If you are searching for an Autotask IT Service Delivery Trusted Advisor, look no further. On more than one occasion, someone has said to me that our Service Delivery improvement program sounds great & all, but you would never win over the Lead Tech. They have dragged their heels and pushed back on every improvement or process change we have discussed.
I asked to be introduced to them, and in no time at all, we are old friends, talking shop. By the end of the conversation, they get why the improvement makes sense – to the point of championing the change with the rest of the support team.
But why is it that we can get through to even the most difficult techie? It’s all about relating. It’s really that simple. I wish I could say that there was some secret sauce, or specialized training that is the magic formula which makes us shine.
But in reality, it’s as straightforward as being able to say “Hey, we’ve walked in your shoes. We get where you’re coming from. We’ve been there, too.”
And with our 16 years of combined MSP Service Delivery experience, we can definitely relate. Not to mention, my Technician experience goes back – WAY back. All the way to 1984 (or maybe even 1972…it’s hard to even remember when it all began because it’s been that long).
Taking You Back to Where it all Began…
My experience started 49 years ago as a Sound Tech for the mid-west touring rock bands Nevada, Atlantic City Steel Pier, and Prodigal. The bands are no longer around, but I loosely know where the band members are and keep tabs on them through Facebook.
Prodigal was the band that introduced me to the Studio, and in 1980, I moved to Jersey and started working in the recording studios of the Jersey shore and NYC. I worked with many members of the Diana Ross backup band: the Asbury Jukes, and other rising stars.
In New York, the studios had me working with up–and–coming bands because my mid-western background treated them with TLC rather than the hardened, kick–ass “in your face” New York attitude. I remember one session that was not going very well. The Guy (yes that was his real fake stage name) was struggling to fight off a cold & his entourage was going on and on about how great he was.
He came into the control room, asked to hear the playback, slammed the faders all the way to the top, (this caused the volume in the control room to be about 160 decibels), turned to me and asked, “What do you think?” My response, “I have heard you sing better.” To which he slammed the faders down, and announced they were leaving for Atlantic City.
From Entry Level Tech to Road Warrior
In 1984, I was visiting the Mid-West and someone I knew from a radio station asked me to stop by the television station he was managing. I came in the following Monday and was offered a job. My first question was: “What do you want me to do?”
The response was pretty simple: “Just show up, we will figure out what you are good at, and then put you to work.” Thus started the broadcast technician days which spanned all the way to 2006.
I grew from Level I Tech to Assistant Manager, to Lead Tech, and to the unofficial title of Road Warrior from 2000 to 2006, traveling all over the US, fixing Television Transmitters and Production Control Rooms for the ION Media Network.
My Most Memorable Experience Ever as a Tech
My most memorable (and worst) experience in Broadcasting came in 2000. Nov 20th was my first day working for ION, then called PAX. That Friday, the Transmitter in Chicago went off the air. I called the Central NOC in Florida, told them what they already knew, to which they responded, “Please let us know when it is back up.” Which to me was silly, they had RMM and would know as soon as I did when the Transmitter came up.
After conferring with my counterpart in Philly, we decided to keep the Digital Transmitter up (in 2000, this was one of the first production digital stations in the US and may have been the first one in the Chicago market) and leave the Analog Transmitter off until the needed part could be flown in from Southwick, MA. I ordered the part and it came in on Southwest air in about nine hours.
The reason the Transmitter went off the air was because the HVAC (water to water transfer system – the only one I have ever seen) shut down and the room overheated. We spent the night working with a local Union plumber (I am in Chicago working at the top of the Sears Tower, so of course it was Union. Yes, I have been on the roof, including the Hancock and Aon buildings for other broadcast–related reasons) fixing the current situation and negotiating a preventive maintenance program for the site.
Lessons in the Value of Preventative Maintenance
I was hired because the #3 most important station in the network was unstable. There were other problems besides the HVAC, and at the time it would not stay on the air for more than three days.
On April 15th, 2001, the transmitter was again knocked off the air. The Sears Tower switched over from heat to cooling, and the switch churned up so much sludge in the HVAC system, that it once again shut down and overheated the room. By then, we had systems in place to protect the Transmitter and take it offline before there was any damage.
After that event, the Transmitter ran 365 days without 1 second of unscheduled downtime. A major accomplishment, and a testament to the value of proactive preventative maintenance.
Back to the night of Friday November 24th, 2000: The HVAC system was fixed by breakfast time (I remember taking the plumber to breakfast that morning). After breakfast, we headed to the airport to pick up the part and returned to the top of the Sears Tower. The station was back on the air in just a few hours.
The Story Ain’t Over Yet…
But the worst was yet to come – on Monday morning, I received a call from my supervisor screaming at me for going home when the transmitter was shut down. It seems I was supposed to give the NOC hourly updates while we – especially Chicago – were off the air.
Well, someone forgot to tell me that in the 4-hour New Hire Onboarding. And since it was Thanksgiving Week, I was the most senior manager working – go figure. What the NOC told my Supervisor was that they did not know where I was – that I probably went home, to which my new supervisor assumed was true. Now you know why I take it easy on Techs and ask them why before assuming they do not know what to do next.
Then there was also a short stint in Construction Management that taught me how NOT to run a business. Lessons that I learned from this experience come in very handy today with managing and leading SDB-C. In 2009, I started doing temp work in the IT industry.
Whew! Out of the 24/7 Grind, Finally
Boy, was I glad to be out of the 24/7/365 broadcast technician grind. Writing this article at Christmas time reminds me of the 14-hour days doing Holiday remotes plus drive times. I thought jumping into IT would be no big deal. In my mind, we used the same Cisco routers; we just moved Video and Audio rather than Data.
But I was wrong. I understand what Techs go through, but in no way could I do what they do. Just ask Bob, Kurt, or Joz who have helped me fix my own computer.
So, while I have been working in IT for an MSP since 2010, my ability to relate to Technicians and understand what they go through comes from the years working as a Technician and carrying a pager from 1984 thru 2006.
Being Able to Relate is What Really Drives Change
My passion, since 1990, has been to improve the Work-Life of those around me and is one of the driving passions behind SDB-C. Today, the SDB-C team (of which we currently have 12 members) is dedicated to teaching MSP’s how to Improve the Quality of Work-Life for their Employees, improve their Customers’ satisfaction, and boost profits using the Autotask software.
Education/continued training – it’s a vital part of success & we all know that. The truth is, when it comes to really leading change, no one cares as much about the degree you have or the titles you’ve earned as much as they do about how well you get where they’re coming from.
When you come from this perspective, you share a common ground on which the foundation of a successful partnership is built. So, in one way or another, we can relate to Techs and can truly say that we have “Sat in their Seat.” And that, my friend, is the “secret sauce” which makes us successful.
Now, the most important question is…