Life lessons learned while working in tech

One techie's persistence and compassion are required in these two tech support experiences

I've worked in IT for over 20 years and have run across some amazing experiences, with users and equipment alike. At the same time, I've learned a lesson or two about the small details in IT that aren't covered in the courses or, often, in the job description.

Persistence pays off

At one time, I worked in tech support for a large computer manufacturer. We got calls for a variety of problems, and we were encouraged to uphold a reputation of quality service. We never said no and never gave up, as long as the customer was willing to stay on the phone and help us troubleshoot.

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One day I received a call from a customer regarding a pair of systems that could not be powered on at the same time. Either system could be powered on, but not while the other was running. These systems were physically separated by several hundred feet, on separate power circuits.

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After hours of troubleshooting, I wasn't getting any closer to the answer. I decided to step back and tackle another problem I'd noticed.

Both systems, which were identical, had the same model of internal DSL modem plugged into the same phone line. Having some DSL experience, I knew that the configuration would never work, as only one of the modems could sync on the line at a time, and having two would probably prevent either from syncing.

I synced one modem to a different phone line, then asked the customer to adjust the cords to plug into the correct phone lines. The customer did so, then excitedly said, "That did it!"

Unexpectedly, the original problem was fixed: Both systems had powered on.

Because the DSL modems were internal and plugged into PCI slots on the motherboard, errors on the modem were passed onto the PCI slots. I suspect it had something to do with the signal levels on the line. With one system synced, the levels were so high that the second modem faulted in some way. Exactly how that occurred, I cannot say. It would take much more testing than I was capable of performing over the phone. But once I realized the customer had two modems on one line, I knew that one of them had to go -- and that turned out to be the key to the entire problem.

Ticket closed.

Lesson learned: Don't give up on a task just because it's going to be hard. When you conquer huge issues, you'll be known as the person who can figure out anything -- or who will at least give it a very good effort.

An equipment inquiry that covers more than tech support
When working for a fairly large support firm, I received a call from a laptop user with a broken screen. Looking at the customer's account information, I found that her laptop was three years old.

I explained to her that unless the laptop was brand new and arrived with a broken screen, there wasn't any warranty coverage. Since her laptop was three years old, she'd have to cover the significant cost of repairs.

We talked a little about her options for either getting the screen repaired or buying a new laptop. In the process, she told me about her boyfriend and his abusive fits. She had been using the laptop as a shield, and it was his fist that broke the screen.

I gave her the best advice that I could: "LEAVE HIM!" She thanked me for the advice and said it was good to hear someone tell her this, that it helped her realized she'd done the right thing by breaking up with him. The boyfriend had moved out -- and stolen her boat, which got T-boned when he ran a red light.

Lesson learned: There is often something positive a tech support rep can do, even if it isn't fixing the computer problem.

This story, "Life lessons learned while working in tech," 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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