The current source of my financial existence (called a job by some, and indentured servitude by others) involves providing troubleshooting recommendations for electrical and electronic systems. People call, describe their problem, and listen while I provide guidance on the possible causes and remedial procedures. Some might call it Tech Support. I like to think of it more as Remote Rocket Surgery.
At first glance, it might not seem all that remarkable. You call Support, they say try this and try that, you try it, maybe it works, maybe you call back, and then it magically starts working again, for reasons that will never be known. Come on, it can’t be that hard!
The remarkable part and the part that caused me to sink initially is that these systems range from flashlight simple to space shuttle complex. The systems span 40 years of the company’s production, and they’re often serviced by people who have no background and little training to help them understand the systems. Add a lack of proper system documentation to the mix and you can see the dilemma.
So you might understand my anxiety when I was initially thrust into this role. I have the background and an intimate knowledge of the technologies involved. And although I had no experience with any of the systems, my background would carry me through regardless of the era of the system, if there was experienced field technicians (there wasn’t) and adequate documentation available (it was nonexistent).
My first year was spent in a state of perpetual sink. There were only a few instances that didn’t involve “calling in a lifeline.” But slowly, I developed the necessary documentation for the various systems. This was usually accomplished by grilling the responsible systems design engineers but sometimes involved a little reverse-engineering on my own. With each instance, my little knowledge base grew. It’s now nearly 10 years old and growing.
I have also developed the ability to see the systems in question in my “mind’s eye”, and to direct the efforts of the on-site technicians in providing me answers to questions that they didn’t know to ask or how to answer. It’s a bit like “telesurgery”, only without the blood. And as we worked, I tried to share some of the technological background, so that the technicians understood why the systems behaved as they did when I had them perform certain operations.
It’s been a long way back to the surface, but I can finally say I’m swimming. Oh, and with recent corporate restructuring, they’re still telling me “You’re on your own, kid!” And probably will be for the duration.