Your computer suddenly makes funny gurgling noises and the screen goes
black. You press every button on your keyboard, but nothing happens. Your
computer has crashed -- and the document you've spent countless hours on is
in serious risk of being lost forever!
Now your heart rate is up and you've broken into a cold sweat. Who are
you going to call? An online help desk technician, of course!
Online help desk technicians, or computer support specialists as they are
sometimes known, provide technical support and advice to users. Without them,
there would be no one to come to the rescue when your computer crashes. They
figure out what the problems are and then guide you through a solution.
"Help desk technicians are rapidly becoming the modern-day equivalent of
mid-20th century mechanics," says Matt Baker. He is a help desk professional
for an Internet service provider.
You can often find these specialists working within an organization or
directly for computer or software companies. Many of these technical professionals
work for help desk or support services firms on a contract basis. This is
known as "outsourcing."
Many others work for Internet service providers. People in this profession
work mostly in offices, in rooms equipped with phones and computer terminals.
Help desk professionals have one goal -- assess a customer's problem and
hopefully save the day. Specific duties can vary, but most spend a considerable
amount of their time answering phones that never stop ringing and e-mails
that never stop coming.
Once online or on the phone, they try to relieve your fears and guide you
through a solution.
This can be a hard and sometimes unthankful occupation. "I can't say I
have ever felt passionate about this job," says Baker. "I don't know how I
ever could. It's not like the clients stand up after I finish for the day
The job can be very stressful. These professionals almost have to be part
technical wizards and part psychologists. This is because most of the calls
they take are from people in various states of distress. No one ever calls
just to say hi.
This occupation also features an interesting catch-22. The better the technicians
are at their jobs, the more people will phone in for help. This can sometimes
create problems when the phone lines get too busy. Callers become even more
frustrated as they wait for the next available operator.
"The role of the help desk professional is always changing," says help
desk technician Marla Frazier. She works for a training organization for support
Typically, many online help desk technicians work regular daytime hours
in full-time jobs, 35 to 40 hours a week. But there are many others who work
rotating shifts, including nights and weekends. It just depends on what kind
of company you work for.
Software companies often don't need to staff help desks nights and weekends.
However, Internet service providers usually staff help desks in off-hours
to deal with problems encountered by home computer users. Some help desks
run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There are no real physical requirements in this job. All you really do
is sit at a desk in front of a computer and talk a lot on the phone. As long
as you can read, type and think clearly, you'll have no problem. This can
be an ideal occupation for people who are wheelchair-bound.
Help people through their computer problems
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Computer Science Teachers, Postsecondary
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