Who are front-line IT workers, and why do their stories matter? Like any other industry, front-line IT workers are the staff required to provide an essential service to customers. For many IT professionals, the front line means being the first contact in providing technology and support to other front-line workers and services in areas like education, healthcare, government, the supply chain, public safety, transport, and critical utilities, communications, and finances.
When something goes wrong with technology, front-line workers can’t do their jobs, and the public suffers as a result. Especially during the last few years, with a global pandemic dominating everything and everywhere, IT staff are needed to keep people working from home and to keep access to digital systems, data, and information required by people in all sectors.
So, front-line IT workers have a critical job. And it’s a job that lends itself well to war stories. Some of these stories probably felt stressful or scary at the time, but IT staff can look back now with lessons learned, changes made, and maybe even laugh.
A Military Front Line Story
Many working in the military or defense have a front-line job of some kind — and yes, there are IT professionals in the military! One tech shares a story from the helicopter shop: “One of the computers won’t turn on. I show up, and, sure enough, the thing won’t power on.”
You might think this is a case of a software issue, but in fact, it was a hardware issue of sorts. The tech recalls opening up the case, and, to their surprise, a flood of grease poured out. The computer’s fan was making too much noise, so someone (clearly not an IT professional) decided a liberal application of WD40 was the solution.
It turned out that there was a power supply issue. The IT tech replaced it, and the computer was back up and running… and far less greasy!
Tales from the Healthcare IT Front Line
A software support professional was dealing with a ticket related to a hospital visit. When the IT worker logged into the help desk, however, they could not see the issue and had no information about the problem. After emailing the user for more information, they received an attachment and opened it up.
What was it? A small, black and white, scanned copy of a computer printout of a screenshot displaying the problem.
Another healthcare IT worker encountered a patient using a patient portal, wanting to see the doctor’s notes from their emergency department visit. The IT worker explained that the portal would show patient instructions and a visit summary but that for notes, a hard copy of the medical record would be required. The patient then said, “After the doctor left the room, I was talking to myself for a while. Is there a way I can get a copy of that?”
The IT professional had to explain that no, there would not be a transcript of the patient alone in a room talking to themselves.
It’s Education Front Line Time
A higher education IT professional filling in for a sysadmin received a help desk ticket from a professor, indicating a clock in the classroom was not working. The IT worker wrote back, inquiring if the clock was on the computer or projector, on the wall, or a digital clock mounted in the room, noting that IT doesn’t work on clocks or clock hardware that aren’t a computer or A/V issue. The professor wrote back, saying it is an analog clock with hands, hanging on the wall. The IT professional wrote back to the professor to reiterate that IT has nothing to do with analog clocks, directed the professor to create a maintenance request, and closed the ticket. The kicker? The professor is a professor of technology.
Next – Part 3: Front Line IT War Stories, Continued
There are more stories where these came from! The front line has a lot to say, which is why we are dedicating another article to front-line war stories. We’ve looked at military, healthcare, and education accounts, but there are certainly more where that came from. Stay tuned for part three, from the people who know the front line well.
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