Technical support people are the medics of the IT world – they diagnose technology problems and then set about fixing them. They can work for hardware manufacturers, end-user companies or service companies who provide helpdesk and technical support services. Companies with a large number of computers (over 50) will often hire their own technical support staff. Although the role requires an in-depth understanding of most hardware, systems, applications and programming languages, professionals in the field will be particularly competent in the technology relevant to the organisation they work for.
What the role involves
Technical support people are expected to ensure that all systems and applications are running smoothly and seamlessly. Although the work often overlaps with other roles, they are the people at the coalface who roll up their sleeves and face computer problems head on. Core activities include tracking the source of technical faults, identifying viruses and security weaknesses and working with end users (these may be clients or colleagues). In some instances, the work may be done entirely at a helpdesk or call-centre, with all communication done by remote-access, telephone or email. Employment prospects in technical support are broad. People often start out at first- or second-level support.
Opportunities for promotion and career development are greater with larger organisations, but movement is an option. It’s an exciting field. New network technologies are constantly emerging with huge implications for the world of commerce. What’s more, destructive trouble-making viruses and other threats are being discovered on a daily basis. Technical support specialists are required to keep abreast of these new technologies and threats. Opportunities to travel are good, especially for those with specialist, unusual or sought-after technical skills. As nobody knows when a computer problem might strike, working hours can be long and unsociable. Many organisations need a technical support person to be on call 24/7 and work is often on a shift basis, involving regular night work.
What skill will you need?
Candidates need the ability to think clearly, to work well under pressure, and to be patient communicating with non-technical end-users. Ultimately, it’s a perfect job for technically adept graduates who like to solve problems.