As a young IT pro in a large enterprise, there were rules I had to learn in order not to go out of line. It was 2011, the first time I ever stepped into the commercial world of IT, where I learned the essentials (politics) from my supervisor and mentor who always told me not to work hard but work smart. I crafted this list as a reminder for myself.
- Most of the time, IT support is a standby job. It may be peaceful but we must get prepared for the worst to come anytime.
- Underpromise and overdeliver. We must leave buffer time when we tell users the approximate time to fulfill their requests. (If done early, it surprises them. Won’t hurt.)
- You are just a worker if you don’t plan and just do as ordered. When assigned a task, you should be curious. You should ask. You should seek every bit of detail. Then you tell risks to avoid taking responsibility in case of failure.
- When answering the management class, do not rush to say yes or boldly suggest when you aren’t sure. Just chill and say you don’t know or you need to check.
- As an IT support person of an enterprise, do nothing is better for users and the whole company in long term. (For example, working around a slow 10-year-old PC to mitigate compatibility issues is bad. Why not use it as a reason to support buying new PC that makes the user more productive and happy?)
- Get to know one or two colleagues well in each department. That will help make your administration smooth, e.g. conducting a pilot test with them would be easier.
- Avoid writing long emails which are often ignored or skim-read by users. Make emails short and in point form so that users easily grasp it and do what we mean them to do.
- Email is official. Never take sending emails as the sole action. Cc-ing to lots of people/user’s dept. head is critical and considered invasive. Always casually talk to the user first, then email.
- Don’t be too nice to users. In a big enterprise like ours, our role is policeman, users are like citizen. Rules are rules. We must not teach users how to violate rules; they must figure it out by themselves as no policeman teaches passengers they can cross a car-free road when the traffic light is red.
- You must not let users feel you are soft in saying no. You must be firm in enforcing policy.
- If you really want users to obey and respect you, whether it is email or talk, be firm, concise and to the point.
- Strict first, loose later would be better regarded by users than being loose first and strict later.
- Think in the mind of challengers (e.g. auditor, the management). Anything that is emailed, logged, signed can be later challenged. Do not give in to laziness/convenience and let users bypass our flow, such as not requiring top management approval for installing high-risk software. We don’t want to cause trouble to our manager later.
- Because of our role, users and even the management are very nice to us, but we should maintain our professionalism, which is what they expect from us. Stay humble, sincere, diligent and be courteous to everyone at all times.
- IT professionalism also includes not peeking at users’ emails and files. Do not ‘abuse our privileges’ (in front of them or behind them) without their consent.
I hope these rules will be of use to anyone new to IT support.