Computers are an essential part of the working world. And while their
benefits are many, computers -- being man-made machines -- have problems.
Help desk technicians aid computer users with hardware and software questions
not answered in the computer's manual. They help people figure out what's
wrong with their computers and walk them through the steps of solving that
Companies Need Help Desk Techs to Keep Up
Basically, help desk technicians exist to make businesses run more smoothly,
says Sharon Thomson. Thomson is a support analyst for a research and development
company. She is also a member of a professional association for information
"Companies of any size are realizing that although they need computers
to get the job done, computers can take valuable time away from employees
trying to get the job done," says Thomson.
"At one time, an employee could know their job and know what they needed
about the computer or software they were using. With the rapid change in software
and hardware of the computer, it is becoming more of a challenge to stay on
top or even in the know when it comes to computers."
More companies are realizing this, Thomson explains, and that is driving
the demand for help desk technicians.
Alan Kasper is a product manager for business service optimization at a
computer company. He agrees that the help desk has become indispensable to
the corporate world.
"Many, many organizations have elevated the service desk to a central point
of contact for all issues, not only anomalies," Kasper says. "These companies
use the service desk as a vehicle to run their company, not just support it."
Other careers in this category include technical support specialists. They
are troubleshooters like help desk technicians. But technical support specialists
are more hands-on, installing, cleaning and repairing computer hardware and
Most computer support specialists start as help desk technicians.
Help desk technicians are in demand because computer systems are growing
more complex by the minute, and people need someone to help them through this
technological maze, says Fred Pack. He is vice-president of a software company
that creates a web-based help desk product.
Pack believes that computer troubles can slow a company's productivity,
and that help desk technicians can help untangle the mess.
"Downtime or inefficient use of the systems results in lower employee productivity,
and increased employee frustration and unhappiness on the job," Pack explains.
"Additionally, the complexity of office networks and applications has caused
the need for help to increase.
"All of these factors combine to make the help desk a very important place
in a company, and the value of the help desk technicians to increase. There
is every reason to expect the demand on help desks to increase."
There are some shadows hanging over the help desk profession's seemingly
sunny future. Chief among these is outsourcing. This is the practice in which
a company delegates certain responsibilities to another company, either local
or in another country, such as India. Experts are divided as to whether outsourcing
could affect the help desk profession.
"This career definitely can be affected by outsourcing," Pack says. "That
is the chief downside to this career path. It is not unusual for companies
to outsource their help desk -- either to another country, such as India,
or to a USA-based 'help desk company.'"
But Kasper sees the trend as somewhat less of a threat. "Given that the
service desk is mission critical, many companies are reluctant to outsource
the service desk responsibilities," he says. "This is particularly true in
those companies who use the service desk as the central point for all issue
People Skills Required
So what do you need to get into this field? Kasper recommends taking a
certification course. "Like other fields, education is important," he advises.
"Those individuals who are educated will rise above others who have not taken
the trouble to be certified."
Because this is such a diverse profession, some specialties are in stronger
demand than others. Pack believes it's especially helpful to have knowledge
of the Internet, networking and the latest applications.
But most of the skills needed to succeed in this career are personality-based.
Thomson says that patience is indeed a virtue in this profession, because
much of the job requires working with the public.
"You need to be patient with the computer systems because you have to figure
out what happened by working backwards," she explains. "You need to be patient
with the client whose computer it is because they are under a deadline that,
to them, is extreme and they are always rushed."
Other skills include being able to speak to clients in plain English, not
technical jargon. "Speak in their words," Thomson says. "If you need the techie
terminology, do it in your head or on a piece of paper.
"They are usually trying to mix what they know to be happening with what
they think you need to hear. Break it down...repeat it back to them -- then
move forward. Otherwise you will only frustrate your client and yourself."
But you don't just need to speak to do this job well -- you also need to
listen. "You need to be a good listener," Thomson continues. "Often the problem
that you are hearing or reading from the client is the latest symptom and
only a small piece of the picture.
"They may have had many problems that they have attempted to fix and this
one they can't get past. Or they may know what to do, but because of stresses
in their job, they can't think or use words that you are looking for or need
to hear. So listen to what they are saying as well as to what they are not
Help Desk Institute
The world's largest membership association for the service and
The funniest tech support stories on the Internet