“Matt, my computer’s doing weird things again. Can you take a look at it?” I asked my Director of IT and Communications recently. “Have you tried rebooting it yet?” he responded, as he always does. That typical response immediately launched me into a standing joke about how, as an IT professional, he didn’t really know how to fix any computer system at all, but only knew how to tell users to restart them.
That’s just one of many common misconceptions about the folks who keep our hardware, software, and networks running in spite of what we as users do to them. It’s sometimes hard for us “normals” to know how to work with these gifted individuals. Below are some common myths and ways to work better with these critically important people in our educational system.
Myth #1: Like bats in a cave, system administrators and network experts prefer to work in the dark in small, enclosed spaces. Surprising as it may sound, those of a technical bend have been seen in sunlight and do enjoy being outside sometimes. Try to include them once in a while in a staff outing or event. And let the light of your gratitude help to keep them out of the dark.
Myth #2: Working alone with a bunch of machines is their idea of heaven. Those who have a technical brain really enjoy working with other people, including those whose brains are not technical. They do love sharing the latest geeky tidbit that they’ve learned with their peers, but also like to talk about non-technology topics, too. Include them in the latest gab about new movies, politics, or great restaurants.
Myth #3: All they need to be happy is pizza, Red Bull, and junk food. While technicians have been known to make do with bad food during high-stress times (like the start of school), they will eat vegetables like everyone else. They really appreciate home-made food and will happily keep all of your technology working for a make-from-scratch dump cake or casserole.
Myth #4: Those individuals who keep everything working for us are really aliens from another planet and don’t think like the rest of us do. While it is true that technicians tend to think more logically and perform better in problem-solving scenarios that anyone else, they are not aliens. They are just different! They may sometimes have difficulty understanding what we are saying or what we as educators are trying to accomplish. But it’s our job to explain things to them and make it clear why we need a certain website unblocked or a new app added.
Myth #5: Technology geeks are born knowing everything there is to know about any technology, from the copier machine to the wireless router to the newest drone. While I’m sure they wish this were true, the fact is that technical support members spend long hours in professional training and learning on their own. They are constantly updating their skills and knowledge bank. Thank them for the dedicated time they spend on keeping up in an ever-changing field.
Myth #6: Technical experts are only good at talking to their technology; they can’t communicate with humans at all. The truth is that IT pros can talk to normal people. However, they often prefer different modes of communication. They are better at asynchronous methods, like email, instant messaging, and group chat systems, than they are at talking face to face, especially in front of a group. So don’t get upset when they email you instead of dropping by to answer a question or update you on a repair.
Myth #7: IT guys (and gals) often use work time to play with their gadgets instead of solving problems. If you see one of the technicians busy on his phone instead of repairing your printer, keep in mind that he may be watching a YouTube video on how to fix the problem. And it’s important to know that the geek seeks inspiration, or at least something to occupy the lizard brain, while his higher thinking chews on tougher problems.
The best way to support your technical staff is to provide them the opportunities to get together with their peers and learn how best to keep your hardware, software, and network running. Send them to the two-day System Administrator and Technical Support Conference held October 27-28 in Austin. This learning opportunity offers useful and practical sessions on a variety of topics of interest to those managing technology in schools and universities, including:
- Network Security
- Emerging Technologies
- GAfE Implementation
- iOS Device Management
- End User Support
- Network/Wireless Optimization
- Chromebook Support
- BYOD Best Practices
In addition, there will be lunch provided, vendors with solutions for their problems, time for them to discuss relevant issues with their colleagues, and techy door prizes. Keep your geek happy and productive and register him or her today!