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Computer people need 'operating instructions'
Computer technicians and enthusiasts -- the ones who really know what they are talking about and keep the rest of us going -- are few and far between. The challenge to making your life easier is to find those who are genuinely knowledgeable and helpful and keeping them happy after you’ve found them.
One of the greatest computer experts I have had the privilege of working with was Geoff Guyton. His handiwork is evident on every computer in every Extension Service office in Mississippi. He taught me the first tip for working with computer people: write down what happened immediately before the computer quit doing what you wanted it to do, including the buttons you hit in frustration, and any other pertinent details, such as recent updates or new software installed.
Computer experts want to know exactly what happened, and they want the information presented in a clear, precise manner. Don’t bother lying to them about what you did, even if it was something incredibly stupid. Computer folks may not be the best at interpersonal skills or reading body language, but they know when something doesn’t add up.
Secondly, Geoff taught me not to take his observations or comments personally. If you are a new customer or a new client, you should realize computer experts care about your computer first and you second. They want to solve the problem quickly, so you can go back to doing whatever it is you do. That is how they show you they care.
The third tip is that a true computer enthusiast wants you to understand the issue. While many people will try using their technical knowledge to intimidate or impress you, the best techs will keep breaking it down until the technical problem makes sense to you. Geoff spent a lot of time explaining and introducing coworkers to new technologies that he had been researching. He was one of the reasons Mississippi State University’s Extension Service is considered one of the most technologically advanced in the nation.
The fourth tip is that all computer techs have hobbies other than computers. If you can figure out what they are and talk rationally about them, you are in the club. For Geoff, it was his cats, his hummingbirds and the best beaches to find seashells. When I found the robot laser for Geoff’s cats, we bonded for life.
You should know that a good computer tech is very persistent. The persistence Geoff used to hunt down viruses and attacks on the Extension network was the same persistence he used in his battle with colon cancer the past two years. Unfortunately, his treatments could not contain the cancer like an antivirus program contains a virus, and he lost that battle on July 27.
While most techs do not take defeat well, I imagine Geoff was satisfied that he had helped many people and made their lives better. Now, he has moved on to better things, and he has probably told God which operating system would be best, with a detailed list of reasons why.
Computer people are odd to be sure, but they make a lasting impact. Finding a good one, like my friend Geoff, is a rare gift. Give them the space to be different. It’s what makes them who they are.