Help me add to my tech support skills.
October 27, 2007 9:43 AM   Subscribe

What are the core tech support skills needed to work in a school district and how can I improve those skills this weekend?

I'm interviewing with the local school district next week for a site computer tech support position the includes both computer support and instruction. It requires knowledge of both Macs and PCs (though the school I'd be working at is all Mac), networking, wireless, end user support and a whole bunch of other stuff. I have the Mac side covered without fear but I'm a bit rusty on the PC stuff. I will be practicing on my wife's PC to get some rust off but could use some additional help for sure.

I've read previous AskMe threads that touch on tech support skills but none have been explicitly what I need.

I'd love a site that can walk me through tutorials and expand my knowledge if possible. But really, I'd love any insights to help get me through the multiple layers of testing and interviewing.

The first written test is on Monday followed by a hands-on on Tuesday.
posted by fenriq to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I do what you're interviewing to do, with the difference being I'm the only tech guy here. I don't really know where to start, so...

In my experience, most of what you'll need to do is user-end troubleshooting. "My computer's not working," "My printer's not working," etc. Those type of issues account for the vast majority of problems which arise. Have a lot of patience. What seems obvious to us is completely lost on them.
The other one is networking issues when individual computers, a wing, or the entire school's connectivity goes down- be it to the Internet or to internal servers. I oversee two different buildings, and each one has its own connectivity issues and I've got to the point where when I get a "the Internet's not working" phone call, I can tell you what is wrong based solely on prior issues. I say this because issues seem to recur over and over, which you may be able to remedy based on expertise, money, and in our case, the ISP willing to admit they're wrong.

Are you also overseeing backups, server maintenance, e-mail, etc, or just tech support? Kind of makes a difference in what you need to worry about.

If you're not involved with the nuts and bolts of servers and doing just tech support ("Help, my computer's not working!"), I would suggest picking up a CompTia A+ book if you were working on PCs as it's quite PC-centric, though concepts can apply to both PCs and Macs. Wonder if there's a similar study guide for Macs?
posted by jmd82 at 10:13 AM on October 27, 2007

Response by poster: They are looking for server tech support as well as end user. Probably backups and email as well. There are zone techs for additional support so I won't be totally on my own.

I know the majority of the work will be troubleshooting and I have a background in PR and customer relations so I understand the kid glove requirement (especially since people get totally frazzled out by computer problems).

I'm working on my wife's ancient and cranky Win98 machine as practice as well.
posted by fenriq at 12:03 PM on October 27, 2007

It might help you to go to the local library and check out a bunch of books. For my current job I did really well at the interview but my education wasn't quite what they wanted. They were willing to accept certification but I had to provide certification "right now". Not wanting to blow the money and the opportunity at the job I needed to brush up on my knowledge. So I went the library and checked out half a dozen topical books, read them over the weekend, and took and passed the certification on Monday.
posted by dereisbaer at 1:42 PM on October 27, 2007

I spent the last 3 years being the only IT support person for a K-12 school district of 5 schools (about 2500 students, roughly 600 computers). My email is in my profile if you feel like bouncing questions off me.

Since you said your strength is Mac, and the school district is primarily Mac.. then you should be good on that part. I am the opposite (most strength in PC) How many systems are you covering ?... that was the big breaker for me.. I had to cover to much ground by myself and it almost cost me my life (literally, and several times).. I finally quit to save my own health

I loved the job.. loved being in a place where I was making a difference.. but hated being taken advantage of and expected to be on call 24/7/365 and not paid overtime,etc.
posted by jmnugent at 2:24 PM on October 27, 2007

jmnugent makes a good point about being on call. If a server goes down or something tramatic, you're expected to stay and get it fixed. Expect extra hours at the beginning of terms when computers mysteriously stop working.

What kind of server do y'all run? If it's Windows, I might pick up a server 2k3 book and catch up on Active Directory (particularly managing policies) and adding computers & users to domains. I'd assume that's the minimum they'd want you to know regarding windows servers.
I've only glanced at it, but it seems the Windows "IT Professional" website also has some decent [free] sections to at least give an overview of core server roles.

Maybe be aware of resources to find answers to problems which arise. If they ask a questions and don't know the answer, it might help to at least know where to find the answers. Lord knows I didn't know a lot of answer when I started. The key is knowing where to find the answers.

If you get the job, it'll be nice having other people to bounce ideas off. Should help to keep the sanity when you don't know what to do.
posted by jmd82 at 3:09 PM on October 27, 2007

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