10 Reasons Why It Doesn?t Pay To Be ?The Computer Guy?

Scroll down for the top 10 list. Great List

I only met my brother’s ex-girlfriend’s family once – the year they invited our family over to share Thanksgiving dinner. Since we were basically a group of strangers looking to make a good first impression, the table conversation was nothing more than friendly idle chitchat.

When I asked our hostess for more mashed potatoes, she took the opportunity to ask me about myself while dishing out my second helping – “So Shaun, what do you do for a living?”

Hesitantly, I responded: “I work in computer support.”

The transition to silence was immediate. All eyes suddenly turned to me, raised eyebrows all around. If you hadn’t heard my response, judging from everyone’s reaction you might think I said something outrageous like I was a male stripper or a gynecologist – but I knew the awkward silence would soon be broken by an overwhelming outpouring of computer questions.

“Oh wow, a computer guy!” – “So you know how to remove spyware and viruses and stuff, right?” – “Our family computer is really slow, I think it has a virus.” – “Do you have a business card, or can I get your number?”

I politely and patiently answered their questions, hoping that we’d exhaust the subject in a matter of minutes and then move on to something else. As it would turn out, my hopeful prediction was very wrong – the gentleman sitting next to me scooted his seat closer to me to begin an interrogation.

This man I was meeting for the first time must’ve truly believed that I was going to help him with his problem at that very moment. It didn’t matter how uninterested I looked or sounded, he was convinced that I must know the answer he’s looking for and he was determined he would get it.

Situations like this one were common for me. I’ve had eavesdropping strangers approach me with questions about their computer while I was eating in a restaurant. I’ve had oblivious coworkers step in front of me in a buffet line to tell me about their computer problems while I was serving myself food. I’ve had neighbors who spotted me from their window rush outside to coax me into working on their home computer while I was walking to the corner market. My knack for solving people’s computer problems had become so well-known among my neighborhood that these circumstances were near impossible to avoid.

You might be thinking, “So why complain? If your help is in high demand, why not embrace your talents and charge people for your time?”

I tried to for seven years. I’ve worked in the computer industry in various ways – help desk support, web design, consulting and sales, field technician, freelance computer specialist, and whatever other fancy name you want to give “the computer guy.”

I stopped enjoying it. There were certainly times when I enjoyed myself, but most of those times were when my computer talents were still developing. Once I stopped learning new things on the job, I would become fidgety and want to move on to something else.

From my career-hopping experiences in the computer industry, I’ve become acquainted with the Top Ten Reasons it doesn’t pay to be the computer guy:

Reason #10 – Most Of Your Accomplishments Are Invisible

The computer guy never hears anyone tell him, “I just want to let you know ? everything is working fine!”

The reality is that people call the computer guy when something is wrong.

As a computer guy, if you work really hard to make everything work the way that it should, and things work fine, then people believe you don’t do anything. Everything you manage to get working correctly or do perfectly will forever remain unnoticed by computer users. They’ll only ever notice that you do anything when something isn’t working correctly, and you are called upon to fix it.

Reason #9 – Every Conversation You Have Is Roughly The Same

When the computer guy dares to mention what he does for a living, the typical response is, “I have a question about my home computer?”

Or when the computer guy first hears about a widespread problem within the computer network he’s responsible for, he can barely begin to assess the problem before a dozen other people call to report the same problem.

Or when the computer guy explains a certain process on a computer to a user who is incapable of retaining the process, he will inevitably need to reinstruct the user of this same process – indefinitely.

Reason #8 – You’re An Expert Of Bleeding-Edge Technology Products, Aren’t You?

The computer guy often finds himself in situations where someone is asking him for advice on a pending investment of the technological variety.

“I heard about (some hardware or software product) that can do (something desirable) for me. I brought you these (advertisements/reviews/printouts) because I wanted your recommendation. Which would you buy?”

Although the inquiring person sincerely trusts the computer guy’s judgment over their own, in almost every instance the real objective of these meetings is to ensure their own immunity from making a risky purchase.

If it turns out to be a bad investment, and they cannot get (the hardware or software product) to do (anything desirable), then you will be their personal scapegoat – “But honey, the computer guy said I should buy it!”

Reason #7 – Your Talents Are Forcibly Undervalued

Thanks to the constantly declining price of new computers, the computer guy cannot charge labor sums without a dispute. If he asks to be paid what he is worth, he will likely be met with the “why not buy new?” argument.

That is, desktop computers are always getting smaller, faster, and cheaper. It’s possible to purchase a new desktop computer for under $400. If the computer guy spends five hours fixing a computer and wants $100/hour for his time, his customer will be outraged, exclaiming “I didn’t even spend this much to BUY the computer, why should I pay this much just to FIX it?”

Reason #6 – You’re Never Allowed A Moment’s Peace

The computer guy is so prone to interruption that he rarely finds an opportunity to work on his own problems. This is because:

1. Computers never sleep.
2. Computer problems aren’t scheduled.
3. Every problem takes time to diagnose.
4. The computer guy can only give one problem his full attention.
5. Each user believes their problem deserves attention now.

Consequently, the computer guy has a 24/7 obligation to keep critical computer systems running, while simultaneously juggling everyone’s problems. He’ll often need to forfeit any opportunities to tend to his own needs for the sake of others – because at any moment, of any day, he can be interrupted by someone who wants to make their problem his problem.

Reason #5 – People Ask You To Perform Miracles

The computer guy is often mistaken for someone who possesses the combined skills of an old priest and a young priest. I’ll sum this up easily by example:

“No, I really can’t recover any files from your thumb drive, even if you did find it after it passed through your dog.”

Reason #4 – Your Assumed “All-Knowing” Status Sets You Up To Let People Down

There is no common understanding that there are smaller divisions within the computer industry, and that the computer guy cannot be an expert in all areas. What makes things worse, is when the computer guy attempts to explain this to someone asking for help, the person will often believe that the computer guy is withholding the desired knowledge to avoid having to help.

This is somewhat related to the next reason:

Reason #3 – You Possess Unlimited Responsibility

The computer guy is expected to solve problems. It is difficult to determine the boundaries of that expectation.

Some of the oddest things that I’ve been asked to do include:

1. Use pirated software to undelete important company files.
2. Create an Intranet, after explaining I didn’t know how to.
3. Teach someone how to hide their pornography collection.

Solving problems can range from replacing batteries in a wireless keyboard to investigating why the entire building loses power at the same time every morning. Resolutions can necessitate weaving a 50-foot cable through a drop ceiling, or wriggling under a house on your belly to add an electrical outlet.

Reasons #4 and #3 boil down to this: no matter how often you want to play the role of a hero, there will always be circumstances that test the limits of your ability to be one. It’s difficult to judge when helping someone means doing something immoral, and it’s even harder to admit you are unable to solve someone’s problem – and chances are, that someone will view you as incompetent because you were unable to help them.

Reason #2 – A Life Of Alienation

People only talk to the computer guy when they need him to fix something. Also, when the computer guy approaches a user, they’ll hop up out of their chair under the presumption that he’s there to fix something – as if it would never be expected that he only wants to strike up a conversation.

The fact that the computer guy never gets a moment’s peace can also practically force him to withdraw into solitude. His co-workers don’t understand that he doesn’t want to hear about their computer problems during his lunch hour – he does that every other hour of the day. That’s why the computer guy eats lunch alone with his door closed, or goes out to eat every day – not because he’s unfriendly, but because he needs to escape the incessant interruptions.

Reason #1 – You Have No Identity

It’s an awful experience when the computer guy shows up at a neighbor’s doorstep with a plate of Christmas cookies, only to have the child who answered the door call out, “Mom, the computer guy is here!” He begs for an identity that is not directly associated with computers, but “the computer guy” label walks ahead of him – it simply cannot be avoided. I was given a name and I’d love to be addressed by it.

Having read these reasons, you may believe that I’m complaining. It’s true that I was upset with many aspects of my life as the computer guy, but I’m past the point of complaining.

I took a good hard look at my existence and realized that things were not likely to change in the line of work I had chosen. Instead of just complaining, I took action and began making positive changes in my life.

Working in the computer industry isn’t for everybody. It wasn’t for me. I’ve compiled my reasons for putting it behind me and placed them here, so that anyone who is unsatisfied with their life working in computers might recognize it’s not for them either.

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22 thoughts on “10 Reasons Why It Doesn?t Pay To Be ?The Computer Guy?

  1. john

    boohoo hoo!!!

    That’s me!!! That’s my biography!!

    Someone even asked me to fix his plumbing because he knows i’m a computer “Engineer”!!! When I told him i do not know how to do that, he looked at me with a disgusted face and told me: “Oh! you must be an engineer only “on paper”! ”

    I’m fed up ! fed up! fed up!

    Just tell me one more thing: what is your current profession?

  2. Mike

    Think of yourself not as a computer guy, but as a computer minister. Being a technician , repairman basically requires you to attend to the wants and needs of others. People have computer problems, questions and you are the guy with the know how to solve the problem or give advise.
    There are other fields in computer in the industry where work mostly with the software or hardware you don’t have to deal with people as much.

  3. c_Xr37

    damn!! Im studying Computer security engineering and i hear all kind of that stuff from people, they think cuz i know about networking i can hack into nasa in 2 minutes lol

  4. Chloe

    Aww, now I feel sorry for computer guys! I will from now on pay more attention to them..including my boyfriend, who just yesterday I was screaming at because I couldn’t connect to my router at home.

    By the way, I’ve seen this shirt somewhere around that says “No, I won’t fix your computer.” Maybe you guys should get it!

  5. MaxTheDork

    I’ve been “The Computer Guy” for some 12 odd years now (very odd, in most cases), and I have what I believe is the definitive answer to this very common problem. At least it’s always worked for me. When someone you know asks you computer-related questions during your off-time, or asks you to “just take a quick look at my computer,” find out what they do for a living and ask them to do that for you for free. For example, I have a friend who is a cable guy. He says to me, “I’m having a weird problem with my PC at home, can you look at it for me on Saturday?” I reply with “Sure thing! And while I’m doing that, can you add a few cable jacks to my kids’ bedrooms? You know, as long as you’re not doing anything else this Saturday.”

    That’s usually all it takes for someone to get the hint. The tough part is trying to figure out what to ask for when the person in question works at, say, McDonald’s. But once people realize how rude it is to ask you to do the work you do for a living for free, they will usually leave you alone. At the very least it should weed out your true friends from the leeches.

  6. Rob

    I too am a “Computer Guy” and everyone in my family, including some friends, think i can hack the pentagon in 30 seconds flat.
    what really bugs me the most is that the people who ask for help dont even bother to see if its something they know how to do.
    case in point:
    my mom calls me over to the house, her computer cant connect to the internet. without even turning on the computer i spot the problem her USB network adapter is unpluigged. never once does it occur to check something as simple as that.

    i did however find a way to get out of the grocery store soccer mom questions (you know the “my computer is doing bad things how do i fix it questions) i just tell them its easier then they think and google is their best friend.

    on to my last gripe, i know how you feel about the lonelyness factor of being the “computer guy” no one wants anything to do with you unless their pc is acting up, even my family rarely talk to me unless they need help with their pc’s. and god forbid if your a college student computer guy

  7. CG

    wow…everything mentioned in there, i have gone through. I’m also in college going for a computer science degree. In the process of learning about computers, i was eager to learn more, but now that i now know that much more, my interest isn’t as strong. I have thought of changing major a lot of times, and many are because of some of those reasons listed (maybe ill go for an arts degree). Just wondering…what is your profession now?

  8. Chris P.

    WoW. lol just recently my mother asked me what I wanted as a profession after college, giving me a choice of neurologist or computer guy. I wanted to be both. Now i just realized that but would make your life suck. People don’t go to a neurologist unless their nervous system is f***ed up. aw man. and now being a computer guy sucks too.

  9. nayte

    haha,,, wow i didn’t realize how all computer guys’ face the same problems… everyday i get the same question, “r u the computer guy?” than i am asked to compare every computer in the store with one another and that’s like 30 computers. sumtyms i just wanna tell the customer, i fix the computers, i dont study what makes each computer different from the other. i love computers and all, but i honestly dont think i can live the computer guy life.

  10. Doughbag

    Hi, this seems to be the same thing all over the world. I love being the “Computer Guy” in generly. There are funny things happening all the time, like people ask me on Chistmas Day where the can buy thinly sliced bread. Really, no kidding……
    It’s also quite amusing thinking back, when I was told in ’94 to do something useful with my time instead of sitting in front of the screen all the time. Today that same clown pays me to fix his Laptop, I’d say I didn’t wasted my time then.


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