In my 14 years of experience in IT, I’ve always had a contentious relationship with network teams. They always push back when you contact them even if you prove they are in the wrong. They often push changes haphazardly or clean up firewall rules without verifying if someone would object. Lately however, they have been getting increasingly on my nerves. A few teams don’t ever bother to try to contact the impacted users directly. Instead, they simply reassign it for someone else to do it for them. This leads to long delays and transferring responsibility.What is more frustrating is when they ask for network details… which are already in the ticket and email!
I can finally speak (or in this case, write) openly about a major upheaval in my life. I accepted a new position within my company about a month and a half ago! I was sworn to secrecy by my current manager to not reveal my new job until Monday of last week during a team meeting. This information was extremely difficult for me to contain. Not just because it was great news, but also because I felt disingenuous dealing with my coworkers (some who read this blog) until the big news could be made public. Although, it was certainly an ego boost when following the announcement, our manager added that two of ours teams would merge to compensate for my departure even once a new hire could be found.
I was somewhat concerned the news would hit the team hard because of the added workload, yet everyone has been very positive towards me. Will I miss the team? Certainly, but I felt it was time to move on to advance my professional career. However, this post is not to brag (ok, well maybe a little) but rather to reflect on my past 7 years in Major Incident Management.
When I was first hired by my company as an intern at a Helpdesk through CEGEP, I was thrilled. I was spared the challenge of chasing for one the next year. The job also required I work over the Summer (an added bonus). Once my 1 month training was completed, like most interns, I was rapidly given the least attractive shifts: evenings and weekends. Most would balk at such assignments, particularly a student, but I was raised with a strong work ethic. During these shifts, we were obviously fewer agents on the queue and thus I was exposed to Incident Management more thoroughly than some. I was almost immediately enamored with the role. Growing up, I was the type of kid who enjoyed taking apart my toys to learn how they were assembled, before putting them back together. I would soon after lose interest with them. Incident Management (or IMC) was as close to looking over the “big picture” and understanding how IT computer systems interact with one another short of becoming a system architect.
I applied when the first opportunity arose after CEGEP. I did not get the job and was never explained why I was not retained. Later, when I returned full time after University, I applied again. The interview began with my would be manager asking me “Are you single?” In context, he was a 6’7″, 230+ lbs man. Taken aback, I found myself replying: “I’m flattered, but I like to cuddle and prefer to be the big spoon.” We shared a laugh, and he explained married individuals or those in long term committed relationships struggled with the work-life balance. At the time, it was a 24/7 emergency pager shift every second week. I was single at the time and had no interest in dating and accepted the job when it was formally offered.
I will not mince words, it is a difficult job. For the first few years, I had little to no social life. However, it was certainly rewarding from an intellectual perspective. I was mentally stimulated by the challenges, interacted with numerous individuals throughout the country and later abroad, and developed a profound understanding of my clients’ IT infrastructure, business processes, and interests. Over the years, I advanced to a senior position and shared my expertise with numerous members. Thus, I became a mentor both professionally but also in some cases on personal matters. I was also moved around to fill vacancies within the team to cover difficult clients.
While this sounds mostly positive, I will admit it was fraught with many difficulties. For one, I suffered from extreme bouts of insomnia for a period of over a year. To be fair, this was the cumulative effect of a very difficult client, a difficult home situation (I couldn’t sleep during the day because my building was undergoing massive construction work) and a slight medical situation that has been rectified. I also developed an addiction to caffeine I struggle to break. The schedule and demands have since been relaxed considerably within the team and things became less hectic. Nevertheless, I felt I was spinning my wheels and hit a glass ceiling. The challenge was not really there anymore. Where my colleagues would dread difficult incidents, I almost wanted them to occur to give me something to “bite into”. I was essentially bored and unfulfilled with what had almost become a routine. One coworker joked I had become part of the furniture within the team. It was time for me to move on.
Nevertheless, 7 years went by so fast. A time that spans almost a fifth of my life, and about half adulthood. My last day was bittersweet. I leave trusted colleagues and some friends behind, I know inherently, despite promises to the contrary, these relationships will slowly fade over time. However, I felt this was something I needed as a person and I look forward to the new challenges in my new position. I’ve come along way over those years, and the crucible has made me a stronger person as a whole. It’s a very difficult job, and we struggle to find replacements when a team members leave or abandon the job. This might not be a ringing endorsement, but I ask any readers to heed me when I say if you are ambitious it does offer tremendous exposure within any company and opens doors or windows into other avenues within IT or businesses. Too often, IT professionals are stereotyped into anti-social nerds. While there are some cases of this, the job does develop one’s social skills within a professional context, particularly leadership. A quality which transcends into my personal life. I recommend anyone at any service or help desk to seriously look into the role.
Or don’t be an asshole just because the person on the other line is from a foreign country.
It’s no secret a significant amount of the Information Technology industry is involved in outsourcing. I work for a multinational IT service provider since CEGEP*. I’ve experienced the transition from on shore support teams to offshore teams firsthand. I will not mince words. The morale in our team was abysmal. Besides the fear for our own job security, the future of the industry, departure of esteemed colleagues, it was the challenges of dealing with foreigners who did not share the same expertise, familiarity nor experience of those they were ultimately replacing which exacted some of the biggest tolls on our psyche.
It’s very easy to externalize our own concerns onto others. There was plenty of resentment misdirected towards individuals who were only culpable of wanting to find employment in hopes of improving their lot in life. One such instance involved an incident where the departing member neglected to instruct his offshore replacements on the proper re-initialization sequence for an application. After six difficult hours, we finally turned to the former disgruntled employee to secure his assistance. I took it upon myself to call the individual. After explaining the situation, he laughed at me and hung up. We finally resolved the incident after another hour of trial and error once we found a project team lead who once deployed a code fix to the server some four years prior. During the incident, the client asked me aloud: “How can you remain so calm in a situation like this?” To defuse the situation, my response was: “you can’t hear me when I mute my phone”. 🙂
As all transitions, there is a grace period. Perhaps my perception is skewed for I only entered the workforce in the late 90s. I sense North American culture has become very short-sighted in the last decade. Corporate success is not only measured in profitability but also requires constant and significant growth every quarter otherwise stock value suffers. The demands to be competitive in the current climate compel and force many companies to view outsourcing as one of the few avenues to cut costs in order to increase profits and thus stock value. Executive compensation often involve significant stock options which further exacerbates the issue.
Several developing countries made a conscious decision to modernize their economy to improve the welfare of their population. Their strategy involved legislation and policy changes to improve education, in this case in the field of computer science, to attract foreign jobs and investments. They adapted to the changing global economy and many are reaping the benefits. In turn, there has been some backlash from some “first world” countries against the trend where customers and clients pride themselves on remaining on home soil. Some countries offer tax credits to keep staff in-house. Another technique is to move call and data centers to less urban areas to reduce real estate related costs.
Whenever I hear friends or acquaintances complain about foreign customer service, I recommend taking a deep breath and remembering there’s another human being on the other end; a person with dreams, their own personal challenges and most importantly feelings. Be considerate and if they truly give you a hard time or poor service, just escalate to their manager or supervisor. It will do wonders for your blood pressure.
* For those of you who reside outside of Quebec, CEGEP replaces 12th grade and is a precursor to University studies.