Saturday, March 12, 2011

"Could you possibly transfer me to someone who could be of less help than you?"

I work in the computer field. I'm surrounded by computer programmers, analysts and the like. Technical people in this industry are different than most people. They're smart, usually well educated, logical (most of the time), and generally fun to be around. I have been managing technical people for more than thirty years. The only way I can describe what it's like to manage techies is to say; I imagine it would be like to trying to herd cats. It's a challenge. But it's also fun and very rewarding. I love it! I enjoy working and socializing with techies. But I also enjoy my other life on planet Earth with non-techies. I live in both worlds and travel effortlessly between them.

It's fun watching techies outside of their natural habitat. It can be entertaining. Techies don't think or act like non-techies. They see things differently. They approach things differently. I suppose what makes them good as technical people is also what makes it difficult to interact with them as non-techies.

Techies have their own language. English is the basis for their language. They use a large number of acronyms and only techies know what they mean. They use phrases which have special meaning only to techies. Let me give you a few examples "Mere mortal" is used to refer to a non-techie. "Those with wooden desks" is commonly used to refer to management. "A cubicle dwelling wage slave" refers to an employee. "SBE" is an abbreviation for a "Stereotypical Business Executive." Being referred to as an SBE is not flattering. If you can clearly understand every word that is being said to you but still have no idea what they're saying you're probably talking with a techie. I am fluent in both English and Techie.

A good techie tends to be tenacious. They don't like to give up (even when they should). We non-techies accept certain things as they are. When dealing with someone who does things a certain way, we deal with that. When techies interact with someone, it's different. If a techie thinks the person is doing things the wrong way, they believe they should change the way they're doing it. Techies like things to be correct. A techie brain won't allow a techie to work around something they believe to be wrong. Techies like to fix things. This works well when a techie is dealing with complex computer systems. When they find a problem they fix it. If they can't fix it they report the problem to someone who can fix it. It must be fixed! That is the way techies think. This doesn't work well when applied to humans. It is even less successful when applied to non-techies. When applied to customer service departments and government agencies the results are dismal.

I was sitting at my desk eating lunch. A techie at the desk next to mine was talking on the telephone. He was trying to resolve a problem with a purchase he had made. I later found that he had been speaking with someone in a customer service department. Things were not going well. He explained his problem, chatted for a while, was then placed on hold, chatted a bit more, then transferred to someone else who presumably could help. This went on for quite a while. He would repeat his explanation, be transferred again and the process would repeat, again and again. I was fascinated by what I was seeing and continued to observe. I think most people would have realized they weren't getting anywhere by now, but he kept going. He was incredibly calm and patient.

The end to our lunch break was approaching and he was being transferred yet again. I then heard him ask "Could you possibly transfer me to someone who could be of less help than you?" And yes, that's exactly what they did.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome! There may be a slight delay before your comments are posted. To prevent spamming and abuse, all comments are reviewed. Thank you for your understanding.