The worst job in the world is dealing with the technical woes of computer illiterate friends and family members. You love these people. You do. But then sometimes you want to sell them to modern day slave traders. ‘And then I dragged this stuff into the Recycle Bin to make more room. Can you fix it?’ And, ‘I clicked the button that said I’d won a free prize for being the millionth visitor to some website and now something bad is happening.’ The ‘virus’ that turns out to be an unplugged VGA cable. The start-up that takes ten minutes due to all the adware and ‘helpful’ printing and mp3 player utilities. All of this for free. Or, maybe, for a re-gifted bottle of the Liquorland special. We understand. We’ve been there.
You can get paid in actual currency to deal with peoples’ technical ignorance. If you reading this magazine, if you’re the ones relatives and friends guilt trip into cleaning up their shit, there’s a good chance you have the necessary skills.
If you’re technically-minded, working as a technician can be great. After all, you get to play with technology all day. You get the satisfaction of finally cracking problems that have been driving you crazy for hours or days.
Pay and the level of job security vary, although both can be good in larger organisations or in the public service. Both can be terrible, too. ‘Technician’ is, after all, a very broad term. How well you do – and how stable your employment is – depends totally on the kind of employment you seek. Due to the very nature of technology if you’re in the right place at the right time and can quickly come up to speed with new technologies, you may go far. You may also end up in a fairly unglamorous, low-paying position that doesn’t really lead to anywhere. If you’re thinking of becoming your own employee and basically doing the for-profit version of the family technician gig, you can expect a fairly low ceiling of advancement and opportunity.
In many jobs the work hours can be long and not fixed to the nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday schedule. A higher paying position might mean accepting that you could be called in whenever something goes wrong, even if that’s on the weekend or at four o’clock in the morning.
Whatever you intend to do with your career in the longterm, you’ll most likely have to start in a lowly position. It’s unrealistic to expect, no matter your qualification, that you can just walk in off the street into some highly paid job.
Paper and other qualifications
Do you need a qualification to do this sort of work? Well, no. The knowledge you need, as you probably, er, know, comes from experience. From years of tooling about with computers. Countless weekends spent dismantling and/or destroying them.
No one working as a tech has all of the solutions to all of the problems. A good technician doesn’t necessarily have an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything that can go wrong with Windows Vista, although he or she will obviously have an ever-growing repertoire of common problems and solutions. A good technician is patient and careful. Organisations and customers are relying on him to not make some misstep that loses all of their valuable data or damages their expensive equipment. A technician should also have a lot of patience and accept that the same errors will pop up again and again and again, particularly in businesses and schools.
Figuring out the exact nature of a problem, which obviously requires a fair bit of knowledge, then finding a solution to that problem and applying it is what the job is all about. That knack for problem solving is something people either have or don’t. You can’t get it at TAFE or university or school.
Going to TAFE is not a waste of time, though. Certificate III, Certificate IV and Diploma level qualifications in Information Technology, maybe with a major in Network Engineering, can be beneficial when you’re seeking employment. Some employers may also look for vendor certifications such as those put out by CCNA, MCSE, Oracle and VMWare. Some employers may even want to see a Bachelor’s degree, but there are many jobs for people who aren’t so highly qualified.