Be Nice to Your Techs

Scott Calonico

We wanted to wish pre-Thanksgiving greetings to all our readers in the United States.

I thought this was the time to give a nod over to the soldiers of the IT industry, the techs.

I've never run an MSP or IT support company before, so take this blog post worth a grain of silicon, but I have been working off and on in the tech industry for about 20 years now.

I think I've covered just about all the major job areas: web developer, system administrator, network administrator, technical support, webmaster, inside sales, outside sales, marketing, and Cat5 cable maker.

If there's one thing I've learned in all that time, it's be thankful to the tech guys.

Summer of 80386

One of my first summer jobs was testing memory chips at Compaq. Later on, I worked in one of the first ISPs in Austin, Texas. As the (first) dot com boom began to blossom, my first little ISP was soon bought up by a bigger ISP. I then left to work at my first dot coms, an IBM3270 emulator company, then Deja.com (later acquired by Google) and finally ibooks.com (hey, let's make people pay the same price for an HTML copy of the book as the real thing, but not actually let them keep the HTML!).

When the bust hit, I went back to my ISP, which by then was one of the biggest players in town....until the company that bought them went under.

The guys who ran that ISP were smart, however, and started investing a good chunk of their profits into a CoLo center, which is still around and still in demand as one of the largest cloud datacenters in Central Texas.

Camouflage in the Bull Pen

What the people I worked for at that ISP were also really smart about was treating their techs right. This was important, because the pay wasn't all that great. But being able to have a free internet connection and work with the latest technology (ISDN!) was a big bonus.

As there got to be more and more of us, the tech "bull pen" expanded and yet, the room seemed to get darker and darker. We started covering up the harsh florescent lights with sheets and blankets that cast the room in an eerie red glow. One tech even brought in camouflage netting that he put up over his cubicle that made it look like something out of Saigon circa 1968.

But nobody in management said anything about the way our room looked because the phones were being answered, the system was being taken care of and customers were happy.

They wouldn't harbor fools, however. I still remember a recent Computer Science graduate chided because he didn't know how to edit in "vi".

Remember Your Roots

Later on, working at inside sales at that same company, I worked with the technical staff from another angle, but I still remembered what it was like to work in that department and treated them as a member of the team, and not an impediment to getting in the way of my next sale.

My DSL lines were turned on and around amazingly fast and I was able to service new customers quicker, while knowing that current ones were being taken care of.

It's easy to distance yourself from the tech side of your business as you turn your attention to the marketing and management side of things, especially as your MSP business grows.

Just be nice to the techs.

Unless they don't know "vi".