Memo to users

Courtesy of Vincent Ferrari, three tips for dealing with Fred in IT, and how they compare to dealing with my department:

Don’t Demand Anything — Unless Fred reports directly to you, you’re not going to get anywhere if you crash into his Star-Wars-laden cubicle with guns drawn. The second you start getting pushy with old Fred, the second he’ll “suddenly realize” that your problem is going to take 2-3 days to resolve. So, in short, be nice to Fred and let him steer the conversation. After all, he knows how the system works and you need his help — if anything, bring an extra Mountain Dew along with you to help grease the wheels.

I might also add that I’ve already prioritized all the corporate functions, and yours, Debbie Downer, are as close to the bottom as is humanly (or electronically) possible. If you need something today, the optimal time to ask for it is last week.

(Oh, and I prefer Coca-Cola for my deskside buzz, though Dr Pepper and RC are accepted gratefully.)

Don’t Expect to be Coddled — Fred probably isn’t going to hold your hand. He’ll either fix the problem for you or give you some possible fixes that you should try out first. If he goes for the latter, your best bet here is to write it down. There’s nothing that will annoy him more than you coming back 2 minutes later asking “What was I supposed to click again?”. If it’s a multi-step solution, jotting it down will further ensure you execute it correct (and you’re likely to impress Fred in the process). If you can’t follow instructions, expect resolution of your problem to come much slower than if you had. That actually segues nicely into the final point.

If you have an actual hardware issue, you’re probably going to Trini, because (1) she’s the official hardware person and (2) there’s a reasonable chance she will not snap your head off. Still, this applies pretty much across the board, with the proviso that if, after scraping your machine down to the bare metal, a week later she finds the same adware whose excision demanded that scraping in the first place, she’s going to compare you, intellectually, to an igneous rock, and you will come off second best. (Me, I assume sedimentary until proven otherwise.)

They Like it when You Listen — Fred isn’t a magician. In fact, a good programmer is one of the most logical, analytical people you’re likely to come across outside of NASA. So, while many of the details of his work may be Greek to you, his solution (and likely his explanation) are probably pretty logical.

As the BOFH, I do no substantial programming: I can write a quick and dirty database query, maybe, and I can tell you why your HTML looks like refried crap — for that matter, I can tell you why my HTML looks like refried crap — but you’ve got to go to the Code Warrior for the serious assaults on data. At some point he may tell you why you are wrong. And he will be correct.

These principles, I suspect, are extensible to an IT department of almost any size.





3 comments

  1. Dwayne "the canoe guy" »

    8 March 2007 · 7:13 am

    Being an IT guy myself, when someone comes to me with a problem, my first response is “why do you want to do that & why do you want to do it that way?”

    I have saved weeks of work with that line.

  2. Diane »

    8 March 2007 · 8:15 am

    Or in the case of DH- We didn’t do it and it’s not our problem even though everything was fine before THEY had a problem. LOL

  3. EulalieShinn »

    11 March 2007 · 3:17 pm

    First of all, a lot of us have already figured out that in order to get old Fred to do anything we’re supposed to suck up to old Fred. While some of us also happen to know who Klaatu is and several more Star Wars characters/trivia, we don’t care if old Fred doesn’t want us to get pushy with old Fred.

    While we have no problem being nice to old Fred, we grew tired of old Fred some time back. And we have no intention of bringing a Mountain Dew to grease old Fred’s wheels. He can grease his own wheels himself and anything else for that matter because we have no intention of bribing old Fred.

    Next, we’ve never been coddled by old Fred. We’re under the impression that old Fred doesn’t know how to do plenty of things and that would include coddling. Coddling isn’t a forte of old Fred’s. We also aren’t sure why we’re supposed to care what old Fred is annoyed about, since old Fred is extremely annoying (knows everything about Star Wars, nothing about coddling, can barely make himself a sandwich, not very good at conversing, can’t spell, the list goes on and on and did I mention old Fred isn’t attracted to bathing or brushing his teeth, even occasionally, but since old Fred knows everything we’re sure it’s not important anymore because he’s too busy being in charge of multi-step solutions. We don’t care about impressing old Fred mostly because old Fred himself isn’t very good at instructions (refer back to the bathing/toothbrushing thing) & also because he’s too busy thinking everyone but old Fred is stupid because they don’t get orgasmic talking about CPUs.

    No, Fred isn’t a magician because if he were he might make himself disappear but old Fred doesn’t want to because he likes being extremely annoying to make up for the fact that he’s really not very logical or analytical, and if he were he might have deduced it’s time to learn how to brush your teeth, bathe and (going way out on a limb here) use some deodorant that works. He also might learn how to say Hello, Goodbye, Please & Thank You and
    quit hiding behind that tired old thing of I’m old Fred, I’m a programmer, I’m really smart and that excuses all kinds of horrible behavior. That’s because old Fred is annoying, not logical, not analytical, not clever, not funny, not clean, and someone who thinks posting tips telling other people what to do is going to do something but we’re not sure what.

    Here are some tips for old Fred: Learn how to coddle, learn how to talk, learn how to bathe, and then maybe some of us will be more interested in letting old Fred steer the conversation. Some of us also know how some systems work and we don’t expect anyone to bring us a Mountain Dew, a Diet Coke, a cup of coffee or anything else that old Fred the extortionist requires to keep his high maintenance system going. Old Fred the elitist sounds like the Queen Mother and maybe instead of working he should join a bunco group or spend some long hours at the beauty parlor with a group of old ladies that also are busy sharing their lists of demands with lots of people who aren’t interested.

    I’d email old Fred but I don’t want to take up too much bandwidth.

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