On many occasions, our Systems Technicians will call me or send me an email to get some perspective on an issue that they can't solve themselves. Most of the time, I'm more than willing to lend them a hand if I have the time available, even though I'm not obligated to. If I can help to improve their knowledge, it will keep less crap from rolling uphill to me.
To me the most unpleasant part of helping entry-level technicians is their lack of technical vocabulary. As IT professionals, a big part of our job is deciphering what end-users actually mean when they say things like "the Internet is down" or "my computer won't log in." Many times they mean that a single website is unavailable, or that they can't log into a single application or external service, but their domain login is fine. This is part of the territory and any SA that has to occasionally deal with end-users quickly adapts to this and asks very basic questions to isolate and identify the root of the issue. What shouldn't be part of the territory is having to decipher what your technicians or helpdesk staff are trying to tell you.
Entry-level IT staff that use poor terminology has always bothered me, but I haven't really thought about why until recently and it really comes down to a few key points:
- By taking the leap into an IT career, you are no longer an end-user. You can no longer think about problems like an end-user and you shouldn't describe problems like one.
- Professionalism. I would be very concerned if I took my car to a garage and they said "your car is running rough because that thing that controls the stuff is all jacked up, but don't worry - we can fix it!" It comes off as amateur to hear a tech use similar vague terminology. If I ever hear a tech say "sometimes these things just happen," I make sure I explain to them that things "don't just happen" and hardware/software should not be treated like a black box.
- I encourage techs that frequently ask me for help to seek out documentation on issues before contacting me. If you don't know how to properly describe a problem verbally using technical terminology, how can you ever search a knowledge base for an answer? Google will only get you so far. Ultimately, your goal in IT should be to be in a position where you are looked to for finding answers with no one above you for help. You should want to be king of the hill. Without the ability to describe situations in technical terms, you're severely limiting what information you can find for yourself which, in turn, limits your upward mobility.
The bottom line is this: Don't be afraid to ask "What is this called?" or "How does this work?" You might think it makes you look bad, but what makes you look worse is when you call me and tell me that a domain controller is down, because you see "No logon server available" on a single workstation.