House calls

So, you want to get a job in the technology field but no one is bowled over by your technology degree? Maybe you should do what a lot of folks do after they get fed up with their careers and start your own business.

So, you want to get a job in the technology field but no one is bowled over by your technology degree or your first job at that failed startup? Maybe you should do what a lot of folks do after they get fed up with their careers and start your own business.

I’ve almost never met anyone who went out on their own and then complained that they wanted to go back to the cube farm and PowerPoint set. If you’re itching to escape the office for good, there are lots of ways to do so. What are your options? Just look around. How many folks have asked you to come to their homes or small businesses to help them out of a computer jam because they knew you were a techie? Did you tell them to read the friendly manual, or did you decide to give the poor folks the benefit of your knowledge?

Let me tell you, there are zillions of people just like them out there and they are growing increasingly angry that there is no help at the end of their tech support phone line after they’ve been listening to Percy Faith and His Orchestra for 45 minutes. Help them out. Go visit them. Fix their computer problems. Give them some basic advice and training. You’ll make their lives easier. They’ll be happy to pay you. They’ll tell their friends about you. They’ll probably offer you a nice glass of iced tea. Now, isn’t that better than grinding out code all night with only a case of Jolt cola for company?

What do you need to do to become the best friend of the home computer user? Just make yourself available, treat everyone with respect, show up on time, do the job right the first time–and ask for referrals.

You’ll need to keep current on the state of viruses, worms, spyware and Windows updates. You’ll want to carry a thumb drive with some of the better freeware programs that everyone ought to have on their machines. Keep a notebook, pen, screwdriver and small flashlight with you and you’ll have everything you need except for your knowledge, a checking account and an overpriced health insurance plan of your very own.

It may be that this kind of house call will become unnecessary sometime in the next decade or so if computers begin to disappear into our appliances or become so cheap that they are easier to replace than to repair. A key to that kind of freedom would be an easy data-storage method that performs nearly constant backups to an Internet account. Think of the Web-based e-mail services like Yahoo Mail and Hotmail. We can use them without accessing our home computers. They save our mail for us until we choose to delete it. Now imagine that all of our data was saved to a similar service. These sorts of accounts, possibly combined with some type of key-logging software, might be the final answer to our lack-of-backup problems. Everything we do on the computer will be saved whether we have a hard drive or not. Our passwords might allow us to log on to application servers when we want to use Word 2119.

Meanwhile, computers are too expensive to throw away every time they crash or hang up, and people count on being able to access the data on their all-too-fallible hard drives. A tech-savvy person can help to get end-users out of hot water and show them how to prevent a whole range of problems. It is truly a rewarding field.

My wife says that what I do is a perfect job for an ADD type like myself. One minute I’m rebuilding a system in my office at home, then the phone rings and I get to run out and repair somebody’s active directory problem. The job is always teaching me something, and it keeps me thinking. The only big problem with it is that I get so interested in what I’m working on that I usually miss lunch.

If being kept on your toes all day (and occasionally forgetting meals) sounds like something you’d be up for, start gathering together a skill set for on-site tech support. You–and your many customers–will be glad you did.

Alan Thornton owns Decatur Computer Help >www.decaturcomputerhelp.com

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