Microsoft Certified Trainer Douglas Paddock has been tinkering with computers since the days when 1MB of RAM was impressive. He shares some lessons learned from hard experience in these tips for avoiding IT disasters.Do keep a computer log or database of all problems you troubleshoot. "You can look like a genius if you can reference a database of problems you've encountered in your career and come up with a solution to a problem quickly," Paddock said. "My database is mine, kept on my laptop, not a corporate system. When I move, it moves."
Do put many search fields in your troubleshooting database or spreadsheet, including OS, hardware type, patch(es) involved, where you got them, where you put them, exact error message and code, and so on. "Remember, although the solution to a problem is fresh in your mind now, it won't be six months down the road," said Paddock.
Don't forget to practice for disasters. Paddock learned this the hard way, when he lost data during a server conversion. Read about his IT mistake in this IT blooper.
Do keep your certifications current. "I talk to a lot of people who say it isn't worthwhile because they've got a good job and their company doesn't require it," said Paddock. That could be true; then again, your company could go under or lay off employees, and you'll be back on the job market. At that point, certifications will help. "There's nothing like experience," he added. "But many companies won't let you in the door unless you've got the certification."
Don't assume everyone understands your terminology. Remember who's on the other end of the line. "I was a Level 3 troubleshooter for a local band during the tax season," Paddock recalled. "One company had an intermittent disk problem, and I thought they might have had a SCSI controller set up incorrectly." He asked the young lady on the other end of the line, "Do you have a SCSI hard drive?" Her answer: "No, until now it's always performed very well. Do they often go skuzzy on people?" Paddock blames himself for using terms she didn't understand. "But it still made my day," he said.
Do put your recommendations in writing. Paddock learned this lesson the hard way. Back in the Army, he strongly advised against the purchase and implementation of a product. The solution would be short-term and costly, he had said. He was right. Then his superiors got amnesia, failing to remember Paddock's recommendation. They blamed him because he was "the IT guy." Since then, Paddock puts every recommendation in writing.
Do practice The Golden Rule. Don't say "I told you so," said Paddock. When others ignore your warnings and take an IT path that fails, try to be generous. If you don't, you'll make enemies and set yourself up for a hard time when you make a mistake.
Return to Douglas Paddock's IT Pro File.