Unassuming IT hero saves the day

The techie's superpowers: Common sense, a clear mind, and the ability to read the fine print overlooked by everyone else

It isn't often that a tech pro gets recognized for saving the day -- especially when you're just doing your job.

This is a story back from the early days of my IT career. It was in the '90s, and I'd been out of school a couple of years and working at a VAR that provided hardware, software, and service. Recently, I'd been promoted to senior field support engineer and transferred to the corporate division, which served small business and enterprise customers on a variety of platforms.

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One morning we got called to a conference room to deal with a hot issue that had come up. As we entered, the account manager and service manager were almost screaming at each other, and the tension was rising. This itself wasn't too surprising, since sometimes the account managers promised customers more than what the service department could deliver.

Then we were told about the problem. One of our large corporate customers couldn't configure a new server they'd just bought from us. Since this was a big company that had a large IT team of around 15 systems administrators managing Unix and Windows, they had not paid the extra fee to have us install and configure the server. Their admins had tried, with no luck. They were blaming our product and threatening to close the account.

The service manager was sending a tech to the customer's site ASAP. He emphasized how important it was that we fix the problem and smooth over any hard feelings toward our company, and we could take all the time we needed to resolve the issue. Then he asked for a volunteer. Silence.

Finally, the service manager nominated the new guy on the tech team: me. The other techs gave me sympathetic looks as they left the room.

Before I left, I called the customer's IT director to let him know I was on my way and to find out more details about the problem they were having. He said that he'd gotten just about everybody on his team to get the server configured, but they couldn't do it. He was obviously angry and frustrated. From the sound of things, it was a big, complicated problem, so I grabbed most of my hardware and software diagnostic tools and ran through various scenarios in my mind as I drove.

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