Monday, May 3, 2010

Why Hackers make the Best IT Support Professionals

This is a thought that I have had brewing for some time and I will attempt to not rant too much.  Throughout my IT career, I have been watching many IT Support professionals immediately go for a quick fix to technology issues. This is not to say a quick fix isn’t always warranted. The constant barrage of support issues, end users broad siding you as you attempt to grab lunch, and evolving technology is indeed a challenge. I feel your pain. I've been there, I've done that, and I still do it on a daily basis. The beating support people take can cause even the most saintly to lose his/her patience.

However, I feel the trend of the quick fix, seems to be worsening. In InfoSec, the quick fix is often used in conjunction with FUD (fear, uncertainly, and doubt) to sell those magical products with blinking lights that are going to make the latest attack vectors just magically disappear. The problem with this concept is the same in all subsets of Information Technology, however. How many of us have told colleagues, friends, and family to reboot as a solution to an issue? How many of us have told them to do so more than once for the same issue? See the quick fix is not really a fix at all, it is procrastination.

I like to think that we as IT Professionals, whether desktop support, enterprise architects, coders, or InfoSec pursued our career because we all had the common love of technology. Many of us have the inquisitive nature that would rival any scientist. This makes us all brothers and sisters alike. The inquisitive nature that I felt when powering on my TI99-4A in 1981 is still with me today. This is why I chose this career.

Some of the most inquisitive people I have met while working in IT have been those who have self dubbed themselves "hackers". These are not the "hackers" the media would have you believe are hijacking your wireless and stealing your digital valuables. These are self proclaimed geeks who love computers. They are not always InfoSec professionals. They may work on a helpdesk, as a systems administrator, or at the local Radio Shack. They enjoy taking things apart and putting them back together in ways that improve the technology. See hackers understand the concepts of efficiency and availability.  These concepts are the foundation of supporting any business. It is what our employee’s pay us our salaries for, regardless of the subset of IT we may fall under.

Efficiency and availability is not about reboots and resets. It is about getting to the root of an issue, learning from it, and improving the system(s) from what you have learned. So take the time to understand the technology issues you come across. It can be fun and productive. If you are not feeling the love for your technology career of choice, then ask the hacker working at the local Radio Shack if he or she is willing to trade careers with you. I suspect they would jump at the chance.

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