I hate not knowing how things work. So, when I started working at an IT company, I had no idea how much of this feeling I was in for. Working with people who are constantly creating, fixing, and purchasing equipment and software for things that you don’t understand but have to help with is an experiment in constant uncertainty and oftentimes, frustration.
It hasn’t been all bad, though. In the last two years I’ve learned a lot about how to help people who are working on things that I don’t understand. And, as it turns out, things that make IT run well, can also help your life to run smoothly. These are some life lessons I’ve learned from working in IT that I think could help anyone.
1. Always have a backup
Redundancy is a word I have heard A LOT in the last 2 years. For our customers, it basically means that if machine A goes down, machine B, C, and D will wake up and do everything that machine A was doing. Oh, and every piece of data that is housed on A is also housed in seven different places in multiple formats in case machine A is caught in a hurricane, B is laid waste by a blizzard and C is taken out in a sudden mudslide
We shouldn’t live under the fear that something will go wrong. It’s smart, however, to have a plan in place should the worst happen. Have an external battery for your cell phone. Keep a set of jumper cables in your car. Know where your spare keys are. Memorize some phone numbers in case your contacts get erased. Back up your files at home just in case. Always have a backup.
2. Good fences make good neighbors
There’s a thing called “zero trust architecture” that system administrators use as a security measure. It requires that anyone, from the president of the company to the cleaning personnel, to first authenticate before being granted access to a network resource. Too much access is considered a liability and, will at some point in time or another, be abused or taken advantage of. Using this security model, you section off network segments into individual pieces so that if you are hacked, you can contain the breach.
We should all strive to cultivate vulnerability, but building the trust for that takes time. Over time, you may realize that a person just isn’t safe with certain pieces of information. It’s ok to hold back when you don’t think someone will handle your deepest secrets well. There are levels of access that different people have to our lives and our confidences.
3. Over communicate when there’s a problem
IT involves a series of partnerships. Manufacturers partner with vendors, who partner with MSP resellers, who partner with their customers, who partner with web developers, and so on. Communication is the glue that holds these entities together, even if that communication is happening in an automated way. When there is the slightest problem, no one has the luxury of assuming that someone else in the partnership will take care of it. Everyone is responsible for everything at all times, including and especially if something is malfunctioning. The more people discussing a problem, the better. That way, you know it will get resolved as quickly as possible.
The same is true in any kind of relationship. The moment you assume something, things tend to go wrong. When there’s a problem, it has to be discussed. Get an outside eye on the problem if you can. Someone like a friend, family member or colleague can help solve the issue even faster.
4. You get what you pay for. Get security.
We do business with a lot of different types of companies. Some of them, by virtue of their industry, need more stringent security than others. These companies are routinely audited by independent entities to ensure that they’re abiding by industry standards. Cutting corners on security is never a good idea. IT services might be considered a luxury by some, but I’ve done the research. Security breaches can cost even small companies many times more what they would have paid for a monthly maintenance plan with an MSP like ours. Some companies keep their overhead low by not spending on their IT and system security. What’s costing them little to nothing right now, could end up costing them everything.
Whenever you’re trying to decide whether or not to invest in an item or a service, think about what could happen if you don’t make the investment. There are some things worth paying for. Skimping on important things, like a set of good brakes or sufficient insurance could end up costing a lot more in the long run.
5. It’s ok to be wrong. It’s ok not to know. Find the answer.
Resourcefulness and humility are a powerful combination. I have seen our techs apply these two qualities again and again. Our techs are knowledgeable, and they have a lot of experience. But technology is constantly changing. So, there are a lot of times when they come across a problem for the first time. Rather than backing away from the challenge, our techs get on the grind and look for the answers. They get frustrated when it feels like they’ve hit a dead end, but they keep looking. To date, we have never left a customer without a solution to their problems.
It can be difficult to admit you don’t know something, especially when you’re supposed to be the expert. Once you realize you don’t know, the best course of action is to swallow whatever pride you might have and look for the answers. Not knowing something or getting something wrong is not a deal breaker. Being relentless about finding the answers is a gamechanger.
Inventing the World
Technology is a changing field. Every day someone invents a new way to do something, new software, new devices. The people behind these innovations are inventing the world. They are creating and re-creating the world in which others live. Everyone’s lives have been changed by people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. The creative spirit that drives technological innovation could easily be applied to any other field. We are not all techs, but whatever our niches might be, if we thought of our work as something that could change the world as we know it, we would work and build with more energy, vision, and life. Wherever you find yourself, in whatever industry you work, get inspired. Find a better process for doing something. Write it down. Invent the world.