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#1 lamentofking   User is offline

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Desktop Support Technician Essentials?

Posted 23 October 2014 - 06:22 AM

Hello all,

I'm usually discussing program-related content but I recently was offered an interview to be a Desktop Support Technician for a local public school system (K-12). I was wondering if anyone had any experience doing Desktop Support in a school system and could let me know what to expect in this environment? I wanted to go look at the job posting for this position but it is no longer available. I was thinking that from the looks of it, I'd be in charge of discovering the best hardware/software solutions for the schools and then providing support in troubleshooting and repairing software/hardware. Sound about right? Anything I'm leaving out? And also what would you say is the most important skill (or skills) to be a Desktop Support Technician?

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#2 tlhIn`toq   User is offline

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Re: Desktop Support Technician Essentials?

Posted 23 October 2014 - 07:07 AM

I did that exact job for the Clark County School District, Nevada (The count that include Las Vegas NV).

"In charge of..." - No.
"Discovering..." - No.

Those decisions are made by school boards and by management staff WAY above your pay grade. They have to account for fiscal budgets and long term deployment and if 20 schools can all afford it. They have contracts to consider with suppliers. You can't just say "HP is better" because maybe HP is not on their approved vendor list because they wouldn't guarantee a fixed price schedule for the next 12 months. You *have* to stick with a give model PC because the district already bought 10,000 of them along with 3,000 replacement motherboards for the parts inventory. The district may already have an on-going relationship with a software vendor so Widget Office Suite is the district standard and not MS office because Widget Office was $10,000/year cheaper. Etc. Etc. In other words desktop support tech is NOT a decision maker in any way.

You'll get work orders in the morning then jump in the van, go to the school and fix the problem.
Don't trust the guys that took the call on the phone. They'll tell you they tried to troubleshoot it on the phone and it needs an on-site visit. I cleared SO MANY calls on the phone because I better understood the issue, or at least took the time to get a good explanation. Phone support tends to get timed and have to clear x calls per hour. As the field tech you don't have that pressure. Its worth 10-20 minutes on the phone to avoid a 1 hour driving trip.

When I did this there was a mix of technology and I doubt that's changed. There will be old stuff and new. It wouldn't hurt to understand SCSI hard drives for example. There will be MacOS7 still in place side by side to MacOSX with Win98 and Windows8.1.

There will be labs of Macintoshes with a teacher that knows it all. There will be office administrators that want you to fix there automatic coffee cup holder (honestly, I had that call).

A large amount of the job was common sense. One call was all the print jobs printing half the page to the right. Turned out his page setting of "Computer Paper" was 22" white/green bar, but his box labeled "Computer paper" was 8.5x11 tractor feed. No amount of margin adjustment is going to fix that. You'll get calls about why the school secretary's scanner doesn't produce the right shade of green only to find the monitor needs color calibration. One call was about replacing a monitor; that turned out to be a bent pin in the connector easily fixed with a pair of needle nose pliers saving hundreds of dollars.

A HUGE amount of the job is just reinstalling Windows. Really. You can take 5 hours to try to figure out why the printer driver went to hell, or you can take 30 minutes to reinstall. You have to set aside intellectual curiosity and that need to find the answer, for the sake of getting the job done. And the job is not to find the problem, the job is to get the computer working.

So in short... Its grunt field technician work.
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#3 lamentofking   User is offline

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Re: Desktop Support Technician Essentials?

Posted 23 October 2014 - 08:07 AM

So would you say the most important part of the job is not to find the cause of the problem but just to fix the problem? I would think you would need to know the cause of the issue so that you could know the solution.
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#4 modi123_1   User is offline

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Re: Desktop Support Technician Essentials?

Posted 23 October 2014 - 08:17 AM

I think the important part is the sheer volume may be overwhelming, and finding an elegant niche solution for every problem may not be the best route. Minimize outages by trying to codify all things. Limit the scope of variance so a three hour long print driver problem can be smoothed over in a process that takes thirty minutes.
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#5 tlhIn`toq   User is offline

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Re: Desktop Support Technician Essentials?

Posted 23 October 2014 - 09:04 AM

View Postlamentofking, on 23 October 2014 - 09:07 AM, said:

So would you say the most important part of the job is not to find the cause of the problem but just to fix the problem? I would think you would need to know the cause of the issue so that you could know the solution.


Ahhh... That's the kind of thinking that can trip you up. The real goal is to make the computer work so the teacher/administrator can do their job again as fast as possible. You don't have to spend 3 hours diagnosing which DLL has become corrupt if you know that uninstalling the software and re-installing it will make it all work again in 30 minutes. You don't have to know the specific problem if you can narrow it enough to a general area.

You don't have to know *which* settings are bad if making a new user on the same PC makes the problem go away. Just make the new user and tell the teacher to quit dicking with things they aren't supposed to be playing with.

You don't have confirm its a bad serial port before replacing it. You can put in a new board to see if it is resolved, without having to figure out the exact chip that fried.

Many of these systems are clones of the same hard drive image. I always carried around drives for the top 5 PC's in use. Its pretty quick to swap drives to see if the problem is the installation of Windows, or a genuine hardware problem.

Don't be so focused on one tree that you don't see the forest.
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#6 lamentofking   User is offline

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Re: Desktop Support Technician Essentials?

Posted 23 October 2014 - 09:04 AM

And what would you say a good starting salary would be for this job? For Virginia specifically. I tried looking on my own. Apparently theres a difference between Desktop Support and Desktop Tech. Thought they were the same. Think I could haggle for 40k starting off? My related experience is several years of it consulting. No degree though.
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#7 tlhIn`toq   User is offline

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Re: Desktop Support Technician Essentials?

Posted 23 October 2014 - 09:08 AM

I have no idea what the going wage for the job is: I did it over a decade ago. Nor do I know anything about the Virginia cost of living.
The state employment department should be able to give you figures on that job.
Plus trolling job websites for similar positions might yield a few published starting salaries.
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#8 lamentofking   User is offline

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Re: Desktop Support Technician Essentials?

Posted 24 October 2014 - 12:39 PM

Well the interview went okay. I saw the job description while I was there and it requires AS degree and 3 years of experience. I have related experience but no degree so I don't even know how I made it to the interview. There were a couple of questions they asked that I couldn't answer. One of them was what is DHCP and what is it used for. The other is what ip address does 169.254.x.x represent. All i knew about ip address was that they need to be 4 sets of numbers and range from 0-255. Of course I said valid but after leaving Google told me otherwise. Same thing for DHCP. And then there were several domain-related questions and a few scenario questions. Funny thing is, the questions seemed to deal with networks and servers but nothing about wireless security. Does a DST not deal with wireless security?
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#9 tlhIn`toq   User is offline

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Re: Desktop Support Technician Essentials?

Posted 24 October 2014 - 02:30 PM

DHCP is dynamically assigned IP addresses. You home cable/DSL is probably set to DHCP. Meaning the PC's in your network get the addresses given to them by the router and therefore may not always get the same address. As apposed to static IP addresses where your server is assigned AT THE PC 192.168.0.100 and will always be on that address. As apposed to reserved addresses in the router where the server is set to DHCP but the router knows to always give MAC address AA:BB:CC:DD:EE:00 the IP address of 192.168.0.100, which is my preference. That way the PC gets no special setup but the network admin can re-assign the entire network by reprogramming the router.

Anything in the 169.254 range is a private network range address that doesn't propagate past the router. Same with 10.x.x.x addresses.

This is fairly common network knowledge that many non-tech but home power users know just from setting up their home networks, gaming consoles, network aware TV/bluray players and so on.

In a work environment you would probably NOT be dealing with security. That's at a level above you. You are applying for the *DESKTOP* level work/support. At desktop level you aren't dealing with the *NETWORK WIDE* security policies of the entire school or even entire district. You're dealing with the issue of the individual DESKTOP machines. Someone with more understanding at a higher pay grade would set up the security for the entire school. You would just be making sure each PC in the lab is able to talk to the lab server, that the kids haven't screwed up the settings trying to get out to the internet against policy, that the secretary hasn't screwed with the setting trying to get to ebay, Facebook and eHarmony while on her lunch against policy
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#10 lamentofking   User is offline

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Re: Desktop Support Technician Essentials?

Posted 24 October 2014 - 06:53 PM

Thanks tlhIn`toq for the info. I suppose missing those two questions pretty much hurt my chances in obtaining that job especially since it was fairly common network knowledge?
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#11 tlhIn`toq   User is offline

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Re: Desktop Support Technician Essentials?

Posted 24 October 2014 - 09:24 PM

If I were doing the interview, well... let's say it wouldn't help. But I'm a hard ass. I guess it depends on what the new person is actually expected to do and know. Attitude counts for so much. I can teach information but I can't teach a good attitude and integrity. The reality is everyone has gotten jobs higher than their last position by "rounding up" their resumes and maybe exaggerating their skill set. Then they get in the job and study like hell and learn tons by doing the job. So you might get the job... or you might get called in for a second interview. So at the very least, study the areas you are weak in. If its not this job that calls you back for some follow-up questions you'll still need to know this stuff for the next job.
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#12 lamentofking   User is offline

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Re: Desktop Support Technician Essentials?

Posted 27 October 2014 - 01:05 PM

View PosttlhIn`toq, on 25 October 2014 - 12:24 AM, said:

If I were doing the interview, well... let's say it wouldn't help. But I'm a hard ass. I guess it depends on what the new person is actually expected to do and know. Attitude counts for so much. I can teach information but I can't teach a good attitude and integrity. The reality is everyone has gotten jobs higher than their last position by "rounding up" their resumes and maybe exaggerating their skill set. Then they get in the job and study like hell and learn tons by doing the job. So you might get the job... or you might get called in for a second interview. So at the very least, study the areas you are weak in. If its not this job that calls you back for some follow-up questions you'll still need to know this stuff for the next job.
Well said. Thank you very much.
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