An important part of any high-tech career the ability
to answer any technical question as quickly as possible. Of course,
as you know, it is impossible to keep the million different solutions to a
million different problems in your head at the same time. This is why it is
so important to make use of the tools you have. In fact, your own knowledge,
combined with that of your high-tech friends and various Internet tools, can
sometimes make your level of technical expertise seem almost magical.
When you come into an office and solve a problem for your clients, to them,
it is magic. They don’t spend all day, every day solving technology
problems, so it can seem that you are pulling solutions out of thin air. Of
course, this isn’t the case, but it can feel really good to have a quick
solution at hand. You know that the solution comes from hundreds of hours
of experience, fixing problems, reading tech notes, browsing web sites and
more. Still, it can help to realize exactly how special your talents are and
how they are viewed by your clients.
This doesn’t mean that you purposely try to hide information to make
your own knowledge seem even more special. Unlike a real magician, you shouldn’t
seek to hide your magic, but instead, develop ways to teach your users how
it is done. While you might think that this could diminish your skills in
the eyes of your clients it can have exactly the opposite effect. Sharing
your skills and knowledge, and how you acquired that knowledge, shows your
clients the hard work and dedication required to develop your skills.
Friends and Neighbors
Often the best sources of your magic are those tech-savvy people around you.
Through the years, I've made friends who are also – surprise -- computer
consultants. Luckily, while we have some overlap in our skills, we each have
our own unique specialties. I deal mainly with Macintosh computers and networking,
one friend is a Windows expert and network manager and another is a wizard
with digital video and all types of media. Together, we have developed an
informal consultancy. If any of us runs into a particularly difficult issue,
we know we can call the others to help work through it. Learn to work together
with your tech-savvy friends. The relationship can be as loose or formal as
you wish, but its usefulness as an enhancement to all your careers cannot
be denied. In some cases, you might even find that a partnership with these
friends can yield even greater results.
Using the Internet can adds tens, or even hundreds of thousands of to your
“consultancy”, too. You can imagine the benefit of having millions
of tech-savvy friends all across the globe. More importantly, it doesn’t
take any special skills or large amounts of money to begin mining the Internet
for the solution to your technology problems.
The first place I usually turn when researching a problem is Google. (http://www.google.com)
I find that using a general purpose search engine helps me to refine my understanding
of a problem even if it doesn’t lead me to a final solution.
When building your search, try to think about how others may have described
their problem. I recently ran into an issue where random words were appearing
whenever a client tried to use their word processor. After a little thought,
I tried "random typing virus" as my search terms. Within the first
three pages of results, I happened across someone describing a very similar
problem. Sure enough, their solution worked for me as well. Had I not turned
up this link, I could have added additional terms like Windows, Dell (it was
a Dell Computer) or others.
If searching the Web hadn't helped, I could have searched Google's archive
of Usenet newsgroup postings. Often this will turn up the most current information
available and can be very helpful if the problem has only recently been noticed.
You may think you would be better off using manufacturers support Web sites
when looking for solutions. I have found, though, that due to bad indexing
or poor description of the problem, you'll often not find the most direct
answer to your problem. In almost every case, the general search engine has
led me to a solution, often with links to the manufacturers tech notes, that
I hadn't been able to find using the company's web site. If nothing else,
my general search can give me a better way to word the problem when searching
Regardless of your experience level, you can make a little magic in your own
high-tech career by using the tools that life and the Internet put at your
disposal. Consult your friends and co-workers, search the Internet and you
will find ways to increase your expertise to magical levels.
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about this column.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/dewelch/ce/
He can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org