A Tale of Two IT Guys

Every year during the holidays, a group of my high school friends gets together to chew the fat and play catch-up on each others’ lives. A tradition since our first year of college, this originally was our chance to top each others’ tales of higher education. In a reflection of the fact that we’ve since moved on to the working world, this year, the conversation addressed another topic: IT guys.

IT professionals are trained — maybe with good reason — that the biggest threat to a system isn’t viruses or phishing scams but users themselves. Does this mean IT professionals walk around their offices and look at everyone as if they’re life-size Trojan viruses?

From my friend Nick’s experience, one would think so.

Shortly after starting a new job at a sales office, Nick was told he needed to see Jerry the IT guy to obtain a username, password, as well as e-mail and server access to begin chasing down his first set of leads. Anxious to have a good start at his new job, Nick immediately went to Jerry’s office to get things set up.

While talking on the phone and pushing buttons, Jerry said he’d do it as soon as he could. Helpless, Nick told his supervisor about the delay, and minutes later he flew around the corner, telling Nick to stand up from his chair and move aside. The username and password were set up in minutes, and he left some hand-scribbled notes on how to gain access to the server, where the sales leads were kept. Eager to hit the ground running, Nick began to follow the instructions but was soon lost in a maze of strangely abbreviated folders. Feeling he’d made his point once before by going through his supervisor, this time he called Jerry directly.

Less busy but still visibly annoyed, Jerry promptly came over to methodically show Nick how to gain access to the folder of leads he needed. Nick was appreciative of Jerry and understood this was a low-priority task of his. However, the exchange that followed gave Nick an overall bad impression of IT professionals.

“I asked him, ‘So, what was wrong?’”

“It was an ID-Ten T error,” Jerry replied. Nick didn’t want to appear stupid, but nonetheless inquired, “What’s that? Is it something that could happen again?”

Jerry slyly asked, “Haven’t you ever heard of an ID-Ten-T Error before?”

Nick immediately looked it up on Wikipedia and learned that an ID-Ten T Error is an inside joke among technical professionals. When the user is the reason for an error or a problem with a system, it’s called an ID-Ten-T Error. ID-Ten-T or ID10T is leet speak (remember last column?) for idiot. Nick’s a big boy, but he still couldn’t believe Jerry’s audacity and felt it best to avoid him at all costs unless his computer caught fire.

On the other end of the spectrum is my roommate Elliott, whose best friend at the investment group he works for is the IT guy, Glenn. During a similar on-boarding process, Glenn, unlike Jerry, tried to establish a friendly relationship with Elliott from the get-go. While admitting he certainly was busy, Glenn described his main job function as helping users like him. They talked briefly about sports and good lunch spots near the office.

A few weeks later, when slow network speed was hindering business at the company, Glenn went to Elliott and presumably other employees he liked and told them not to stream audio or video for a couple of days because he was being asked to investigate what was slowing it down and didn’t want to embarrass him as a new employee. The two are friends to this day.

Being an IT consultant means you have to deal with end users with a wide range of experience. No one says you have to go out of your way to accommodate every user that needs more attention, but because computers now are an indispensable part of the workday for most, it can mean the difference between low and high productivity, which means their jobs. While Nick may have just caught Jerry on a bad day and Elliott may have just caught Glenn on a good day, each of their encounters had a lasting impression.

This is a testament to the importance of the position, a notion that shouldn’t be taken lightly by IT professionals regularly dealing with end users.

– Ben Warden, bwarden@certmag.com

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