User mishaps and tech inexperience

In these IT tales, a techie recounts memorable encounters with computer users and new tech hires

I have been in the technology field for over 25 years and have had many memorable experiences. Here are a couple.

Technology can be tricky

During the time of this story, I worked for a large national bank as regional tech director. All tech services were handled out of headquarters either by phone or, if need be, an actual trip to the location.

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One day I fielded a call from one of our bank managers. He had received a CD from a customer that had data on it that they needed to complete a sizable loan, but he couldn't read the CD. The manager didn't want to look stupid if the problem was something simple, so he called me for help.

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I could not get anywhere with the manager over the phone. Since he seemed to be totally computer illiterate, I asked him to send me a copy of the CD via interoffice mail.

The next day I received a copy of the disc: a paper copy.

You know, I couldn't read the CD, either.

This experience showed me how two people can be saying the same words, but be thinking entirely different things -- a good lesson to remember when dealing with users.

I never did determine exactly what problem the branch manager was having. When I received the actual CD, I could read it and we got the problem resolved. However, I will relate a possible issue that might explain it.

Periodically, I would visit the branch offices to take care of outstanding issues and upgrade or replace hardware/software. I visited that particular branch some time later to take care of some problems they were having and had brought along a replacement CD drive to install. When I removed the old one, I found that two CDs had been stuffed into the crack between the CD drive and the A: drive. Who knows?

When business managers hire a techie

Early in my tech career, I worked in tech support and once in a while trained new recruits.

At the time, the business mangers made all the hiring decisions, even those in tech support. One day they asked me to start training a new person who had been hired for my department. They told me it should be pretty simple because he "knew his stuff."

I wanted to get a sense of the tech recruit's knowledge, so began by setting him down in front of an old PC and asked him to remove the power supply, add a hard drive, and install more memory. He fooled around for a while and finally got the screws out so that he could take the back of the case off. But then he just sat there, looking in the box.

After about 10 minutes, with no activity from him, I asked if something was wrong. He said, "Well, my mama always told me that if I didn't know what something was, not to put my finger in it, so I'm just going to leave now."

I agreed with him.

This story, "User mishaps and tech inexperience," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com.

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