss talked with me and asked why I had not fixed her problem. I laid everything out and explained her problem and the other problems I had to deal with in the same timeframe. I explained the cost related impacts of all problems, the user impact, the customer impact, etc, in the end the boss agreed with me. I’m fairly easy going and forgiving, so I don’t hold a grudge, but some administrators do and will be less likely to fix your problem in a timely fashion.
- Work after work. While some IT guys/girls live and breathe computers, others do not. Don’t pressure yours into doing work for you after work, or call with personal/home issues. I made the mistake of giving someone my cell phone number. They broadcast it across the company and I routinely get phone calls from employees asking computer questions in the evening. I don’t mind helping some people some time, but in a large company you can be on the phone all night with people just wanting a quick answer. IT guys/girls – get an unlisted phone number!
- Don’t disguise home issues as work issues. We are not as dumb as you may think. When you try to mask a home computer issue as a work one it won’t work. I don’t care if you can’t upload photos to Facebook or your home computer has pop-ups on it. I will help people with a small issue, but if they keep coming to me with issues I will have to charge them a nominal fee, because they are simply taking advantage of my knowledge and time.
- Your IT guy/girl is not socially awkward. I make the odd joke, I’ll laugh when something is funny, but I rarely get into a conversation for more than 10 minutes a day that is not work related. I’m not socially awkward; I am simply a product of my boring engineering education. I make jokes about calculus and I think of optimizing almost everything I see. I get my work done.
- Unless you really know what you are doing, don’t try to fix things yourself. Just because you ran an antivirus program at home doesn’t mean you can screw with corporate computers. Yes they are the same, yes you may be able to do something, but the responsibility lies with the IT department and it is ultimately them who are responsible for any mishaps. Sometimes patches, software updates, etc, aren’t deployed in a corporate environment for a reason, so don’t be proud when you downloaded every patch for your system. You’ll only find out later that one of the patches breaks an internal function of the network or software.