Expert Advice

If your a regular reader of this blog you know i don’t really go in for scathing attacks….but bear with me on this one

Last week i needed to go see a client to change a suspect hard disk. I took an IDE drive with me as i had new one in the office which meant i wouldn’t have to wait to order one but when i got there the existing drive was SATA (it wasn’t quite as old as i thought!) Not a problem though as i came prepared with a spare IDE cable

However, the motherboard layout had SATA connectors at the bottom right corner and IDE connector in the top left corner combined with the layout of PC case meant that the IDE cable i had with me was about 1cm too short! I wasn’t too concerned though as there was a computer shop over the road

This shop is the typical local computer shop where everyone in the town goes to get the laptop the kids have filled with spyware cleaned up. (This isn’t an attack on all local computer shops though as i know some that have really great people running them!)

There were two people manning the desk and i waited for my turn as they both dished out advice on a manner of subjects from laptops to operating systems to broadband providers

When it was my turn i asked for an IDE cable. She came back with one and i asked if could just check it was longer than the one i had. As i held the cables up to each other she said

“That’s a floppy cable…that’s why it wouldn’t work. It’s the wrong one”

It didn’t quite sink in straight away what she said and i just blurted out

“I’ve just taken this off a hard disk”

“Yeah but thats’ a floppy cable”

I assured her that it was definitely an IDE cable and she just shrugged at me like i was an idiot and took my money

I went over the conversation in my head as i walked back and still was pretty surprised the “local source of IT knowledge” couldn’t tell the difference between an IDE cable and a floppy cable when they are are held next to each other

Maybe she just got this one wrong…but what other advice are they dishing out?

It got me thinking to some things i’ve seen on certain “mailing lists of the Yahoo variety”

I’m more of a lurker as I don’t post an awful lot on the Yahoo lists (not enough hours in the day combined with everything else!) but i do find some of the conversations useful and valid. However, sometimes i see questions i wouldn’t expect most end-users to ask, asked by people who are installing and maintaining systems for people (for money!)

I wont post any examples as that’s possibly too harsh

In contrast there are lots of people who contribute who are far better than me and recently through the community i’ve met some really switched on people

I just wonder if there really is that broad a spectrum on the technical capabilities or am i being a little arrogant?

As always thoughts welcome

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Andy Parkes is Technical Director at Coventry based IT support company IBIT Solutions. Formerly, coordinator of AMITPRO and Microsoft Partner Area Lead for 2012-2013. He also isn't a fan of describing himself in the third person.

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4 thoughts on “Expert Advice

  • No, you’re not arrogant. People around you are just that f’n dumb.

    I don’t mean to be arrogant when I say this either, but people often tell me I’m a genius when I do things that in my mind qualify for the lowest common denominator of employability in the IT field. The fact that folks consider basic troubleshooting, network essentials, adding and multiplying without a calculator and knowing subnet masks and routing topology… those happen to be the essentials as in everyone ought to know them.

    They don’t, because people no longer enter the field training on the fundamentals but training on the problem solution. I am not sure what its like in UK but in United States IT is more of a “vocational school” type of a handyman course. Get your MCSE. Learn Visual Studio C#. People are cookie cuttered into being a system operator, visual designer, hardware / gadget repairman..

    and when you only learn bits and pieces without understanding the whole picture you are building a castle on sand and you end up with stories like yours.

    Don’t keep them up though, most people tend to be in the crowd you’re talking about and they might not like you talking about them in a poor light. Thats my turf 🙂


  • It’s frustrating that IT is often considered “vocational” – instead of a profession in the US. I think part of this is due to the lingering hangover of the “dot-com-bust”… too many people who skipped the degree track because “they knew IT stuff”, and could make money without the degree. Flash-forward to today, and tell me this – have you interviewed anyone coming out of a 4-year degree program entering this profession recently? I haven’t – and I’ve been looking for people. Every single freshly minted “IT Pro” comes from a certification mill, or vocational school. Forget about the fundamentals for a second – even getting 50% of the fundies would be manageable… but these people have no ideas where the industry is headed… no informed opinions about how the landscape of the market is changing, all they know is how to add/remove users from AD, and click Next>Next>Finish.

  • Hi Vlad

    Thanks for the comment..Had a feeling this post would be up your street!

    In the UK we have lots of training companies that promise to take people with little to no computing experience and spit them out the other end with an MCSE

    In my previous job i was being sent for some Windows 2000 training, they had a choice of two local companies. The company where all the local professionals go or the “get your MCSE quick” company

    Guess which was the cheapest and guess where i was sent?

    Anyway i was on the course which was the third or fourth in their MCSE package so your expected to have a bit of knowledge by the time you get there.

    We were expected to work in pairs for the hands-on labs and the guy next to me couldn’t even map a network drive or browse to a share! He had learned nothing over the previous course but he’d probably go to TestKing at the end of it and have a nice certificate at the end of it


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