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Getting Beyond the Helldesk

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the through-the-perly-gates dept.

Education 474

An anonymous reader writes "I've been working as a helpdesk monkey for over a year in a small-medium sized law firm of around 200 users and I don't know if my patience and sanity can last much longer. I'd like to remain in IT, but in less of a front-line role where I can actually get some work done without being interrupted every five minutes by a jamming printer or frozen instance of Outlook. There isn't really any room for progression at my current employer, and with the weak job market it seems I can only move sideways into another support role. I've been considering a full-time Masters degree in a specialized Computer Science area such as databases or Web development, but I don't know if the financial cost and the loss of a year's income and experience can justify it. Do any Slashdotters who have made it beyond the helpdesk have any knowledge or wisdom to impart? Is formal education a good avenue, or would I better off moving back home, getting a mindless but low-stress job, and teaching myself technologies in my free time?"

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i've got some advice (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369569)

learn to swim

Re:i've got some advice (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369665)

First thing you should do is get a first post on Slashdot, like the parent did. Trust me, within the week anonymous here will be getting a call from a fortune 50 company, with a job offer most of us only have wet dreams about. Why do you think people keep getting first posts?!

However, if you're a slow typer (like me), just reply to the first post and you might get a job sharpening Anonymous Coward's pencils, junior pocket protector executive or something. But let me be blunt (like the pencils): nobody got nuttin' in this world for a second post, as Abba sang: 'First Post takes it all'.

Not sure what you get for a last post, maybe a job as a barman, 'last post at the bar gentlemen, please!'

Take the shit to get the cream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369581)

Stay with it , its the people who who are longest in the job that become managers.

Re:Take the shit to get the cream (5, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369731)

Stay with it , its the people who who are longest in the job that become managers.

Hell, that's good enough reason to quit! Manager of a help desk means you have to take the calls of the screamers who escalate themselves above the first line monkeys, and you take the blame every time you're short staffed because Joe and Jane didn't show up 'cause they're hung-over again.

Re:Take the shit to get the cream (3, Insightful)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369929)

IT Manager has an opportunity to frame the IT function in terms of ROI when talking to the suits.
Do not underestimate the value of a perception among suits that your role reduces liability or generates revenue.

Re:Take the shit to get the cream (4, Insightful)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369965)

I'll second this - my previous job wasn't in the IT sector, but it WAS call center and it DID involve a lot of IT; my company was developing new LOB software in-house for which I was consulting, and I was working on some of my own projects involving process-and-procedure documentation and some automation using Office to make up for some of the shortcomings of the new system which the developers could not/would not address.

I was promoted to supervisory status for my above-and-beyond work performance and contributions to the company. I was ecstatic at first - with the burden of constantly taking phone calls lifted, I was free to complete these projects I was working on faster...or so I thought. Managers often seem like idiots because they're dealing with everyone else's problems and have no time for their own. Be careful what you wish for.

...and then I got laid off, along with most of my team (save two people, who where able to relocate) and the entire rest of the building. Wheeeee economy!

What degree do you have? (3, Interesting)

GameGod0 (680382) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369587)

Now's a great time to do your MSc because you can weather the economic storm in academia and pray that the job market will be better when you're out. Heck, you might even get funding so it won't be as much of a financial burden.
...
But that said - What degree do you have that left you stuck on the frontlines of an IT helpdesk? If you don't have a BSc, speak now... (Formal education IS a go

Re:What degree do you have? (4, Interesting)

GameGod0 (680382) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369607)

Ahh, message got cutoff. (AJAX is overrated )
I was going to say that getting a BSc is definitely worthwhile (if you don't have one), and a MSc will definitely help you stand out when your resume lands on someone's desk. I'm having a hard time understanding how someone with a CS or Software Engineering degree could end up in your position though. (Maybe I'm ignorant...)

Re:What degree do you have? (5, Informative)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369953)

I'm having a hard time understanding how someone with a CS or Software Engineering degree could end up in your position though. (Maybe I'm ignorant...)

I will give you the answer; the companies that hire BSc graduates in "IT" tend to be call centers and help desk type companies. In the 1990s you could go straight out of college and land an 80K per year job. These days you are lucky to land a help desk job. Of course the more successful people will have embellished their experiences on their resumes and with their references. The smart people often end up programming in their parents basement.

Re:What degree do you have? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369913)

I'm making 100k USD a year as a C# programmer (Financial apps, architectural documents etc) and I have no formal education, selftaught. Went java @ 16 freelance programming for web, started as a sysadmin later at two very large businesses/unis, then went to teaching social delinquents and people with low social skills computer building and management then went back to programming web, then applications and then where I am now for last 2.5 years. In the last 1.5 years my pay increased by about 30.000 dollars by me situating myself at a good position in the firm and building core-skills and info only few others there have.

Personally I think experience and selftaught, open-source projects and what not will get you much further faster than an education will.

Re:What degree do you have? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28370027)

The problem is that many companies won't hire without an education or experience. If you're absurdly good, highly motivated, lucky, have family connections and/or got there a decade ago then you can have that experience they're looking for. Otherwise you're stuck in a catch-22 and if you're lucky you'll only need to endure a couple years of hellish jobs before getting a non-mind numbing entry level position. Even then you better be very good and lucky if you want to advance.

The thing is that if you're highly motivated and good then education still provides advantages. You can be out at 22 with a Masters, three internships from large companies, tons of industry contacts (at high levels in large companies) and a pretty piece of paper. A starting salary of $150k in someplace like the Bay Area is then quite possible if you play your cards right and anything under $100k would be considered barely worth consideration.

Re:What degree do you have? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28370067)

Very good advice. I graduated last December with a B. S. in computer science, and I have a number of years of IT experience under my belt.

Finding work? Absolutely impossible, even though I had a number of jobs lined up before I graduated (a number of the places went into hiring freezes, and two places just went under). Even though I live in an area that is not hard hit by this economic downturn, I'm competing for jobs from people from other states who are being forced to move.

So, I'm going to continue to pound the pavement, but if I don't find anything by December, it will grad school for me, likely a degree that is more in the IT field, as opposed to CS in general.

As for helpdesks, one's strategy is different depending on the type of helpdesk:

An internal helpdesk for responding to employee problems may be a good stepping stone. The problem is that employees and managers only see you when stuff is broken, and you are out of mind when stuff is running without issue. So, there is an association with the helpdesk people and problems. However, if you are lucky, and can get certificates [1] to show you are serious, you might be able to jump into the core IT department.

An external helpdesk that does product support for customers is a very difficult place to get out of unless you leave the company. Usually it's "firewalled" from the rest of the company. So, at best, one can get into a management position there, or if lucky, get into a product development position (which is hard because the good customer support people will end up locked in support.) Usually to get out of an external helpdesk into something else, one will likely need to find work at another firm.

[1]: Most sysadmins know that certificates don't mean competency. However, they mean a lot to the HR guys and upper line managers who don't care about employee skill, just that they have the right pieces of paper to justify their existence to the company.

hmmm... (0, Flamebait)

GooDieZ (802156) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369593)

You Sir, have some serious issues...

Re:hmmm... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369619)

Even if you are 100% Aryan white, this was a nigger thing to say. Seriously.

Typo in summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369601)

But probably not.

It's not that bad, just stick with it! (4, Funny)

Bodhammer (559311) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369603)

I've noticed that most people are getting smarter, understand technology, privacy, business, free enterprise, propoganda, and are becoming less reliant on help desks, friends, church groups, retailers, and especially the government for help.

Just stick with it, I'm sure it will get better! How bad can it really be, they are just lawyers?

Re:It's not that bad, just stick with it! (1, Insightful)

besalope (1186101) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369771)

I've noticed that most people are getting smarter, understand technology, privacy, business, free enterprise, propoganda, and are becoming less reliant on help desks, friends, church groups, retailers, and especially the government for help.

Just stick with it, I'm sure it will get better! How bad can it really be, they are just lawyers?

That's definitely not the case here in Michigan, there's still a ton of stupid people in mixed into the general public.

Re:It's not that bad, just stick with it! (0, Offtopic)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369967)

WHOOOOOOOSH!

Re:It's not that bad, just stick with it! (0, Offtopic)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369995)

That's definitely not the case here in Michigan, there's still a ton of stupid people in mixed into the general public.

Thanks for proving that by providing primary evidence!

That is your job. (5, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369605)

" I'd like to remain in IT, but in less of a front-line role where I can actually get some work done without being interrupted every five minutes by a jamming printer or frozen instance of Outlook."

Um. If you are on the helpdesk - unjamming printers and unfreezing outlook is your job. Your work isn't being interrupted every five minutes, but rather you are being called on to do your job every five minutes.

IT is a support function, deal with it or find a different career field.

Re:That is your job. (4, Funny)

dword (735428) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369737)

Yes, being interrupted while reading from / posting to Slashdot is just awful!

Re:That is your job. (2, Interesting)

wind_ice_flames (894250) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369761)

There is a difference in being in IT and doing one specific aspect of IT called help desk. I can relate. The poster is seems to be tired of dealing with the same thing over and over from people who make the same mistakes. IT is a much broader field than just help desk.

Re:That is your job. (5, Informative)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369799)

You can also get pinned down by URGENT FIX THIS issues to the point that you can't make substantial upgrades to improve the overall situation. For example, so busy removing viruses you can't deploy more effective means to fight them in general.

Re:That is your job. (5, Interesting)

heychris (587825) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369807)

Um. If you are on the helpdesk - unjamming printers and unfreezing outlook is your job. Your work isn't being interrupted every five minutes, but rather you are being called on to do your job every five minutes.

To be fair, in a 200 person shop, he may also be expected to do sysadmin duties as well as helpdesk. It tends to get lumped together a lot. But even as a sysadmin, your job is ultimately to serve the company and it's clients, and in a small to midsize company, that means rebooting the boss' PC every now and then. Try to take pride in the fact that you tangibly made his life slightly better.

My role in a similarly sized company is basically sysadmin without the title, so I feel for you. There are days I'd love to play with the tech and roll out cool things, and it does get annoying to handle the level 2 stuff (fortunately, I have a part-time helpdesk guy for the basics).

One tip would be to get an intern, and dump some of the support tickets on them. Honestly, I'm not sure how viable a solution that is (I'd be eager to hear others experiences), because I don't know if a CS person will want an internship like that. But maybe someone from a business background would be intrigued; you likely touch every part of the business, and there could be appeal there.

If you're interested in web development, heck, just do it! Do your own site. Do your friends' sites, though set some clear boundaries. This will get you estimating experience, and you can play with whatever strikes your fancy. Then hit up some local small businesses and do their sites. Use that experience to get your next job. A CS Masters seems like overkill for web development. I can't say I know one, but then again, see my second paragraph. :) I do know many web folk without masters, though.

The last thing I'd suggest is to get yourself involved on larger projects in the company. I don't always think to ask my helpdesk guy to help out, but I'm glad when he volunteers. This is a way to learn the tech, the business, and all those fuzzy skills that we don't think should matter but really, really do.

HTH,
CC

Re:That is your job. (5, Interesting)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369809)

IT is a support function, yes, but that's not to say that all IT people keep getting calls every five minutes when someone can't print an email.

I would go as far as to say that the folks we have here on the IT helpdesk are very tech un-savvy. They follow simple flowcharts to get resolutions and do very little actual IT work. I also work in a 200,000 employee company at the head office which has 4,000 staffers. I would say that to get into the IT field, you need to either jump out into a side role and get yourself known, make friends with developers (if you have them in-house) or simply look to maybe even join a helpdesk in a larger firm.

Having said that, I don't really see why you cannot study while being at the helpdesk. It's not a stressful role, you answer calls, you help people with stupid things when they are clueless. Yes, it's numbing, yes it's boring - and it's perfect to use as a job while studying for something else or learning things on the side.

Not to be rude, but be prepared for a LOT more stress than a helpdesk if you do get seriously into the IT field. Developers are ALWAYS being pushed for quicker and cheaper developments, project managers get sizings and then shave off time for an action if it doesn't fit into the time constraints - and I ain't even going to start on the business users and what you will have to do for them during the warranty phase of developments when they start changing requirements left right and center.

Re:That is your job. (5, Insightful)

uptownguy (215934) | more than 5 years ago | (#28370035)

IT is a support function, deal with it or find a different career field.

10. This
20. Goto 10

Seriously, having spent 15+ years in IT in one role or another (helpdesk, helpdesk manager, helpdesk product manager, presales support, operations manager, consultant) I've seen my fair share of things. I've been on top of the world and on top of my game. I've been burnt out and taken a year off to work in a coffee shop (best thing I ever did, by the way.) I've hired hundreds of support techs. And as I am sitting in a hotel room 1000 miles from home, have a raging case of insomnia and am feeling a little philosophical tonight, I have a word or wisdom or two that I want to share.

First of all: Why do you "want to remain in IT"? Is it because you enjoy technology? If that's the case, perhaps you should consider a different field? There's no law that says you have to make your hobby your job. In fact, you run the risk of spoiling the joy that drew you to it in the first place. If you are in technology because you love playing with what's new, keep reading Slashdot and buy the toys that interest you. Then go discover what you want to do with your life and do that.

Secondly: What do you want to do with your life? Does it involve serving other people? If it does: congratulations! IT is all about service. Seriously. Whether you are designing an application or supporting 200 lawyers/support staff, you are there to serve. You could get all gross and use old-fashioned phrases such as "cost center" or you could get all fancy and start to see the service you do as part of a larger path. This book changed some of my thinking on that. [lewisrichmond.com] . Either way, you can't escape the fact: IT is about service. Secret hint: Once you get this, you start to love your job.

Thirdly: Have you ever really thought about what you want to do with your life? I mean really thought about it? If not, perhaps you should take a year off and do something completely random. You talked about "moving back home" as an option which means you probably don't have a spouse/kids which means that you have the freedom to do something bold. Try something completely different. Work with your hands. I took a year off and worked in a coffee shop. It did wonders for my work ethic and sense of what service really is. (It also reminded me of what it is like to really make next to nothing.) Working with your hands is satisfying. You might just enjoy it more than you thought. This article [nytimes.com] in last month's New York Times makes the case for working with your hands. You should read it. Really.

Fourthly: Is it about the money? Be honest with yourself. Are you in IT because of the money? OK. In this field, we make more than people with equivalent amounts of education might make. At least a little more. For now. That probably won't last forever. But are you wanting to move into "databases" or "web development" because you think there will be more money there? Maybe if this was 1996 that would be true. Yes, there is still money to be made there. If you are talented and willing to work hard and be passionate about what you do. But that's sort of true of anything. A little luck and a lot of passion go a long way. (Or is it a lot of luck and a little passion?)

Finally: Relax. Unless you are extremely fortunate, you have no idea what you are going to do with the rest of your life. Few of us do. You'll bounce around and external situations and circumstances will dictate most of it. New inventions. Sick parents. A spouse or child who changes your perspective. Wars. Epidemics. The unknown. Who knows what will happen next? Stop thinking so much. Enjoy the ride. If you feel stuck, listen to yourself. Learn to listen to yourself. Ask yourself what you really want to do and do it. You get about fifty more years in this life and the world's a pretty big place. You aren't really stuck.

Apologies to everyone else who read through this rambling post. Something about the open-ended "help!" from the poster struck me. I meant no disrespect by any of this. I simply thought that there were probably a lot of issues being wrestled with having nothing to do with "the next job in IT"... Good luck!

Re:That is your job. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28370077)

Fixing things never bothered me, its the idiots that try to fix it themselves, and just make the problem worse, and the questions that never should have been asked, because they should have been covered in training. And I could never forgive myself if I actually had to help a lawyer!

If it weren't for lawyers, we wouldn't need lawyers! Think about it...

go for it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369615)

go for it man, on free time study and go higher. don't stay there if your not happy. good luck

Re:go for it (1)

Normal Dan (1053064) | more than 5 years ago | (#28370013)

I wish I had mod points. This is some of the best advice one could ever take for just about any time in life.

Helldesk...heh heh (3, Insightful)

partowel (469956) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369621)

My ignorant opinion is to get more education. It's worth it, if you want it.

If full time isn't possible, do it correspondence/distance education.

Helldesk really is HELL.

It's amazing what padding your resume does. You have to take the first step.

As for moving back home, I wouldn't do that.

But if you get along with your family, I guess its an option.

Run For Your Life. Now. (5, Insightful)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369647)

You seem to be under the misapprehension that it gets better once you are out of the helpdesk. It only looks like it does. You get less stupid end-users, and more stupid bosses.

Get out, now, while you still can. Go get a degree in plumbing, or electrical work. (Heck, if you want to stay with computers, get certified to install fiber. It's only going to grow, and I've had trouble finding anyone to install it in the new house.) Something that doesn't expect you for the rest of your life to be answering the phone at 12:45am on random nights.

Got to run, the pager's going off...

Re:Run For Your Life. Now. (1)

Korbeau (913903) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369671)

What is installing certified fibers doing with a computer major?

Re:Run For Your Life. Now. (2, Informative)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369805)

Wow, you know what, I totally agree. You can ignore my large post elsewhere here about learning on your own. I agree, run. I double-agree, run to plumbing.

Re:Run For Your Life. Now. (1)

anexkahn (935249) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369861)

Installing Fiber is a bit like being a plumber I suppose

What! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369655)

They have master degrees in "database" and "web development?"

Ahhhh, my Television is moving!!!

Learn a UNIX (4, Informative)

jsimon12 (207119) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369667)

If you really want to stay in IT and don't want to learn a programming language learn a UNIX. Even half way decent UNIX admins are few and far between, I know a number of companies hiring.

Just download a BSD, Linux distro or Open Solaris and use that for your desktop at home. Tinker, read and study and you can get a job out of helpdesk.

Re:Learn a UNIX (3, Interesting)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369815)

To become a competent unix sysadmin, do what this guy says

The problem is that there are no certifications for linux that actually mean much of anything, unlike the windows world where you have the MS cert. Sure, there are a few companies that offer certs for linux but anyone who knows anything in HR will sneer at them as the meaningless drivel they are.

I actually don't know how people get involved in being sysadmins on unix systems, since it seems you need experience to get it.

Re:Learn a UNIX (2, Interesting)

Katchu (1036242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369987)

Actually took a systems administration course in Microsoft's version of Unix (Xenix), and had a "diploma" on my wall for the sake of humor. The computers had Motorola 68000 chips, were multi-user systems with up to a half-dozen terminals or computers logged in. Made by Radio Shack. A couple of years ago I took the diploma down as sunlight had bleached it to a white piece of paper -- fading just as my memory of Xenix did. (Thank God).

Re:Learn a UNIX (5, Insightful)

smash (1351) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369819)

More relevant I think is to perhaps use a Unix to learn network related skills such as TCP/IP network design, DNS, mail routing, VOIP, etc.

Unix (or Windows) is a tool to accomplish a given task. Learn the fundamentals of what you are trying to do and how the protocols work together, and then you can apply this to whatever operating system you happen to get lumbered with by the bean counters or previous management/admin...

So yeah, download a free unix, but remember, its just a tool to achieve a desired service. Focus on the services (and how to diagnose them), rather than the actual particular software package so much. Knowing Linux's quirks (just for example) inside out won't do you any good if you're trying to support Windows or Solaris (or SCO or FreeBSD, etc)...

Keep your mind open, and get exposure to as many tools as possible, it will increase your opportunity for employment...

Re:Learn a UNIX (4, Informative)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369875)

I have to agree with the parent on this one. You need to go learn something that isn't taught at pump and dump schools or tech institutions. There are a thousand people with window's certs for every one that actually knows something about Unix/Linux. There is almost never a shortage for the need of a good Unix/Linux admin in the job market. A lot of the first generation admins are retiring now and in the next 5-10 years which means there will be a lot of need for experienced admins. Another thing you can do is focus on something like High Performance Computing (HPC). Again, there is more and more demand for this, and guess what, ~87% of the top 500 supercomputers run linux, ~5% run Unix, and around 1% run Windows. Again, this just says, go learn a Unix/Linux distribution. Get you foot in the door at a company that uses it. Yeah, you might have to do helpdesk, but you can actually learn Unix/Linux from helpdesk due to the fact that most problems are not something that a scripted conversation will normally fix. While there are some issues that you will run into time and time again, those things will almost always present themselves in a different form. You are also dealing with managing systems which can easily have an uptime of years. The systems were designed and built to last and have an OS that had the same stability requirements as well. It is typical to see systems go a year or more between reboots.

Distractions normal. Support is part of other jobs (5, Informative)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369669)

Hate to break it to you but you won't necessarily get away from distractions and you may not entirely move away from support. Every job I've ever worked in included distractions and some amount of support work.

I currently work as a software developer but I also work to troubleshoot the existing systems, and I do take second tier customer calls (so less problems, but usually harder ones). I even work shifts and do on-call support. My job's a good one - prestigeous, reasonable pay so I'm not complaining.

That's not to say I would rather be on a help desk, or that you shouldn't try to better yourself. Just make sure your expectations are realistic.

Re:Distractions normal. Support is part of other j (4, Interesting)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369689)

Two other things:

1. A masters may not help as a developer. I have a masters but it's in Astronomy and I did it with no intention of taking on Astronomy as a job. Every time I add the qualification to the list, HR takes it back off. I'm not even sure certain HR staff know the difference between Astronomy and Astrology.

2. You might find it easier to get your foot in the door somewhere else rather than try to move into a development role in your current company. If you're already doing a job well, the company has less incentive to move you elsewhere (until they realise you'll leave otherwise, by which time it's too late). It'll be tough in this market.

Ugh (5, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369673)

Go back to school. Have sex with college girls while you still can. Go to any open lectures and take some off the wall classes. Study abroad or save your money for six months and party in Brazil. Meet some people who have lofty ideas, and try to get jobs at companies with the same.

You aren't going to learn anything but how to take shit and wallow in misery at your current job. If you think that's a valuable skill that you need to learn, then stay.

Re:Ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369803)

Have sex with college girls while you still can.

If that were an option would he be posting on /.?

Re:Ugh (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369823)

sorry once you're past 25, they want nothing to do with you. undergrad at 25+ is a lonely and tiresome route. even stuff like group projects is tough because 18yos still think of themselves as kids and don't want to work with an 'adult'. maybe just getting certs is a better idea.

Re:Ugh (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 5 years ago | (#28370049)

Geeks/Nerds, girls, and sex? LOL. J/K. ;)

Re:Ugh (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28370055)

Graduate school and sex don't go hand in hand (no pun intended - yeah right...)
Nailing that hot 18 year old is a relatively rare occurrence. Also, with OP's money concern, staying on dorm - which increases the chances of sex - isn't a really good option - even with funding.
What he should do is try to do work and classes, maybe just one or two a sem. It is a lot of work (I'm a full time grad student) and may take 2.5 to 3 years (less if he does summer/winter sessions as well).

Huh (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369677)

Not only is that job, but is it REALLY that hard to say "reboot your computer"?

Re:Huh (1)

psicop (229507) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369901)

It's not that hard to say, but getting the end-user to actually do it? That's hard.

"My computer won't turn on..."
"Well, your computer is on. I can ping it. Your monitor needs replaced, though."

Funny Helldesk story (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369685)

Way back in the day, I worked at Creative Labs tech support, and those of us in higher positions were made to sit on a Helpdesk, consisting of 4 stations. When an agent would get stumped, they'd call the helpdesk and get one of us at random. Now, some of the folks who had to sit on this thing were not the sharpest tools in the shed. So one day, to screw with a particularly stupid self important idiot, I sat next to him, just up the hunt group chain, so that if my phone was busy or didn't answer the call would go to him.

So I turned my phone down to almost no ring volume, and every time my phone would ring, I'd wait til the 3rd ring, point over to his phone, and say "Your phone will ring... now". The dumbass got mad because he couldn't figure out how I was doing it for over an hour.

I did of course, get a "stern" talking to afterward, BUT, the supervisor was doing his best to not laugh his ass off as he was telling me to please not do it again.

Re:Funny Helldesk story (3, Funny)

kindherb (194395) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369837)

Aloha AC!

Ahhh yes... Good old Stillwater. I did my time @ Creative back in the day, and remember the second level helpdesk station quite vividly. And no I wasn't the victim of the prank.

I do remember working with a certain cute female, and there were some guys on the floor who would hang up on you, only to call back hoping they would get a chance to talk to the cute girl. hehe

Wow! I haven't thought about those days in a long long time.

Re:Funny Helldesk story (1)

Hansele (579672) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369985)

The victim was (I think his name was Chris) the agent that came over from California. Of course the supervisor was Dave M. You're not Herb W. are you?

Re:Funny Helldesk story (1, Insightful)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369847)

Companies that have programmers or other techs who learned all their people skills from interaction with a pet gerbil are not really clear on the concept of staying in business. I work in tech support and that friends is a person oriented skill. You can have the gosh gee whiz tech creds out the wazoo and still piss off a customer. They don't care how many .NET routines you have written they are interested in getting their screen un-stuck and back to their JOB. Talk down to your co-workers NOT the person who ultimately pays for your play-toys

first off... (5, Funny)

genner (694963) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369691)

First provide me with your employers contact information. Then quit so you'll feel motivated to find somthing else. I'll apply for your old job so you won't feel tempted to go back to it.

Take Some Initiative (1)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369693)

It all depends on what you enjoy. Do you like databases or Web development? Ask the person doing that role if they need help, or even just show you something the next time a user has a problem. If they can have you take care of a minor problem, that's a good first step. Then as they get more comfortable with you, you could eventually transition into a Junior DBA or Junior WebDev. It takes time, but being a positive known quantity helps.

Re:Take Some Initiative (2, Informative)

smash (1351) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369721)

This. Spend your spare time at home learning new marketable skills. Don't be a zealot with regards to open-source vs Windows or whatever, look at what businesses are using and learn to fix it. By all means, get skilled in Linux/Unix/whatever, just be aware of the potential market for the skills you're learning.

Be a zealot as far as new software/application development goes if you think you can support it, but don't exclude Windows skills simply because "Windows sucks"; you're cutting yourself out of a huge share of the market.

I started out in helldesk at an ISP, see sig below for what I'm currently doing...

Some potential reading material (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369703)

http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/04/30/1823242
http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/07/01/173205
http://ask.slashdot.org/askslashdot/08/12/01/0145255.shtml
http://it.slashdot.org/story/09/06/09/2028202/How-Do-IT-Guys-Get-Respect-and-Not-Become-BOFHs?art_pos=2
http://news.slashdot.org/story/09/05/11/0126212/Go-For-a-Masters-Or-Not?art_pos=14

Hack slashot (1)

Korbeau (913903) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369705)

(for some reaason the site is behaving weird right now, maybe it's going on... but..)

Hack slashdot! If you can do that you'll get a great job, and CowboyNeal will give you nice neck massages everyday. Trembling massages, in FEAR!!!1

Oh, and yeah, you can get a job at M$ or Google easily afterwards, if you answer some dumb IQ questionaire.

Lucky Bastard! (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369709)

I even wish I could get a helpdesk position! Last help desk job I applied for had hundreds of applications...for an entry level help desk job. Just about any IT idiot can do front line support, but I didn't get the job. In this economy, I think you better just be happy you have your help desk job. Some of us have to work flipping burgers, waiting tables, or working retail because we can't get back into an IT job.

But if you have the money to do your masters, maybe do it. Perhaps the economy will be better when you're done. Just don't hold your breath.

A few more options (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369719)

It depends on if you want to be a database one trick pony or a programmer or a sysadmin.

A help desk job is where you cut your teeth for being a sysadmin. If you want to be a dba or programmer, you don't need any experience in the real world. You just go to school and hope it's real life.

If you are interested in being a sysadmin, then understand that you are supporting users, and there are sysadmins supporting you.

Hang out with them and ask them to show you how they do their jobs. Learn about the stuff schools can't and never will be able to afford to teach you. SAN's, Fiber switching, the proprietary tools for HP, Sun, IBM, Dell. Use lunch, free time, smoke breaks, after work- whatever.

Sysadmins always have job offers or know people at other companies with job offers that may not be at their level, but at yours. There is no downside.

Secondarily, you should take advantage of their education program. If it's a law firm, they have one. Put in for your RHCE or LPI or MCSE or whatever the hell it is you're working on. Buy or download the book and make them pay for the tests. A cert will get you more pay than a Master's in anything. Unless you are bucking for middle management or want to write obscure code, a Master's won't do dick.

If you really want to leave though- and you know this because you go home, lay in bed, and literally say "I have to get out of this place" every day- then leave. You ain't gonna learn shit. Follow your gut first, head second.

School is a fine fallback if you have money, but if you don't then guess what. This is your school. You won't ever forget working help desk. People in pain learn their maximum threshold for bullshit, so it's good to learn yours early so you don't spin out when you get a job that actually pays the bills. Helpdesk is hell by repetition. DBA, Sysadmin, and maybe Programmer are hell by catching shit from all sides.

I can't tell you what to do. I can tell you that I, and many of the people here, were in your exact position. If you don't want to kill yourself yet, then you aren't finished. Take advantage of what's around you and then opportunities will open up.

Define what your job should be (2, Interesting)

servognome (738846) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369725)

I'd like to remain in IT, but in less of a front-line role where I can actually get some work done without being interrupted every five minutes by a jamming printer or frozen instance of Outlook.

You work at a help desk, so it seems your job is getting in the way of whatever you prefer to work at. From your description it looks like you want to move into a managerial role of technical decision making. You can accomplish this by championing projects that you prefer to work on, or starting your own company. All an advanced degree will get you is a different entry-level position, where you'll still be interrupted every five minutes by something.
At some point you'll need to show independent leadership to get your preferred kind of job.

If you choose web development.. (1)

Auxis (1341693) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369753)

Create a new buzzword if you choose the web development route. You'll become a millionaire.

Go small (3, Insightful)

peipas (809350) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369755)

You might consider pursuing a job at a smaller organization where the IT department consists of you, possibly a non-profit. Compensation will be lower but there are often other "benefits" of working non-profit, such as reduced hours or a rewarding culture. These organizations are looking for somebody with experience but realize they can't afford the most experience. You'll get a lot of experience with a wide range of administration, preferably including managing a few servers, although you will still be working with the end users. Variety is wonderful, though.

Due to the current job market this plan may still leave you in your current position for a while, but that could be a good thing for your marketability anyway, as it's good not to look too fickle when an employer doesn't want to have to hire a replacement for you again in another 12-18 months.

go for the degree (2, Informative)

jrozzi (1279772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369759)

I've had many technical support jobs, helping employees and friends and family. I ended up in your position and didn't know how much longer I could handle it. What I did is got my B.S. in computer science at a good school and now my full time job is working for myself doing web development. You will not go wrong learning databases and web development and if you get good at it you will be able to work anywhere, anytime, and basically for whoever you want. Also, we all know that web applications and "cloud computing" is the new face of the Internet and still in its infant stages and has plenty of room to grow. Having your degree in computer science can land you other types of jobs doing productive work (even if you decide you don't like web development) and you get a great sense of accomplishment for the type of work you choose to do (possibilities are pretty much limitless). Hope this helps.

Maintenance (1, Offtopic)

argee (1327877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369767)

Web Development ... databases ... college ... Get a high maintenance woman, and you will not have to worry about any of those things.

Helldesk forever (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369769)

It is difficult to get out of the help desk at any organization. One person I know immediately shifted to night shift so he could take on line courses. Once he got his CCNA he moved into another role. But if you are on during prime shift and not motivated to train up in another area on your own. You will be there until your job is moved off shore or you quit.

Not all Master's degrees are made equal (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369773)

It depends on where you're thinking of getting a degree from. If you can get into a good program, it can help you jump the fence from "IT" over to "software development," where the grass is greener and the pagers quieter. (This is not to say that software development is never frustrating or never involves dealing with idiots, but from your complaints it definitely seems like something you'd enjoy more.)

Staying home and learning technologies is great, and may even be more helpful on the job than what you'd learn in that Master's program, but it definitely isn't as helpful on your resume. Go get a degree, bust your ass to get good grades, and then start applying to software/technology companies where you'll be helping to provide a product or service rather than helping other people provide one.

School is for people who can't read (3, Insightful)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369783)

There are a few excellent reasons to go to school:
      - your field has you using multi-million dollar equipment that you simply cannot access outside of the academic world
      - you don't know what you want, and need someone to plot a course through life for you
      - you can't read and need to be taught the alphabet

In this field, help-desk, databases, web-development are all the same:
      - exceptionally well and accurately documented
      - always using very inexpensive or free tools
      - catering to intelligent people

If you want to learn web development, grab as many books as you like, read through MSDN and your favourite firefox wiki. Read, tinker, play. Read the HTML specifications. Keep playing. In school, you'd simply have shorter hours, and someone telling you to read chapter 1, then telling you to read chapter 2, then telling you to read chapter 3. Oh yeah, and they'd tell you that you read only 92% of chapter 2.

If you want to learn about databases, install mysql with about ten clicks, and read the mysql documention. It's not a puzzle, it's just a process. By the time you've read the, what 500 pages of syntax, you'll be able to play forever.

You don't need someone else telling you how to do something when it's written down. After all, there aren't that many people who know more about mysql than is written in the documentation. Maybe six of the people who built it. Everyone else simply read the documentation before you. Professors included. The story would be different if your goal were to build databases for enormous applications. But like I tell all of my clients when they ask if my selection of mysql as a database can meet their company's needs: "your company has 500 clients and 10 employees, the database world is concerned with millions of records. we'll talk again after your widget takes over manhattan".

The biggest reason to dodge formal education in these types of areas is that the curiculum is set-in-stone well before you start the course -- actually well before your sign up for the course, and even well before they decide to offer the course. So you're guaranteed to be learning old technologies. In this industry, six months counts as old. This all means that when you're done, and out, you won't have any confidence in your skills simply because you will not have used them in the real world. Academic assignments are useless.

So in the end, you'll have a very valuable piece of paper. It has the following values:
      - you spent time and money to acquire it. that alone is an achievement recognized not only by many but will certainly be a point of pride for you.
      - some others, namely .H.R. departments, look for that stuff. These are the same .H.R. departments that wanted 6 years of Java from me when Java was 2 years old. It's actually quite funny, or would be if it weren't so very very sad.

Clients will never ask you for credentials, or certificates, or diplomas, or degrees. Clients ask for guarantees, and you don't supply those either in our industry.

So if you really want to do something about your skills, then the following is what you truly desire:
      - assistance (not guidance) in acquiring the skills
      - a forum for testing and experimenting with those skills
      - confidence in those skills
      - an understanding of the applications of those skills

Then what you want is a job in a company where you will learn those skills on your own. Offer to work for very little pay. Either for businesses outside of the industry where they will benefit from whatever you actually can produce as you learn to produce it; or for a company in the industry who will gladly help to train you in the hopes that eventually you'll be good enough to hire at full pay. My companies seek those people all the time. Good programmers (like the ones we have) increase their production when they have a semi-competant assistant to teach (and to catch their accidental spelling mistakes in variables that otherwise take six hours to debug), and by the time those new guys are ready to be trusted, they already know all of our internal platforms and conventions, and routines, and schedules. I'm in Toronto, if it means anything to you.

But yeah, you've got to be able to read. And I don't mean "see spot run". I mean "I want to learn databases" === printing 800 pages of documentation, reading it in two weeks, tinkering for another week, and working with it for a month, failing three times, then getting something functionally whole. The assistance you get from someone like me is not tutorial. Rather it's those missteps that if you were to randomly take, would make things eight times harder than they needed to be. For example, I've taught Perl to a dozen C/C++/VB programmers; not because they couldn't learn another syntax in an hour, but because Perl has four things that are unfamiliar to those other languages. Five minutes of talk from me about each of them ensures that these guys don't trip up on things like "hidden variables", "context sensitive variables", "subroutine prototyping", and "lists". Each very easy to learn, but if you don't know that they exist, and you try to do something that seems easy, and you accidentally hit one of those scenarios, you'll spend days of frustrated effort thinking that Perl is broken.

Re:School is for people who can't read (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369889)

The biggest reason to dodge formal education in these types of areas is that the curiculum is set-in-stone well before you start the course -- actually well before your sign up for the course, and even well before they decide to offer the course. So you're guaranteed to be learning old technologies. In this industry, six months counts as old. This all means that when you're done, and out, you won't have any confidence in your skills simply because you will not have used them in the real world. Academic assignments are useless.
If the coursework is that dependent on specific tools/technologies and cannot be applied to what replaces them, that particular school is the problem, not school in general. What school did you go to that taught this way? Let us know so we can avoid it.

Progression (1)

acehole (174372) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369785)

Usually:

Hell Desk -> Desktop Support then branching off to Sys admin, DB admin, Network admin.

Edumacation is the way to go, its a wise investment.

Options (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369791)

I have been in many different aspects of I.T. from the HP helpdesk to a mom and pop repair shop and a network admin at a bank (current). I can tell you the scenery may change but the actual job does not you will still have end users asking questions and expecting help for some pretty strange and annoying things sometimes. It's the nature of the beast. I seem to think that any faucet of this industry will have that as it is community driven IE: people asking questions.

work at a university while going there (5, Interesting)

Cheezlbub (39707) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369797)

you could go back to school & work at the university while you're there. Generally, the IT Departments at universities are pretty big and they give you a good idea of anything you're going to encounter. At my university when someone shows initiative and they're competent and not a douche they pretty much always get the chance to prove themselves - ymmv, but I get the impression that quite a few universities are like this.

If you get on as a student, that's cool, part time, focus on school, show some initiative and try to get a full time job

If you get on as a full timer - awesome for you - most universities offer pretty good benefits, a lot of them include stuff like tuition wavers (full or partial - either way, you're going to end up paying less.)

and finally, working at a university IT department doesn't necessarily mean being in a support role -

our it department has an application development group, a services group (support), a project management group, a system administration/network admin group, a business group that handles contracts & such with other departments/companies, a research computing group (super computers), a dedicated security group, an administration group (payroll), and an HR group. Of those, sysadmins, services, and app devs have to do support. Everyone else is only rarely customer facing. The likelihood that you're going to get into the non-support groups right away is pretty slim, but movement has a tendency to be really fluid.

In case you didn't get the main point of this - the important thing is showing initiative. Show that you're interested in doing something new and interesting - show it by talking to people who do it already and trying to shadow them. Work with your bosses to get involved in projects, do things to get noticed. =)

Big fish, small pond (4, Insightful)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369801)

With a 200 person law firm, you're probably the lowest of 2 or 3 people. Find a position somewhere where you're the jack-of-all-trades -- you do the tech support, server management, web development, purchasing, etc. You'll work long hours because the tech support prevents focused work on the other things, so be prepared. But you'll learn alot if you're driven and you can finally have "Server Administration" or "Web Design" on your resume. It won't get you into Google, but experience may get you a junior admin job.

To find this entry level everything job, look at 100 person or less businesses or colleges. Colleges will be easier as they aren't money driven.

Alternatively, in this job market, go to school.

Depends on what you want to do (2, Insightful)

_Hellfire_ (170113) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369825)

It really depends - do you want to do a technical role? Or do you want to move into management. Here's assuming you want to stay in IT.

If you want to do a technical role, I'd second a few of the suggestions here that you should download a 'nix, install some tools and learn everything there is to know about that particular technology. Bonus points for picking something that can be carted cross-platform (SQL, XML etc).

Then you can start applying for junior roles in other companies "We require a junior DBA working on MS-SQL and Oracle...". If you're good enough, you won't stay junior for long. The software is out there and it's all free - start learning it!

If you want to move into management, you generally have two career paths - managing technology or managing people. Managing technology requires you to learn about things like data centre operations, Capacity Management, Availability Management, cost accounting and charging etc etc. All these things go into making the technology side hum ie "the hardware is working properly, and we know we can pay for it now, and in the future". Companies are screaming for this type of management as they realise that the old reactive model of bodging it up to get it working now, and panic buying stuff they don't really need isn't working. They're looking for people who can formulate an IT strategy and make it work in the real world.

If you want to manage people, then start looking at leadership books, guides and education. Do you want to manage a helpdesk (didn't think so). Maybe the relevant institute of management has a short course that you could do.

I made it past the helpdesk. I started off after high school building PCs and crawling under desks with CAT-5 between my teeth. I did that for 5 years, then was a sysadmin for a web hosting company for a year, then a service desk operator for 2, then a process specialist for another year. I've been in my current role as a process manager for just over a year making 6 figures.

It can be done, but you need to differentiate yourself. Lots of guys can fix a printer - but to really add value, figure out which companies are looking to extend themselves from a reactive environment to a proactive customer focussed one, and jump on board.

Find a new career. Or don't... (2, Interesting)

0311 (796591) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369831)

I started out as a phone rep on the floor of a credit collection department. Because I liked to build computers and was interested in programming, I began building a relationship with the LAN team/help desk. I got a certification, then applied for an open position. I enjoyed it but it left me wanting more than unjamming stuff and rebooting computers for clueless users. Even though I didn't mind the work (I don't stress out very easily) I knew I could go further. I began taking programming classes and began proactively taking on scripting tasks and small programming assignments to make my job and the jobs of those around me a lot easier. I jumped at every chance to learn something new, even if it wasn't fun or interesting. I was always eager to learn. When the opportunity opened up to become an intern programmer, I applied and was accepted. Meanwhile, I got an associates in software engineering and began taking classes to complete a B.S. in comp sci. At this point, I realized I would never move up as fast as I wanted to with that company so I bailed and took a similar (lateral move) position with G.E. as a web developer. I began taking classes in web development, earned 2 of the 4 Java certs that were available at the time and finished my degree. Then they laid me off! Eight days before Christmas when we were expecting our 3rd child only a month later! Turns out, it was the best thing to happen. Forty-five days later I was offered a job in another state with a generous move bonus and a slight raise. Thirteen months later I moved yet again to another company. It was then that I realized I didn't really like computers so I took some pre-med classes, volunteered at a local emergency room (on Friday nights until midnight and sometimes later, the stories I could tell!!) and took the MCAT (3 times). Now I am between my 1st and 2nd year in med school and I love it. I would never have thought I would be a physician, especially not at nearly 40 years old with 4 kids and a big mortgage, but everything is working out. Here are the points of my rather long story:
1) work hard and learn continually
2) always look for a better situation and be prepared to get out of your comfort zone to obtain it
3) be receptive to new experiences in different areas that might later bear fruit
4) work hard and learn continually.

It could be much worse... (3, Funny)

croddy (659025) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369843)

You could be working with George [nanc.com] .

Fuck You (1, Insightful)

Wabbit Wabbit (828630) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369855)

You know what? My excellent karma be damned.

How about you help desk workers actually solve some shit for a change. I'm tired of calling the help desk (be it corporate or extra-corporate like my cellphone provider) and never getting anything fixed. I don't give a damn about where you want to get to or what (or who) you think you're supposed to be. That's precisely the problem. You're worried about where you think you're supposed to be instead of getting your fucking job done. Fuck you. To high holy hell. Solve some goddamn problems instead of whining. Or don't work the fucking helpdesk if that's not where you want to be.

Guess what. I don't give a fuck about you or your career, any more than I do the corner mechanic. Solve my fucking computer problems. That's it. That's what you're paid to do. That's what I call you for. That's your job. Goddamn fucking do it. For once. Okay?

Re:Fuck You (2, Insightful)

gustolove (1029402) | more than 5 years ago | (#28370037)

The amount of IT knowledge it takes to get a job in most help desk positions is minimal. Most companies cycle through so many people frustrated with their unrewarding careers that the management is happy as long as the first tier can clear browser cache. Hell, they're happy if someone is answering the phone in a friendly manner... all of the troubleshooting steps these days are put into "Knowledge Bases" in which their 'trained' technicians follow the step by step procedures to try and fix the issue. The REAL Tech support isn't reached until the 2nd or 3rd level normally... and still at that point some of the idiots sneak through the filters and make it into the upper tiers

Re:Fuck You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28370043)

I work the desk, and I generally find reward in helping people out. I know my field and get things fixed, and I do my best to show understanding for the frustration that usually arises out of needing to call out for assistance.

But occasionally there's some prick who acts like I'm his personal computer fixing bitch that deserves to be fucked-to-high-holy-hell becausing he can't send his goddamned email. That person can blow steam out of his ears all day; he's last on my priority list.

Do both! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369863)

After six years, my first post. Excuse my lack of sarcasm and obvious sincerity - I will get better. You are in one of the most grueling roles in the business, but an excellent training ground for your future. Since you apparently have an undergraduate degree, I'd focus on developing a specific IT skill - UNIX is indeed a good next step for a help desk guy, as is internetworking. If you want to move into the CIO ranks, you'd be wise to both broaden and deepen your skill set, especially in the area of enterprise software development (stay Web, kid...). My guess is you're young and have time - work on the Masters degree part time, use your current job to hone your interpersonal skills and understanding of your business. These are the truly indispensible abilities for any job, and there are far too few people who have them in IT. And good luck - it's a fun and rewarding profession.

Treat this as an opportunity. (3, Informative)

Photo_Nut (676334) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369883)

I answered the phones and staffed the front desk at the student help desk when I was in college. It was the best paid student job on campus - $10 per hour your first semester, and a lot of the time you weren't busy and could surf the net or do your homework. There were a few other Computer Science majors there with me, and we got to help out all levels of student, faculty, and staff with their problems. What I took away from that job is not that I dislike working in the service industry, but rather, that there were certain universal truths about end users that I couldn't learn about anywhere else.

The help desk is your opportunity to study the areas where computers and human interactions break down. Learning computer skills in some high level language like Java or C# while working at the help desk is a way to advance your career. Start out with a book, but have goals in mind. Computer Science education is all about leading you to the water. Buy or borrow a few good books, classic computer science texts, etc. Work through the examples and do the exercises when you're not on the phones.

Most importantly, design some UI on paper (I like graph paper for this because you draw a lot of boxes in designing UI). Figure out what you *want* the program to do when you click the buttons. Then use a free program like ant or Visual C# Express and build the UI. Take apart the generated code. Look at it. Study it. Solve a problem that is interesting to you. Do it for fun. If you don't enjoy making programs, then Computer Science is simply not for you. There are plenty of people in CS departments who are very smart and study very hard, but their heart is just not in it. You can tell because they stop writing software when the day is done.

If you want to practice on Linux and you have Windows, you can download Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 (free) or VMWare player (also free) and install Ubuntu on a virtual drive. Put that virtual drive on a USB key chain or iPod, and you have a mobile development platform that you can take home. The internet is full of human knowledge on the subject of Computer Science and other computer topics. A degree from a reputable college or university is not necessarily a requirement.

But you need to prove to most engineering firms that you have what it takes, and the best paying jobs ($75K+ benefits) usually require solid interviewing and development demonstrations with someone who has 5 to 25 years of development experience and typically a Bachelors or advanced degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Math, Physics, or something equally challenging. A degree won't get you in the door though. We see tons of people straight out of college with their Sc.B. degree who can't solve a problem involving a linked list, binary search on an array, binary search tree, hash table, dealing with memory management, and many other problems you need to be able to solve on your own as an engineer.

I started writing code sometime around the age of 6 in the early 80's because I wanted to make a game. I ended up discovering that game writing is interesting, but what I love to write are tools that interact with pixels and musical notes. Software engineering can be grueling work. In my best weeks, I write hundreds of lines of code. In my worst weeks, I spend long hours debugging and poking and proding and pulling out all the tricks, but get no closer to solving a bug which eventually is found to be something trivial in another part of the code. Highs are higher than in technical support, but lows are awfully low, too.

Electronic Medical records (1)

hypercube24 (1426043) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369885)

With the huge government stimulus for EMR you may find this a busy field in the near future. Check out some of the companies working on this. Doctors are scrambling to implement the mandate to "digitize" their records and this may be an opportunity. I have been assisting local docs in their offices, it is interesting. Some of the systems they are using are genuine antiques ( I am working on getting some of the data from a 15 year old Unix machine, it is still spinning and has a "huge" 100 meg hd with patient information in a proprietary format!). A real challenge will be getting all the new medical records systems to talk to each other and transfer information, integrate lab tests into the data base and so on. Google has a "medical record" online system which is very clumsy, and if this is the best they can do there is room for real innovation in this field. Dr B

Figure out what you want then go for it (1)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369891)

If you have the brains and the talent, anything is possible in IT; as long as you really enjoy it.

In my opinion which is based on prospective employee interviewing experiences, anything below a PhD in technology doesn't mean much. The real question you should be asking yourself is, "Are you self-motivated, creative and talented? Are you able to solve unique problems on your own? Do you need someone to hold your hand?"

If the answer to the first two are yes and the second no; why waste your money? Personally I have a HS education and have had several great paying jobs in IT. Since I didn't spend a crapload to get a degree, I am way ahead of my counterparts that did. How did I do it? Well I discovered I had an aptitude for coding and more importantly problem solving and then I worked my ass off for a number of years. I just ate it up, couldn't get enough, HTML, DHTML, then Perl, C, Java, Shell, etc.

I padded my self education with some formal education in Unix and C programming at the university level, and even more importantly, I found a brilliant person who was able to serve as a mentor of sorts.
I am not saying my way is the right way for you or anyone; but it was for me and so I thought I'd share it. So good luck in whatever you choose!

Make your job redundant (1)

amirulbahr (1216502) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369893)

The best way to get a promotion is to make your job redundant, or to get ready to start training your replacement. You employer will be grateful and should reward, but even if they don't then your prospects on the job market will be much improved.

Oh, and the next best tip is to learn a Unix (or Linux) some other poster said above.

Re:Make your job redundant (1)

mozzis (231162) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369927)

Take the Microsoft MSCE courses as often as you can afford to. You learn a lot and have the certification to put on resume.

it depends. do you clock watch? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369911)

Yes, the Helpdesk sucks. I started doing it 15 years ago at the school I went to making a whopping 7.50 an hour. Within a year I was administrating systems on the campus. Why? Because I busted my ass. An example, we had an old Vax that was crapping out and had to do an emergency upgrade to an Alpha server. I stayed up the entire night with the Admins and learned. I then cracked open the extremely dry manuals for VMS. Always take the time of crisis and turn it into an opportunity. If there is an Administrator who's going through a rough time, ask if you can watch / help.

Worst case, get some VM's set up and see if you can bogart some copies of various Microsoft titles off of TechNet, or set up your own linux box. Talk to your boss and tell him that you want to learn and ask him to create an environment for you to learn and test new skills. See if you have old Cisco equipment and learn how to configure it. With google as your companion, you can learn to do many different tasks and use them as a foundation to grow upon.

If your boss is not able to create that environment, then maybe it is not a right fit. I personally have taken marketing majors straight from college with no formal IT experience and flipped them into very good jobs as short as a year later. I don't think of myself as anyone special, but if you don't have someone who is invested in your growth, then you should look somewhere else for employment.

If certifications are your thing, then study for them. But please do yourself a favor and don't memorize the book, actually learn it. In the past I have interviewed people with certifications, particularly Microsoft and wind up dancing circles around them in a tech interview because all they did was memorize.

And it also comes down to what I like to call a clock watcher. I typically have three types of staff members. 1) The ones who are out the door by 5pm 2) The ones who will only stay when shit hits the fan and or have deadlines 3) The ones who are committed to learning as much as possible no matter what and will hang with me during a crisis to learn. I can assure you that if you are in the first category, you should rethink your career..because it is obvious that this is something you don't love.

Lastly, I hate to break it to you, but even after working 15 years in IT, the CEO will call you and ask for help with his Blackberry because he doesn't have time to deal with the help desk. It's the nature of the job.

Be nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369917)

To people in other departments who get paid better and still do interesting stuff. Fix their stuff quickly and be helpful. If you make contacts like this who respect you and your work ability and ethics, then its highly possible one of them will let you know when something in their area is coming up. Being the team leader (or teams) preferred candidate is much more of an in than having umpteen qualifications in your CV but not much in the way of demonstrable people skills. Works for me and I have A+ (which I got _after_ I got into technical support).

Of course, if you have no skills AND no qualifications and are just likeable, then it probably wont help (much).

You've already quit, so why ask slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369921)

Seriously? Only one year? I was "helldesking" for a solid 7+ years at various companies. This is what I learned:

Learn some f*ing patience. Yeah, talking to you, you pansy. Can't cut the front lines? Not cut out for IT. 'Nuff said.

Consider alcoholism or Tai Chi - it makes your friends much more interesting or it beats throwing a brick at a wall every night. Don't mingle both together, that is an OR and not an AND. At least exercise and eat properly; minimize caffeine intake to one a day.

Diversify your skill set. Any monkey can answer phones and tell customers to 'shut up and reboot'. It takes a pro to talk down an angry customer with soft skills and convince them that it's not a big deal while frantically googling for answers.

Get ITIL (foundations v3) certified. It seems to be the buzzword lately on resumes, or at least it was the last time I was job hunting.

Awe screw it. May as well change your major to business management with technology background or somethingrather. Watch Byte Club http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-470377682871831148 at least ten or so times. I've seen too many business management people that think they can use a mouse and keyboard effectively to get what the think is 'work' done.

As for me? I learned OS/2. Yes, go ahead and laugh. Laugh all you want. But remember this: helpdesks are there to weed out the weak and feeble .

Seriously....apply for non-helpdesk jobs..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369925)

Apply for *every* non-helpdesk job that you think you might be able to do without totally f*cking it up.... as any job you don't apply for, you are 100% guaranteed not to get.

Have at least 5-10 applications in-progress at any time, more if you can cope with the paperwork. Applying for 50 or more jobs before you get one is OK, but if you apply for 50 jobs without ever getting short-listed, then you are doing something seriously wrong.

Keep a complete folio of all applications/CVs/resume's you send out, and try to improve it every time you send one out..

Personalise it to every application, with cover letter, and emphasising your more-relevant skills:
  - If applying for a programming job, writing code as a hobby is more important than 10 years on a helpdesk.
  - If you are applying for a manager position in a help-desk-centre, being presentable, well spoken and worldly is more important that 10 years on the helpdesk phone.

Lieing about your skills, or stretching the truth a little can help too, but only if you have the ability to follow-through and learn about product X before such time as you are asked about it. :-)

The Taxonomy of IT professionals is as follows... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369931)

Engineerus Originalus:

At the very pinnacle of the IT world, these are the people who invent the things that the rest of the IT world relies on for THEIR jobs. The ones who truly deserve the word "engineer" in their job titles. They work for places like Intel, Google, Microsoft, Cisco, etc. Getting here requires nothing less than a Master's degree.

Managerius Pseudogeek:

These people got a four-year CS degree and jumped straight into the job market. They lack the rigors of graduate school, and the practical knowledge that comes with real job experience and/or industry certifications. A lot of front-line software developers fall into this category, though all the really good ones actually belong to the species Scholarus Basementi (see below). In a healthy and growing economy, these folks can get jobs in a variety of fields, from webdev to DBA. In a down economy, they are frequently passed over by experienced people who are already in the industry and desperate to do whatever is necessary to stay there. It should be noted that this species belongs to the Genus Managerius because four-year degrees carry power in the corporate world, but these individuals lack the real intellectual rigor to rise to the top of their fields technically. This leaves middle management as the usual endpoint for their careers.

Genericus Certificans:

Probably the single largest species of IT professional, they bear a great superficial resemblance to Scholarus Basementi but lack the distinctive colors, odors, and sounds that Basemeni uses to distinguish itself when interacting socially. Many have two year Associate CS degrees, but the majority can be identified by the way they build their nests out of an accumulation of IT industry certifications. If you look inside their cubicle and find both Project+ AND "IBM Certified Solution Designer" certificates posted up then you know you've identified a Certificans. Older members of the species will still proudly display their Novell CNAs. Virtually all IT professionals with the word "Administrator" in their job title belong to this species, though the ones that self-identify as "BOFH" will desperately try to pass themselves off as Basmenti.

Scholarus Basmenti

This species is entirely self-taught, and their individual skill levels vary wildly. The less able members of this species frequently flock around the more advanced individuals in order to camouflage their weaknesses. These packs of Basmenti, led by an Alpha, are highly territorial and competitive. It is believed that their incessant desire to compete for control over FOSS projects or to get credit for "clever hacks" is rooted in their job insecurity. Those who are not unemployed are often found working entry-level helpdesk jobs. Those who do better economically are typically Alphas who went out and obtained a degree or an industry certification to validate their ample innate talents. Basmenti can easily be distinguished from Certificans when asked about their credentials. While Certificans will speak proudly of their achievements, Basmenti will ridicule their own credentials as "worthless paper" or boast about how they passed their exams hung over without bothering to study. Occasionally, especially talented Basmenti who also show aptitude forming healthy human relationships will be able to obtain Venture Capital and will eventually rise to the very top of the "Foo Chain." Once at this point, they will spend lots of the "Foo's" money to hire members of all three other species, who will look at the unschooled savant with naked resentment and envy.

Time is money... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369945)

A shame that we IT people don't know how to negotiate worth a can of beans.

I've told fellow techs we should be half lawyer. That way we can negotiate better pay AND insure we get paid it.

If we told them to stuff it and went independent (when a user called because he couldn't print AND there was no internal IT) they'd be more than happy to pay a decent amount to get back to work. Likewise, if the network was down and you had a hundred employees twiddling their thumbs for an hour costing the company a bucket of cash. Again they'd be more inclined to pay an amount that lets you save for a retirement.

My advise is to get out of the industry and into something that pays better. Fiber splicing should be good for many years.

I work for a major helicopter manufacturer that farmed its IT out to some company that farmed out the hiring to another that farmed out the hiring to yet another. I get a flat rate with no raises and spotty hours. I know that the three layers of staffing above me are doing much better in the pay and bennies department for way less effort.

Bitter Tech Person

Excel in your role and network (1)

carlzum (832868) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369955)

The help desk is a great entry-level position. You have the opportunity to interact with managers and executives, take advantage of it. Develop relationships with everyone you can, learn everything about the environment (applications, servers, business processes), and build a reputation as the company's "computer guru."

Decide what you want to do and don't be shy about discussing your goals while you're unjamming the VP's printer. When he/she asks how you're doing tell them "a little tired, I was up all night studying for my Oracle certification." Then apply your skills in your current role, even if it means working late. Do users have trouble keeping track of their database passwords? Develop something that applies their password changes to every system. When a position opens, you'll have a leg up on external candidates with more experience.

My question exactly (1)

Infin1niteX (950492) | more than 5 years ago | (#28369959)

I graduate in May with an B.S. technical networking and security degree from Purdue and am currently wondering if going for certifications or a masters would help me find a better job during these fun economic times. Purdue currently offers a master in both my degree and computer science, but then there is also and MBA option that would allow you to get more into the management side of things, so I guess it depends on what you really want to do. Seems like most of the people here want to call the op an idiot or that he doesn't understand IT when all he seems to be asking is how do i go from being the mindless helpdesk guy that every takes for granted to a Network Admin type position. Which just the bosses take for granted.

Run like hell. Or suck it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28369989)

srsly Pom Pom: you is better off as an English Literature major than where you is. There is no up from there. Do _anything_ else.

(I am making illiterate-person noise because I suspect I am speaking to an illiterate person. In case I'm not: no, really, the job you are working can only do damage to your resume. Quit immediately and do _anything_ else. Go back to school if you've a mind; hell, go work at Wal-Mart if that's your only other choice. Wal-Mart on a resume is forgivable, especially at your (implied) age. Helpdesk on your resume begets more helpdesk on your resume and _nothing_ else. Start running now. I am not kidding.)

(captcha: "reindeer")

Jpbs suck when you hate them, less if you don't (1)

herksc (1447137) | more than 5 years ago | (#28370021)

and with the weak job market it seems I can only move sideways into another support role

This is not always a bad idea. Even if there was room for progression at your current employer, if you do not enjoy working the helpdesk there, then you would not enjoy any IT position at that company. Helpdesk can be OK, if there is someone else successfully working to improve the issues that you constantly get called for. If you have an IT job with no user contact at all, then you are truly useless.

One problem in IT is that users and managers think that an IT department's job is only to fix problems. The real problem begins when an IT department thinks the same thing! Another is that people always expect managers to define their job, and managers are always looking for people that define their job. After being in IT for almost 10 years, I now enjoy it (working for a small company helps). I didn't enjoy it for the first few years.

In my opinion, IT is satisfying when you do this (not a complete list):
1. Decide that helping users means developing relationships with them, and convincing them that you respect them (This is called "customer service")
2. Decide that you are solely responsible for the company's use/lack of technology/systems
3. Communicate to your manager what your job function is for
4. Learn how your managers view their own job function
5. Be proactive, find solutions/systems, and financially justify them on "paper"
6. Work somewhere where your manager understands 1 through 5

That said, if you can afford school and you enjoy it, then do that.

get a job in a bigger company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28370029)

get a job in a bigger company. i was doing phone tech support for a while, then got my ass an interview at apple, worked on my team for a year and then became the go to person for all of the arcane shit that our team has to deal with. before long i was promoted and now i don't have to deal with run of the day problems, i just send those to the normal it guys. oh and my salary tripled in about 2 years.

Law Firms (1)

surfcow (169572) | more than 5 years ago | (#28370045)

My two cents:

Worked for a law firm ten years ago. IT, LAN manager, sys admin, help desk, information officer, palm engineer, etc.

Every one of the senior partners (there were 8) felt that he was my sole manager. They all felt they knew more about IT than I did. They routinely countered each other, sometimes just for spite. Huge, puffy, bloated egos. Lots of SHOUTING and panic'd staff - stress was so high that you could literally smell it. Politics. One told me to convert their 1.2 million WordPerfect legal documents to MS-Word and gave me two months and no budget. They burned through IT people like lamp fuel. The geek before me lasted a year as a stress junkie and got cancer.

Absolute hell job, TOXIC. Quit after three weeks and good riddance.

I know, every business is different, etc, etc, but I have heard similar stories from other law firm sys admins. These people eat their own. Meet their families, I think you'll agree.

Talk to your IT manager... he might be able to hlp (1)

DaEMoN128 (694605) | more than 5 years ago | (#28370051)

It all depends on what your IT department is set up like. Are your networking / server people working hand in hand with you? System Engineers (the server sysadds at my job) work hand in hand with the Service desk. If you are qualified, can show experience, and have a well written resume.. they will look at you when a position opens up. Same with the networking engineers.

I was in your position back in Dec. I asked the IT manager if they were looking for people and on what teams. He replied that they were looking for NE's to work a hell shift (12's, 4 on , 4 off, nights). I got my resume together, started brushing up on my networking and interviewed for the job. I have a co worker who is in the same situation and they won't look at him. He is trying to get to the systems side of the house. He is a MCSE for 2k3 and can't even get an interview.....

There has to be an opening you can move into. Start working towards your trade certs (juniper, cisco, microsoft, etc.). It will be easier to get to an interview if you have the certs to back it up. You already have your foot in the door. IF you are good at what you do, management will have noticed. They are the ones to talk to about moving up into an open slot. If your companies turn over rate involves death... then you might want to put out a resume.

TIPS on your resume..
1. Proof read.
2. Tailor it to each job you are applying for.
3. Write a separate and distinct objective statement and cover letter for each application.
4. No huge blocks of texts. Make it easy on the eyes.
5. Take the skills listed in the job listing and make sure those words match in your resume, most HR departments do a key word search because they don't understand a tech resume.
6. Give a specific outline for your repsonibilites for each job... if they want to know more they will ask you in the interview.

Once you get to the interview.. the job is yours to lose.. not yours to gain.

Monkey Graduation (4, Insightful)

vision2006 (993725) | more than 5 years ago | (#28370057)

I personally would be happy if I could get a competent help desk monkey, but unfortunately after downsizing, I was lucky enough to have help desk monkey added to my network admin responsibilities. I'm going to make some assumptions here: You already have a bachelors degree, your work pays all or part of certification and/or formal education, and you actually like IT work.

First thing you need to do is get exposure to some of the things you think you may like to do in IT. Read about them, talk to admins, dba's, etc. in your own company, or find someone in another company you could talk to about their work.

Once you have a good idea what you want to do, start going to school or training courses for it. Whether you choose online training, night classes, etc. is up to you, but education will help you move out of help desk work.
You will also need hands on work aside from just learning about the trade you pick, so I would suggest (as other have) to load software at home and start working with it. Hands on work is an excellent complement to book learning, and will ensure you know the material.

As far as dealing with your current job while you are working towards your goal, it would help if you changed your attitude towards your work. Instead of getting pissed that you have to unjam paper or help someone with their software, try showing the person how they can fix it themselves. If they don't want to learn it, then that's fine. I think most people would rather not have to call someone and wait for help if they can fix the issue on their own. Get creative. If you are working towards being a DBA or web designer, try setting up a self-service web site where the user can type in a problem and your program lists common fixes. It would be a great way to get the experience you need and definitely something to put on your resume.

Remember that there are a lot of people without jobs, some with families, that would kill to just be getting a steady paycheck. Be thankful.

simple and practical solution (1)

aardvark007 (37636) | more than 5 years ago | (#28370081)

If I were in your position, here is what I would do:
1) Find your dream job. Search job postings non-stop for a while. Figure out what which career you would enjoy the most.
2) Study the minimum and desired qualifications for each job.
3) Obtain the minimum and desired qualifications for each job. (Put an emphasis on written and oral communication skills)
4) Study the interview process (specific to your field of choice) and make friends/family give you mock interviews.
5) Apply for jobs. Remember to be optimistic and respectful. Don't appear desperate. Customize your resume for each application and write a custom cover letter for each application submission. Do not lie on your resume or you will be embarrassed during the interview.

Is a degree worth the time, effort, and money? If all of the job postings for your dream job require a degree, then absolutely. If not, then I think you know the answer.

Remember to take the initiative to acquire new skills and master them.
Good luck!

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