The technical support specialist deals with the nitty-gritty of troubleshooting and problem solving, using specialized technical knowledge to provide computer support. Help desk support serves as the middleman, acting as the administrator to answer the phone and route the call to the proper specialist. The most common problems that technical specialists address are: connectivity-the user cannot reach data or gain access to it; missing data-data cannot be found; slow performance-excessive amounts of users are slowing down the system; overload-lack of space on a machine for data; or program problems-the program is not running efficiently. While some companies have an internal group to support their technical needs, many large businesses outsource their technical help to other firms. Companies will often pay someone else to supply their hardware and equipment and to provide support for their system and all the technology needed to run it. Database management plays a large part in administering a company’s or client’s data, and Sybaseª is one of the most popular applications to create and manage databases. Many companies are heading toward certifying employees in database management. Sybaseª databases are supported by Unix and operating platforms such as Windows. A technical support specialist with background in both Sybaseª and Unix is more valuable. Knowledge of Oracleª, a more fine-tuned database program, is also in demand, as are Microsoft applications, particularly Sequel Serverª. A technical support specialist should be adaptable and able to work flexible shifts and hours in this round-the-clock business. “The hours are demanding and there is no such thing as nine-to-five. Your pager is on you at all times, even outside of the office. We have 24-hour, 7-day-a-week coverage to deal with clients and I often work a 12-hour day,” says one professional. In addition, stress levels run fairly high, since all problems are considered urgent. “The client doesn’t have any technical savvy or understanding of the problem. All they see is a screen where they can type something in and click on a button to make something happen. We can’t resolve everything immediately, and my job becomes stressful because I’m dealing with people who are often irate.”
In your first job, it’s not unlikely to get stuck with the night shift, particularly at a large company. After a few years, you might be eligible to work during the day, though on a less desirable shift, such as 3Ð11 p.m. You can also expect to spend at least 7.5 hours of a nine-hour day in front of the computer.
The hottest field right now for technical support specialists is in Internet development. A lot of companies are just throwing Internet sites up and are in need of technical support people to maintain them. There are also consulting firms, which hire tech support people who are sent out to companies for a period of time. With further training in Unix, a technical support specialist could also move into systems analysis and administration. There is also a need for specialized industry knowledge, such as a background in finance.