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206 comments

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italics (1)

Romancer (19668) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254690)

Use the italics tag much?

Re:italics (1)

Alzheimers (467217) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255244)

See, this is why I use

div style="font-style:italic"

Re:italics (2, Funny)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255294)

Use the italics tag much?
N o t R e a l l y

Score (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256002)

I scanned this whole thread. NOT ONE had a score higher then 1. Yes its a dead end. No one on slashdot went back to rate this.
Unix admins/apps programmers/ and other lofty sorts see it as a dead end so it is, Such are the population here so QED. Most of these articles say something like: "I worked the HD for 6 months then got promoted and.."
FEW remarks come from dedicated tech support pros. People who have worked a desk long enough to know the quirks, know the tricks, know how to keep peopel productive. Remarks seem to come mainly from those who see it as a bad experience (The Burger King remarks below) to be through on your way to greatness, not a destination in its own right. I work tech support and have for years. All I need do to ruin a sysadmin's day is call in sick.

Last day here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23254692)

Today's my last day at this job doing helpdesk. Moving on to Unix administration. Dead End? For some, probably. For me? Nope.

Re:Last day here (1)

JebusIsLord (566856) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254892)

I started on an Oil & Gas help desk 2 years ago, and since then have moved into an operations role. Some people ARE stuck on the desk forever, but they aren't the strong technical people. The desk does get a bad rap, so people assume you're stupid and you have to prove them wrong in order to move up, but the desk is also used internally as a source of pre-vetted labour so the oportunities are there.

Re:Last day here (1)

hobo sapiens (893427) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255936)

"and since then have moved into an operations role"
Operations is dead end, at least where I work. I do web development, but we are nestled within operations. We have an amazing shrinking budget and things like promotions are nigh impossible. Getting a piece of software is nearly impossible if it costs any real money. Why? We are in operations. Operations is a commodity and an expense, or at least is viewed as such by upper management.

Gah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23254712)

This summary is full of so much fail.

Re:Gah (1)

ClarifyAmbiguity (683603) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254858)

Can we please stop using this stupid phrase?

No, we can't. (1)

Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254878)

My god... it's full of FAIL!

Re:No, we can't. (1)

im_rotting (543266) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255208)

/golfclap

Re:No, we can't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23255634)

lollerskates!

Re:Gah (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255648)

In Korea, only old people use stupid phrases.

Maybe they should ask...... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254770)

....NASA?

Added Bonus... (2, Informative)

Spritzer (950539) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254780)

Your very own guide to salary.....oh subscription huh? pfft

Re:Added Bonus... (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254916)

Silly me, expecting to get a free salary breakdown. Not that I want to change careers and go into help-desking, I was just curious to see how crappy the salaries would be.

Can we get a slashvertisement or shamelessplug tag for this one?

Re:Added Bonus... (4, Informative)

aetherspoon (72997) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255392)

There is a salary guide [computerworld.com] in the article.

Re:Added Bonus... (1)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256224)

I'd like to know what alternate universe pays 37k/year AVERAGE for a level 1 grunt phone tech. Certainly not the United States, or Canada.

I suspect that they're including the total cost of employment into that (health care, vacation, worker's comp, unemployment insurance, blah blah) and not the employee's gross or net income.

Re:Added Bonus... (1)

DigitalSorceress (156609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254934)

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing, but I believe that the word "spam" most definitely crossed my mind.

Re:Added Bonus... (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255446)

Tracy Mayor: Boss, will you take me off the help desk if I can drive half a million hits to the site?
Boss: Oh sure. Whatever.

Re:Added Bonus... (1)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255490)

If knowing the salary was a big issue for someone in the first place, I don't think the person would even have the money for the subscription... Kind of like selling homes to homeless people. You can make up your own car analogy.

Re:Added Bonus... (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255696)

Like selling cars to people without a license?

Like selling cars to children?

Like selling cars to blind people?

Re:Added Bonus... (1)

Brad Eleven (165911) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256176)

Ehhh, salary surveys are highly overrated IMHO. They seem to be pretty damn low. My experience is that you get the best results by holding off the money talk as long as possible, and by killing in the interview.

I highly recommend Dorothy Leeds' work, either the original Smart Questions book's chapter on interviewing, or the book spawned from that chapter. It's a lot to remember, but take notes and refer to them when they say, "Do you have any questions." You'll look prepared (hmm, you will be prepared) and you'll have great questions.

Help desks that push call times and scripts over.. (3, Interesting)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254804)

Help desks that push call times and scripts over fixing stuff the right way are a Dead End and good tech people will fail at it and it can lead to you losing good techs.

Putting a lot TPS report BS in the help desk is also a bad sign.

There ones that say help desk but you also do network, desktop, imaging, roll outs and other takes as well.

Re:Help desks that push call times and scripts ove (2, Insightful)

JJNess (1238668) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255862)

My "Help Desk Support" position is so much more, like you said... and I'm making a good bit of money more at this new position in an engineering firm than my friend who manages IT for a local TV station for 3 years! So while it says "Help Desk" on my resumé, I'll be able to prove it was oh so much more than that.

Who knows (1)

toleraen (831634) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254816)

I thought it was good experience from a "oh crap everything broke what do I look at first" perspective. The troubleshooting skills were definitely worth it. Then again, I did my 3 years in help desk during college, and avoided it like the plague after graduation.

I'd also like to add that the HDI certifications are a joke.

Re:Who knows (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23255266)

I did my 3 years in help desk during college, and avoided it like the plague after graduation.

Good strategy. A bit of time on the help desk is valuable experience for anyone looking to make a career out of IT. However, like retail or assembly line work it's something you need to get into and out of quickly. If you look around one day and realize that you're not one of the youngest or least-tenured people in the room, it's time to pull the cord.

Re:Who knows (4, Insightful)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255602)

If you look around one day and realize that you're not one of the youngest or least-tenured people in the room, it's time to pull the cord.


I did help desk for an ISP. I was never one of the youngest people there and by the time my job was outsourced, I was senior to most of the people in the company. I was still doing help desk, at top level, because I'd come to realize that I actually liked doing it. The trouble-shooting was a constant challenge because no matter how fool-proof you make your software, nature keeps coming up with fools who can manage to mess things up, and with the constantly-changing OS issues of Windows, there was always more to learn. For me, at least, it was a very satisfying job because every day I could go home knowing that there were at least twenty or so people who's days were a little better because I'd helped them. Not everybody can think that way, but if you can, the help desk doesn't have to become the hell desk.

Re:Who knows (0, Troll)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256190)

because I'd come to realize that I actually liked doing it

You are one sick masochistic nutjob.

The trouble-shooting was a constant challenge because no matter how fool-proof you make your software, nature keeps coming up with fools who can manage to mess things up

Why yes, after you read off 5 minutes of scripts & calmed the customer down because the 3 HD people in front of you just slammed them off the phone as quickly as possible, it was possible to find the problem & solve it as one of the basic 3:

  1. The customer's stupid
  2. The customer fucked it up
  3. One of the previous 'techs' fucked it up before realizing the customer is stupid

For me, at least, it was a very satisfying job because every day I could go home knowing that there were at least twenty or so people who's days were a little better because I'd helped them.

Gods I wish it was 20 people - 10 minute target times on the call w/ a 15 deep queue all day - probably half of them repeat calls because people got them off the phone to meet the 10 minute target time. As for better off, most of them would be better off if they boxed up their computer & got out a deck of cards, a pencil & a piece of paper - some I think would be better off counting money on a corner in Brooklyn at midnight.

Not everybody can think that way, but if you can, the help desk doesn't have to become the hell desk.

As long as people are allowed to call up after using super glue to plug the modem port to keep kids from surfing porn & scream at you that it's your job to get them back online; help desk is going to be hell desk. As long as people are allowed to call up in the middle of disasters & scream at you that the modem is slow (Manhattan customers on 9/11); help desk is going to be hell desk. As long as CxO's look at help desks as a cost center to be staffed as minimally as possible with the cheapest people possible, help desk is going to be hell desk.

Re:Who knows (2, Funny)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256178)

HDI certifications are a joke.

Here let me fix that for you

HDI certifications are a cruel, joke.

Kind of a silly question (4, Interesting)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254832)

Is working at Burger King as a teenager a launchpad or a dead end? I guess it depends on your attitude, your ambition, and your ability to learn from experiences.

Any work dealing with customers will prepare you well for working in any kind of environment where you have to deal with people that are sometimes unreasonable or like to treat others like garbage. In other words, it prepares you to deal with real life. Help desk has the added bonus of being somewhat related to tech stuff, so if you combine it with some learning on your own time, maybe you can end up in a more technical role.

Most companies will tend to recruit from within, so if they see that you're highly technically competent and are good at dealing with people, you're likely to get moved up out of help desk if you make it known that your ultimate goal is, say, system administration (and God help you if it is). If you sit around talking shit about the idiot customers all day when you're not on the phone, you're probably not going anywhere except possibly the unemployment line.

In short, any job will give you what you're willing to get from it. Whether any particular job is a dead end or a door leading to bigger and better things is entirely up to the person doing the job.

On a personal note, I was in help desk for 6 months before being promoted to Unix admin. I got there because I saw a very clear need for improvement in the servers at the company (their Windows mail server was crashing constantly) and I presented a plan to improve things with a Unix-based design and showed I had the technical ability to pull it off. So, they gave me the opportunity, I got the job done, and they promoted me. If you have the drive, any position can be a springboard.

Re:Kind of a silly question (1)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254930)

Responding to your personal note, I had a similar experience. After getting out of the Army, I started with a government contractor doing hell desk work. Not 3 months later, I was promoted to a systems administrator position. I'm not going to flatter myself and deny that a lot of luck was involved, but it would be silly to completely discount the role of the help desk as a stepping stone towards more technical positions. Many companies in fact use the help desk as a primary recruiting pool for their sysadmin/etc positions.

Re:Kind of a silly question (1)

hevets (1237326) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255070)

True true, Luck with the right motivation and ambition can lead to success within the corporate environment. 'Standing out' among the rest is the key.

Re:Kind of a silly question (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255470)

This has been my experience as well, both personally and second-hand. Those who wanted to move out/up and showed an ability to do so, were moved out/up. Those who didn't got moved out to the unemployment line.

It takes a good manager to recognize this, but then again, all promotions require that.

MOD PARENT UP (1)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255520)

I could not agree more. Various technical skills can be taught/learned, but people skills are so often overlooked by people on specific career paths. If there is 1 essential skill to any job, it is good people skills. This means not only learning to deal with difficult customers (as you alluded to in the "BK Lounge" analogy) but also learning to manage people (this includes managing UP as well as managing DOWN).

I wasn't thrilled at the time to be working at several of the crappy jobs I had in my younger days (dry cleaner, JC Penney, maintenance tech, etc) but I was at least able to recognize opportunities to improve myself by learning at each one.

Re:MOD PARENT UP (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255866)

There are two things I learned at the help desk. 1st that I was a computer janitor to the users. 2nd it is best to assume the user is incompetent, I can remember a few times where I wasted an hour or two because I listened to a user who I assumed was intelligent.

Re:Kind of a silly question (1)

cavemanf16 (303184) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256120)

Add in a bunch of name-dropping of middle-managers from a bunch of random, well-known fast-food companies, and you could submit your post for consideration to be published in the next FastfoodWorld.com article!

slashvertisement (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254840)

The "added bonus" is a site you have to register for. Ass.

As for helpdesk, depends on the organization. Pretty much any position could be career-building or dead end depending on the organization and where it's going.

IT seems to get little love in general and helpdesk gets none in particular. I think that it would more often than not be a dead end but it really should be more of a stepping stone in the ideal world. For the new guy just coming into the field, that's the first place he can be of real use. That's what my dad always called the "parts washer" position in the garage. The first place you stick the new kid is on parts washing because it's a useful task and not even a monkey could fuck it up. If the kid shows he can show up and do his job for the first month, then you start taking the time to show him other tasks. Usually your fuck-up will have fucked up at some point in the first month and will be gone so you never wasted your time on training him on anything.

you gotta start somewhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23254910)

It is a great place to start in IT. Desktop support is another place that is a great entry level job. Going from a sysadmin position to helpdesk would be suicide...

Re:you gotta start somewhere (1)

spectrox (627900) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254996)

better to start as a helpdesk monkey than a burger flipper

The ultimate help desk job (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254926)

The ultimate help desk job was being Bill Gates' technical assistant. There really was such a job, and one of the people who held it now is in charge of the entire Microsoft Office product line.

Helpdesk is a rite of passage (1)

Ruprecht the Monkeyb (680597) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254946)

Every person I've ever worked with that hadn't worked helpdesk was a tool. They had no ability to deal with users. They were sloppy because they (consciously or not) figured someone else would have to deal with the aftermath. And they had an attitude when it came to doing the periodic shit-work that always comes up and doesn't require a brain, just a pair of hands.

Re:Helpdesk is a rite of passage (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255290)

You can tell almost right away those of us who had to do help desk and those who have not. The ones who did help desk are a little more versed and careful about their wording to the end users. We've been in the trenches of "No, I can't fix that...Why not? Because there is a power outage in your area"

Those who haven't had to walk through the coals are far more likely to use the exact tech terms and lose the user claiming superiority and user error instead of lack of communication skills.

Re:Helpdesk is a rite of passage (1)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255802)

Those who haven't had to walk through the coals are far more likely to use the exact tech terms and lose the user claiming superiority and user error instead of lack of communication skills.

Having worked on both sides of the "glass IT desk", I can confidently say that virtually all problems do result from user error, oftentimes bordering on sheer stupidity.

Sorry, but you can only walk so many people - people who use a Windows machine daily, both for work and at home - through the concept of double-clicking, before you come to realize that most people should not have access to computers.


"Okay, I found the source of your virus... It came in an emailed fake greeting-card. Not sure how you got infected, though, your AV works and can detect this one..."
"Well, I wanted to see the greeting card attached, and this stupid window kept popping up saying it had blocked my attempt to run it."
"So... Your AV program told you it contained a virus? Why did you disable your AV program and run it???"
"I told you, I wanted to see the greeting card!"
"Did you know the sender and not believe it had a virus?"
"No, never heard of him, and it went right to my junkmail folder... I didn't even know about it until the popup told me about it, and some crap about it having worms".
< sound of head repeatedly hitting desk in a sad attempt to kill enough brain cells to remain sane >

Re:Helpdesk is a rite of passage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23255310)

Every person I've ever worked with that hadn't worked helpdesk was a tool. They had no ability to deal with users. They were sloppy because they (consciously or not) figured someone else would have to deal with the aftermath. And they had an attitude when it came to doing the periodic shit-work that always comes up and doesn't require a brain, just a pair of hands.
Yeah, except be an implementation consultant so you get paid well doing it. Nothing like having to deal with unreasonable customers and/or having to deal with the product you're pushing being a polished turd where the polish just broke. Sometimes I feel really sorry for those of our customers that don't know how to stand up for themselves, some speak up and make the vendor pay up while others... Personally I'm just a hired gun - if the product isn't living up to their expectations then tough, chew out the vendor or take it but I usually deliver good value for my hours.

Re:Helpdesk is a rite of passage (1)

zbend (827907) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255416)

Hear hear!, everyone should do it for some amount of time. I work in development and found my time in helpdesk to be at times torture but you learn and grow a lot, and now I'm surrounded by people who need to do a lot of learning and growing.

Re:Helpdesk is a rite of passage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23255986)

I would never hire a network admin or sysadmin that has not worked in some sort of help desk support role at some point. Non-helpdesk experienced guys tend to be jackass know-it-alls who think they're better than everyone, especially the end users.

help desk is the end of careers (1)

joshtheitguy (1205998) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254962)

I've been working one sh*tty help desk job to the next ever since getting out of school four years ago. I've been trying to get into server administration unix/windows and received several certifications but I only receive letters back from people interested in putting me into another dead end help desk job.
To me I feel working in help desk positions has pretty much been a case of terminal brain cancer for my career.

Re:help desk is the end of careers (1)

Painkiller24 (1282026) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255212)

I've been working one sh*tty help desk job to the next ever since getting out of school four years ago. I've been trying to get into server administration unix/windows and received several certifications but I only receive letters back from people interested in putting me into another dead end help desk job. To me I feel working in help desk positions has pretty much been a case of terminal brain cancer for my career.
I have been involved with two help desks... one was a dead end job due to the company I was working for, and the one I'm with now I'm actually in a firm that is fully based off of starting at help desk and going up from there. If your in the right company you can do so much more. For me I went from Service Desk to Network Services in 6 months and aiming for a team lead due to my experience.

Re:help desk is the end of careers (1)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255218)

I had that problem too, then struck gold about four years ago at the place I'm currently working at. Did helpdesk for a year and a half, then the guy above me quit and all of a sudden I was a system administrator, then I took over programming duties after the company hired a string of busts in that position.

I guess the trick is to get in some place where a promotion doesn't mean you move from junior phone monkey to senior phone monkey, or to already have 20 years of experience. :|

Re:help desk is the end of careers (1)

joshtheitguy (1205998) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255402)

yeah I went from phone monkey level 1 to phone monkey level 2. I know they have no intentions of moving me anywhere out of the help desk where I am at now but after four years I couldn't stand the though of going to another help desk job from this one.

Re:help desk is the end of careers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23255624)

I worked a dead end, customer facing helpdesk job for 8 months
they hired 6 new staff every week (turnover rate),
and the guy who I sat next to had been there 5 years - he was going nowhere, fast.

I quit the job because I could stand it no longer. I'd have got sacked for wrapping too many customers had I not resigned when I did (as soon as one customer got mouthy, down went the phone)

I spent the next 6 months on the dole (unemployment benefit) and sometimes doing temp work (seriously brain dead stuff... stuffing envelopes etc...)
I spent the time pretty much laying about (developed a codeine and diazepam addiction and had to go into therapy... oh dear)

I finally got off my arse and applied for an ICT tech job at a school, well, they must've liked me as they hired me, and now I'm the 2nd (out of 2) technicians there, so I get to learn all about Admining a Windows Network (good thing I am on SNRI tablets)
They gave me SU access on my first day, despite my knowledge of Windows Server being installing it once in a VM...
I already have plans to replace an ageing Windows fileserver with a Debian replacement etc... anyone know if there's a good 'nix replacement for Exchange? :-)

Not all is lost if you're stuck in a helpdesk job, look for a desktop support job or a low-level ICT tech job, anything is better than being stuck doing crappy shifts for low pay in a place that cares not wether you even exist. I'd rather even be plugging in RAM and HDD's all day in a back room than trying to walk another stressed mother through DSL router setup over the phone...

Things to consider... (1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254968)

Having started my IT career in helpdesk, I give the following advice (actually my $.02)

1. Stay away from outsourcing firms!! Besides being a dead-end job, they'll most likely move their call center operations to India sooner or later.

2. If the you work for the company in-house helpdesk (in my case, a major OEM), it's definitely a NASA launchpad. Work hard, harder, get promoted to a management position in the call center, then you can perhaps move to other areas within the company.

3. If help desk is really your thing (honestly, some people love it), you can start your own call center and work for other SMBs.

Don't Stop Learning (1)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 6 years ago | (#23254970)

The trick is to work help desk somewhere that the help desk is meaningful, where you get to do lots more than just answer a phone and read a tree. For instance, I spent two years under "help desk" hacking Perl every day.

Any job is a dead end if you take it as an excuse to stagnate and never learn anything beyond what's needed for competent performance.

The trouble with help desk is the reputation as help desk -- you have to be able to convince people that you know something beyond the job title. Of course, file that under "resume-cold-calling is hard." You would be well-advised to take on as much responsibility outside your limited official purview as you can handle. If you don't know how to do it yet, know that you'll learn it, and offer to do so at every opportunity. Make sure that you have specific, quantifiable achievements that you can point to, and make sure that someone with some clout at the company -- maybe your manager, maybe the manager of someone you're helping, who knows, but someone worth listening to -- is aware of what you've accomplished and can vouch for it when you apply for your next job.

Help desk, approached smartly, can be a great place to start building diverse skills and making connections for future recommendations. Just don't let yourself get pigeonholed and don't get trapped in bad politics.

Oh, and I'm assuming you mean help desk somewhere you can talk with people who aren't. If you can't, you can't do much other than show off for the other drones.

Help Desk Experience is essential (1)

AgentOJ (320270) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255002)

I have found my help desk experience to be essential in many aspects of my career. Being able to keep a level head, even when you are in the right, is essential in the business world, especially if you are looking to do any independent software development where you will not only be coding, but also providing support to end-users, many of which lack basic understanding of computers. When you are able to communicate efficiently and politely with your customers, it goes a long way in building and maintaining a strong userbase.

Re:Help Desk Experience is essential (1)

Kwiik (655591) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255760)

I have found my help desk experience to be essential in many aspects of my career.
and your current career is...... help desk L2?

congrats on the promotion!!

Re:Help Desk Experience is essential (1)

dafdaf (319484) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255846)

Having done 1.5 years of 1st and 2nd level support in IT, I couldn't agree more.
In many companies it's mandatory to do at least a few months in a call center so one gets in contact with the future customers and connects to the 'worker's league' before moving on to that management position. Heh.

Its what you make of it (1)

I_am_Rambi (536614) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255026)

I work for a major IT company. I started as a tech support for one of their products. While my time in tech support, I took more classes programming, talked with developers of product I was supporting, and even wrote a tool that was implemented while I was working there to help with the job.

Besides doing my best in the job, and all of these things, I was also searching for a development job within the company.

Less than 2 years after I started as tech support, I am now a developer of a different product within the company.

Its not always a dead end, it is if you make it. There were a few people that will always work in that position because they don't want to move on.

Things to do in tech support if you want to move on to something else.
  1. Excel at the current position - Do your best, this will look good at whatever you are looking at
  2. Let your manager know - This depends on the company and your manager. Some managers will help to move you on, others won't.
  3. Find opportunities to do what you want - If you want to get into development, find opportunities to write something that will help the current job.
  4. Actively search for new positions - This is after the minimum time set for a position that the company sets. This way the division doesn't lose any money on their investment in you.
Remember you need to show initiative, and try to move on.

It depends (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255050)

As mentioned in this article (at least 20 times), it all depends on the organization. In some, helpdesk is it. You don't go much further. In others, they want to promote people.

In my case, I did an 18 month stint supporting a proprietary case management system (for the State court system). By the time I left, I knew every screen in the app and when people would call in with a question or a problem, I didn't have to look at the screen to know what they were talking about.

I took that knowledge and went into a program (still with the State) where you served one year and did rotations in networking, helpdesk, programming and web design at different agencies. At the end of the year, you were placed with an agency.

Since then, I've kept learning new skills (despite the best efforts of some of those around me to prevent that) and have been working my way up the food chain. I'm trying to get into a management position to bring some organization to things but am still being thwarted.

Helpdesk is what you make of it. Either you do well and get ahead or you sit on your ass and bitch about stupid users.

Of course it's not career death... (1)

olehenning (1090423) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255058)

Getting stuck has little to do with the profession, and more to do with the person in question.

Helpdesk is a good place to start. It's not much, but it's something. People who never try to get anything better or are not qualified for anything better are usually the ones who are stuck there.

Calling it career death is like saying that any other job is career death. Any experience you add to your curriculum vitae is likely to place your application higher in the deck even if it is helpdesk. Granted, that depends on the job you're applying for, but I see no reason for people to get stuck there. If you don't like it, quit. A friend of mine did, and I doubt that he's gonna have great difficulties getting a job once he's done with his education.

If you have the right qualifications, helpdesk need not be a career killer.

Don't stall (1)

sco_robinso (749990) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255102)

Like anything else, and what others have already mentioned, the key is not to be satisfied in mediocrity and not let yourself staff. Personally, I used to work in a helpdesk job, but my experiences and attitude spoke to better roads. I personally never stay satisfied with mediocrity and as such, keep myself moving career-wise.

But like the burger king comment, it really depends on the person. I know lots of people who've started in helpdesk positions and have gone on to bigger and better things.

Some skills are portable (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255158)

Some of the skills learned at an IT help desk are extremely worthwhile, and very portable. For example, the ability to speak in an accent so incomprehensible that after only a minute or two, the person at the other end will utter a soundless cry of inchoate fury and slam down the phone. This invaluable skill can get a telemarketer off the line when even an air horn fails.

If your training includes that particular accent so thick that even a fellow East Asian shakes his head and says, "Huh?", you can pretty much write your own ticket. At the very least, you are virtually guaranteed of a very well-paid position taking calls for the IRS.

Lessons learned .... (4, Insightful)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255164)

After 30 years in IT, here are some things I've learned about advancing a career.
  • Never stay at a job too long. Raises don't keep up, jumping ship for more money does
  • Never say "I don't know how to do that". Instead, say, "I'm not sure how to do that, it will take some time for me to read up on it"
  • There is no such thing as wasted time. You get paid the same whether the project gets tossed or not. Learn something from it and move on. It's the company's problem they are going to waste money, not yours.
  • Get rid of the ego and listen, you might learn something
  • Ask questions instead of dictating. 'My way is better because' arguments aren't received as well as "I'm not sure I understand, can you explain why doing x is better than doing y??"
  • Never be the last one out of a sinking ship, your loyalty will probably not be rewarded.
  • Learn something new all the time. When you understand networks and databases and telephone systems and several languages and how business works and how investors operate, you become valuable. Only knowing how to code Java makes you a code monkey.
  • Accept the fact you don't know everything, and question your knowledge in everything you think you are an expert in.
I think these work regardless of whether someone is in a help desk, development, systems, or management role.

Re:Lessons learned .... (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255672)

Well said sir. The only things I'd add is

Jumping ship at 1 year intervals look a bit questionable on a resume. Stick it out a bit and then go look for someone who will pay you what you're worth.

Learning is great, but try to stick to technologies that have a future. With the H1 craze, companies are addicted to hiring talent who already has the experience in whatever languages/dev environment they want, instead of say training people like we did before. After all, if these people don't work out you can deport them just like that.

Definitely not a launchpad (1)

melted (227442) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255186)

But not a dead end either. It's more of an impediment to your technical career. Take it from a guy who fucked up his job interview and had to spend 1.5 years in QA (the offer was too good to turn down). Even though I worked as a developer before I took that job and I've been a developer for over six years after that stint, it's still a big fat albatross on my neck, because every time someone sees my resume they all have the same question - WTF? No matter what I say in response, they'll think I'm not as good as the other guy who doesn't have a QA position on his resume, and I have to work twice as hard to convince them otherwise. Had I known back then what I know now, I would never have taken that position. And having support on your resume is an order of magnitude worse than QA.

Re:Definitely not a launchpad (1)

minusthink (218231) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255550)

"Not only am I an experienced developer, but I have experience with Quality Assurance. I have a good idea of the other side of the fence. I think it helps me ensure good coding and interface."

Re:Definitely not a launchpad (1)

melted (227442) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255926)

This doesn't help out there in the real world. To get hired as a developer, you need to convince the employer you're a big, throbbing brain, first and foremost. Having QA on your resume doesn't help with that.

Could go either way. (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255236)

For some people, it's a lifelong career. For me, I had a job that was partially helpdesk work when in college, and now I'm mostly done with my CS PhD.

Depends on the type of helpdesk too. (1)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255312)

I was doing support for device drivers for a while. I was being paid $35/hour to help in dealing with device driver problems (much of it was on the development side). This is the exception. Of course in the old days, when I called the help desk for SoftIce, I would get the company founders (I was using version .99).

Of course help desks today are manned by someone laughs when they say, "oh the software is not supposed to let you do that" after it wiped your hard drive. (Avanquest Partition Commander).

How it used to be (1)

Rastl (955935) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255324)

I've worked on and run help desk for nine years. Of course, I've been out of that business for the last six years.



When I was in charge, I looked at the help desk as a way to get people the basic skills and familiarity so they could move up in the company. I aimed for twelve to eighteen months of having them on my team and then helping them move into the area of their choice. Less than twelve and I wasn't getting a return on my training, more than eighteen showed lack of initiative.


The company where I had this working the best had an informal procedure for moving help desk people onto project teams. One of the project managers would ask me out to lunch. Over Arby's we would discuss the need and who I had that would fill it.


Why Arby's? We liked it, it was close, and then it became tradition. Many a career was launched over a roast beef sammich.


What I've noticed over the years is that the managers aren't as interested in using the help desk as a way to bring people in. The help desk where I'm currently working is really nothing but phone jockeys. It's a little better now that remote control is more pervasive but I still can't see them moving up any more. Which is really a shame.


A year or two on a decent help desk will give you the troubleshooting skills you need, as well as get you familiar with a corporate environment.

Is Help Desk a Launchpad or a Dead End? (1)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255376)

In the voice of Kosh, "yes".

A great start (1)

chipster (661352) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255412)

It was a great start for me. Once a Help Desk Jockey, now a CTO for a multi-million dollar corporation - and in a relatively short timeframe (in my early 30's).

I remained passionate and driven, and moved around enough to be exposed to myriads of technologies. Volunteered lots of time to F/OSS and non-profit causes (still do) to keep sharp, busy, and seasoned.

I really feel that all of these little pieces add to success, for any IT pro who insists on professional growth.

Total: $0.02

DUH. (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255422)

Help desk is almost always a great launch pad. It's also a great indicator of what kind of company you're working for.

If you land in the help desk in a decent sized company, and have any brains at all, you're out in a year, 18 months tops. On the flip side, if you end up a shitty company. You'll know within six months, and be working someplace else in 12.

People that have been help desk for five+ years scare me.

Re:DUH. (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256038)

People that have been help desk for five+ years scare me.


Why? Because we know the product inside out, can solve problems you've never heard of before just by recognizing the symptoms and like what we're doing?

Launchpad for me (1)

SportyGeek (694769) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255426)

I don't know how lucky I am, but I landed a Help Desk job after getting a B.S. in Microbiology. Less than 8 months later, I changed positions within the company and took on the moniker "programmer analyst". It was all thanks to some luck and a good environment at the Help Desk I served.


The face time with directors, programmer managers, and other higher-ups proved invaluable. I now have a nice set of references and developed good professional relationship with those people. It helps to be competent and not a bullshitter, too. Some people would be surprised on how quickly others pick up on that stuff.

No... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23255450)

I can only talk about where I work, but I would *NEVER* promote a Help Desk Monkey. Yes they can unlock people and reset passwords. Troubleshoot basic email issues. Install stuff that doesn't require editing conf files and such. On occasion that can even de-conflict applications.

But usually their heads are bigger than their actual "SKILZ" related to independant thought are lacking. I justb really don't want any free-range "hackerzx" having access to my servers and network. Nope...

Just as there is a place for someone who can take care of my need to super-size a burger order, so is there a need for monkeys to unlock email accounts.

Fact: Having a CS degree shows that you can follow instructions from other *people*, have a grasp of things beyong rote knowledge of keystrokes, and can manage without a GUI. Help Desk Monkeys don't have these "skilZ".

Salary Guide (1)

aetherspoon (72997) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255454)

The linked salary guide in the blurb goes to a subscription.
There is a small salary guide [computerworld.com] in the article, I think that should have been linked to instead.

Every IT person should start at the helpdesk (4, Insightful)

Alzheimers (467217) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255480)

Frankly, I think every person who wants to work in IT should spend at least a year on the helpdesk.

In my experience, the number one problem with IT is that the programmers and managers really don't have enough interaction with the end users to understand their side of things. Every time there's an outtage because someone kicked the cord out of a server, or every patch that breaks usability in the name of some wizzbang feature, it really falls on the helpdesk to manage and do damage control while you're out "on break".

To the rest of the company, the helpdesk is literally the face of the IT department. They're the ones who get to deal with irate customers, desperate password seekers, and the social manipulators.

On the help desk, you learn every quirk of every system your company supports. You learn all the "unofficial" tricks that get things done, regardless of policy or procedure. Most importantly, you learn who to call when situations arise you can't handle. You know *everyone*, so that when application Z is causing catastrophic system failures on your server farm you know exactly who to go to to make it stop.

Re:Every IT person should start at the helpdesk (1)

dropadrop (1057046) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255842)

Frankly, I think every person who wants to work in IT should spend at least a year on the helpdesk. In my experience, the number one problem with IT is that the programmers and managers really don't have enough interaction with the end users to understand their side of things. Every time there's an outtage because someone kicked the cord out of a server, or every patch that breaks usability in the name of some wizzbang feature, it really falls on the helpdesk to manage and do damage control while you're out "on break". To the rest of the company, the helpdesk is literally the face of the IT department. They're the ones who get to deal with irate customers, desperate password seekers, and the social manipulators. On the help desk, you learn every quirk of every system your company supports. You learn all the "unofficial" tricks that get things done, regardless of policy or procedure. Most importantly, you learn who to call when situations arise you can't handle. You know *everyone*, so that when application Z is causing catastrophic system failures on your server farm you know exactly who to go to to make it stop.

It really depends on what kind of a helpdesk it is. I think one of the most valuable skills an IT person can learn in helpdesk is communication. Learning to talk to "normal" people so they "some how" understand what you are saying.

Other then that, I don't think IT people accidently pull of cables from servers, especially not to give helpdesk more work. IT people can be pretty tied with time, so mistakes happen.
From all the jobs I've been to, it's the boss who makes most of the difference. Some IT managers believe short breaks are ok (and won't pay to do risky changes out of office hours). In these cases chances to have outages grow.

I think I have once shut down the wrong server, and even then I did it from the command line (display and keyboard attached to the wrong machine..:) I'm sure it caused some work for the helpdesk, but things like that happen.

I don't think there are very many people who have never made a mistake in their job. In some jobs mistakes just have bigger consequences (at least if you are unlucky).

Don't think of it as just Help Desk (2, Interesting)

drgroove (631550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255494)

I work for one of the 5 largest independent software vendors in the world. We sell a help desk product, which accounts for the lionshare of revenue in that product category.

If you're starting off in the help desk, be aware that working in a help desk is part of a much larger ecosystem known as IT Service Management. If you're interested in furthering your career, explore as much information around the ITSM space as possible, especially as it relates to the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) process framework.

According to Gartner, of those publicly traded companies which have revenues in excess of $1 billion/yr, 90% of them either have implemented an ITIL process framework, are in the process of implementing one, or are strongly considering implementing one. ITSM is a huge marketplace, with tons of opportunity, and few active practitioners who are both experienced and forward thinking. It's a perfect place to write your own ticket and have a strong future in IT, as well as work with multi-national companies in shaping how they manage IT.

Recognizing the help desk's (or Service Desk) place in this ecosystem will help you parlay your position into having a role in shaping how IT organizations define, build, launch, operate and improve IT Services back to their customers.

Service Desk forms a critical part of an IT organization, where Incidents, Problems and Changes are managed and communicated. Known how Change interacts with Release and Configuration Management. Know how these in turn work in tandem with Capacity, Availability, Service Level Management, etc.

ITSM professionals are in demand. I'm currently hiring 4 ITSM professionals, whose salaries are in the $125k - $150k range. Many of the individuals currently working for me started off in help desk. It's all about your own personal initiative. If you see a help desk gig as a dead end, it will be. However, if you can see the larger picture, you can work your way up to a very rewarding and profitable career in IT Service Management.

Re:Don't think of it as just Help Desk (1)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256148)

So, what exactly is an "Infrastructure Library process framework"? How do you define "service management"?

Why are you capitalizing random words as if they are divine concepts, such as "Incidents, Problems and Changes?"

We Slashdotters tend to appreciate posts that contain information, not management buzzword doublespeak. Do you have a 6-Sigma black belt, too?

Good Timing (1)

citking (551907) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255558)

I am actually experiencing a climb through the helpdesk system, albeit with 2 different companies.

I started out as a workstation helpdesk jockey, driving from school to school doing basic workstation, network, and server duties. Nothing too fancy, just repairing older PIIs and PIIIs, adding users into a Novell environment, and patching/unpatching ports as needed. The nice side was being able to drive locally, get reimbursed for mileage at a decent rate, and getting close to the staff members and faculty at each of the 5 schools I had. The downsides were the two inept helpdesk managers (one who had an inferiority complex coupled with a bad Chinese accent that no one could understand).

Their manager was even more inept. Imagine an entomologist who couldn't find work in his field so he joined IT management. He loved bugs and he would have made a damned fine entomologist given a chance, but his IT skills were pretty bad and his interpersonal skills were even worse.

I left the school district after a year and a half after I got a position as a helpdesk manager for higher education. The helpdesk was fairly new and I was given free reign to do what I needed to do to make it better. For my first year and a half things were great - desktop and phone support were being handled well and the network admin decided to show me the ropes of Active Directory. I first started out with DHCP and printer setups with static IPs, then as I progressed I started doing rights assignments and creating shares on our network for people. Things were handled very well - a call to the helpdesk was generally resolved within a few minutes.

Then, one afternoon, someone decided that the giant beast that comprised a different aspect of local higher education thought the state had a similar mission as us and, as a cost-savings measure that has yet to save any costs, we were merged with The Beast. The Beast had a relatively enterprisey helpdesk system (read: unempowered and unknowledgeable), a server admin (Mordak) with an ego that would allow no-one access to anything, a policy that completely disabled DHCP within the building, thus crippling customer service and support when a machine was upgraded or a NIC was replaced (because, of course, I could not add a static IP to their system. I might make a mistake).

The Beast, under the direction of a new CIO, has now a semi-fixed ITIL-based desk being built now. Their helpdesk is taking over my roles and I am being promoted (with due difficulty, jealousy, and lack of guidance) to manage an new helpdesk that focuses simply on our online program and, at the same time, manage the file server and LAN at our soon-to-be own building. None of this happened without a fight from me however: The stigma of 'helpdesk manager' simply meant (to these feeble IT folk) that I could never be trusted to do anything important as, say, order and manage a file server, construct a basic LAN, work with outside contractors and electricians, and construct a small but well-designed server room. No, instead, they (including the CIO and the Mordak wanna-be) tried to block the acquisition of a server and said that all of the servers we'd need should be centralized and that they'd handle everything. This coming from the people who left a critical enterprise web server offline for an entire weekend despite knowing about the issue on Friday! After the server situation was sorted out I ams till expected to adhere to 'guidelines' that are specifically directed at us and not at the other campuses we have spread across the state. I think, to finally make the transition, I'll need to be out of sight (site), out of mind.

My point is, if you are in a helpdesk position and you want to grow out of it, be prepared to stand up for what you need and what you know. IT folks, for some reason, get very territorial and hate to see any plebe who has actually talked to customers and displayed human empathy go into a world dominated by crass badasses who'd rather lock themselves in a server room and caress a Cisco 6505 all day. I am in the middle of all of this now and I can't wait to just be done with it and do my new job without constant harassment and degradation.

It always depends on the individual (1)

lantastik (877247) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255668)

This is going to sound very cliche, but your success is what you make of it. Help desk can be either, or. 13 years ago when I got my start, it was definitely a launch pad. I imagine the landscape of the help desk has changed quite a bit since then, and may even require a little bit more effort, but it can still be a launchpad.

Re:It always depends on the individual (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23256040)

>but your success is what you make of it

Very true. I started about 13 years ago (coincidentally) as a contractor on an internal helpdesk at HP. I was subsequently hired on full time, promoted to an IT engineer position where I responsible for the Seattle office's IT infrastructure, then left the company and worked my way up through being a network engineer, an operations architect, into my current position as an operations director. I've been fortunate enough to have had great bosses who put a lot of focus on personal and career development, the right environment, and a degree of luck.

I know people who have started along the same route and have stagnated or become burnt out, so it doesn't work for everyone, but I think anyone working for a half-way decent company with the right attitude and aptitude will not be not have a problem finding promotions. Working on a helpdesk should be a great opportunity to improve problem solving and critical thinking skill, both of which are essential to moving up the food chain.

Don't sign up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23255680)

Here are salary results from : http://www.indeed.com/salary/Help-Desk-Technician.html

Help Desk Technician
        $33,000
IT Help Desk Technician
        $30,000
Help Desk Support Technician
        $32,000
Help Desk Technician Tier
        $28,000
Hardware Support Technician
        $33,000
Fire Dispatcher
        $38,000
PC LAN Technician
        $32,000
Customer Service And Management
        $27,000
Helpdesk Technician
        $32,000
Technical Support Technician
        $33,000
Sales & Marketing Associate
        $44,000

Not in a small company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23255700)

If you work help desk in a large company, then there may be problems getting the peripheral experience that helps move into other roles.
However, in a small company, the help desk staff may also end up working on the company website, helping debug programs, systems administration, and so on, because they'll be amongst the more technical staff.
With some additional experience under your belt in an area of greater interest, you can then move in that direction - whether jumping fully into that role, or just into a position that specifically mixes support and, say, development, and then use that as the next step in your chosen IT career.
Additionally, small businesses you're more likely to be in a position of managing a small team of other support staff if you stick with them for a while, and can then move towards management if that's more your preference.

External Help Desk = exposure to employers (1)

KeithJM (1024071) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255718)

13 years ago, I worked in Technical Support for a fairly large company that sold database software and DB development tools. It's basically help desk but for external customers rather than internal users. This was in the tech bubble, when everyone was trying to hire people constantly.
Your whole day is spent with technical users or their managers (in our case, DBAs or developers) calling you to help them with problems they're having. If you were particularly bright, helpful, or sometimes just polite, you'd get offered a job. They just seemed to assume that they needed your skills, because if they had it in-house already, they wouldn't have had to call you.
The job also started with a couple of months of training on every product the company sold before you even hit the phones. In this company, patches were also handled by Support. So as I advanced, I got to fix bugs, port the product to different flavors of unix, and teach lots of classes.
It was a great first job that set me up for a career as a database developer and data architect.

I think a gig on a help desk is a terrible idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23255742)

I think you need 2, maybe 3 gigs at least, and upgrade your processor as well.

Blindfolded (1)

ultraslide (267976) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255770)

When I started out on a call center help desk 10 years ago, we used to kid the desk side support guys that we could thier job blindfolded, and we did. No RDP, or VNC and rarely PC Anywhere.

Anybody who could quickly resolve problems over the phone was moved up to remote network support, and much better pay. It might take 18 months to get out but it was well worth it.

10 years later I am a well paid consultant. I support those who support. The cycle continues :-)

I am also super nice to anyone answering the phone in any call center. I've seen it from their end of the line.

Its Both (1)

eyeota (686153) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255818)

I always thought it was a launchpad *to* a dead end. YMMV.

Don't be a helpless helpdesk victim! (1)

unsupported (230678) | more than 6 years ago | (#23255968)

Helpdesk is not a dead end. Unless you have a victim mentality. I've worked my way up from the helpdesk at several companies and passed by a lot of the helpless helpdesk victims. Now I work at my dream job doing information security for a large government contractor. Some tips to pass on:

1. Find a company or industry you want to work in, then join their help desk.
2. Find a company with college tuition benefits and who will pay for certifications.
3. Get some certifications towards the area you want to work in.
4. Let them pay for your college and educate yourself into a better job!

Also, general company wisdom. If you have a problem with no solution, you are a troublemaker. If you have a problem with a solution, you are a mover and shaker!

Just think small .. (1)

Kagato (116051) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256006)

I climbed out in the 90s and am now a Sr. Developer. Smaller companies are the way to go. You have more opportunity to work on side projects. Also, don't be afraid to change companies. If you are doing some cool things in the help desk but IT doesn't even want to look at it, you need to look at other companies where you can come in as a Junior Developer.

Other things to note. If you're working for a company that does contract and outsource help desk, make sure it's the kind where you are on-site. There's a lot more opportunity when you're part of mid sized company. I would shy away from places like geek squad. Your reputation could get tied to the reputation of the company as a whole. It could be a mixed bag.

The last thing you want is to be in a 250+ person help desk. Limited opportunity, and the cultures usually value conformance. Upwards paths are limited to supervisor/manager duties for the help desk. Think small!

I cannot stress enough, be willing to skip around between employers to get what you want.

GREAT experience for me (1)

doublefrost (1042496) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256012)

I'm 2 years in this Help Desk job and the amount learned is quite invaluable to me. 2 reasons : there were other tasks involved like light server administration tasks, and secondly, I was proactive about learning new things.

Help desk launched my career... (1)

Zephyre (111710) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256014)

I started on the help desk for a financial software company. It took me a little less than a year to get poached by a hedge fund I dealt with every day. Now I'm sitting on a trading floor gaining loads of experience not related to computers at all. Basically, I've shifted gears and am on track for a trader oriented role.

Granted, I spent a lot of time doing quantitative work with clients to back up the software, but I basically answered phones all day (in jeans and a t-shirt, how I miss that).

For a niche skill set, with great people skills, you can definitely get yourself in the backdoor of some firms. You're greatest ally is the boutique firm with no huge IT infrastructure.

Re:Help desk launched my career... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23256166)

Congratulations! Sounds like you're well on your track to making VP of Murders and Executions someday..

Size Matters (quit snickering) (1)

LaminatorX (410794) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256028)

There's a huge difference between manning the helldesk at a giant corporation vs a small firm. In the former case, you're likely an expendable resource little better than a sweatshop worker. In the latter, you have the opportunity to interact with other depertments and management in the course of your duties, and impress them. If all you company knows about you are you're handling times, you're going nowhere. If the sales reps bring you cookies and half the VP's come to you for favors, you have some opportunities to explore.

Worked out well for me (1)

Shux (5108) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256062)

I was trained in CS (at a very reputable university) and had some trouble finding a job right out of graduation because I didn't have much "real world" programming experience. However there was one company that I really wanted to work for. They were small, right down the road, and there stuff was all Linux based. They unfortunately were not looking for developers at the time. So I took an entry level support tech position and less then a year later the head of R&D found me and brought me over to his team. I've been there ever since and could not be happier. It was the EXACT position I was looking for when I got out of college, but I had to get my foot in the door first.

I recommend this plan of action under the following conditions:
  * The company is small(ish) and growing quickly
  * You are confident of your skills and think you really could provide more value for the company in another position once you have your foot in the door

That being said, I had better get back to work :)

AOL Desk Experience (2, Interesting)

AgentBurbank (1282070) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256140)

I did a stint on the Compuserve/AOL help desk in college (in the 90s heydey of dial-up). I technically worked in the cancellations department, and my job was to "Save" accounts by convincing people not to cancel. I saved countless accounts by helping people quickly and easily fix common dial-up issues or re-install TCP/IP in Windows 95/98/Me. I was of course eventually fired for going "off-script" since there was no script for actually fixing a computer... even though I was successfully convincing people not to cancel the account that they couldn't even log onto. When I started the job there was no script. Once they handed out scripts it got pretty absurd and rather pointless to even take the call. The scripts were worded so that you were basically saying "I'm not going to cancel your account" in a way that sounded like you said "I just canceled your account." As long as the customer said "okay" you were supposed to keep the account active, hang up, and call it a save. I never did that, and had much more success anyway. During a good week I would save 300 accounts, snagging a $1 per acct bonus plus hourly wages (15 - 20 hours at MAYBE min. wage if I remember correctly). This was WAY more saves than anyone else in the office who didn't know the first thing about actually fixing a customer's problem. My call times were a bit longer than other employees, but my save rate was FAR higher. I earned enough to buy a car before getting fired, which was all I was there for anyhow. AOL basically didn't care about fixing problems, they just wanted you to convince the customer to put the account on "hold" so that next time they opened IE and it automagically dialed in, the customer would be charged for an account they thought they had closed.

Don't want to leave. (1)

The Raven (30575) | more than 6 years ago | (#23256150)

I've done help desk (Internet technical support) for most of my career... because I enjoy it. My hope for my future career is not to leave phone support, but to get a job as server or hardline support. I actually enjoy helping noobs just as much as helping tech experts, but you get paid a lot more for helping people with real problems.
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