Mar 4, 2015

Working at Skyenet

One of my early jobs that actually related to computers and technology was at a local internet provider called Skyenet. I started out just doing customer support over the phone and eventually moved into a software developer role working on internal tools and databases for the company. I remember that when I started we only did customer support during normal business hours and the group of us that answered the phones occupied a room with ample space. During my time there they grew to doing 24/7 support and packed that room with desks to the point where we were probably close to breaking safety rules for how many people should be in a single room.

Being Proactive

During one not so busy day when we were sitting around the manager came out and would take calls with us which was great. He wanted us to be proactive. We had a system where we could monitor people who were making or attempting to make connections to the internet. We could see in plain text the username and password that people would type in while connecting. So for example I could see in the logs that someone had tried the same combination many times and it wasn't working. I could then look up their account and see that the password they were typing in was not their password. I think in this case it was a simple typo that they weren't aware they were making since password fields don't usually show you what you are typing. With the users account information in hand I then called the person up. I explained the problem and helped them get back on the internet. I think even at the time I had this thought of how crazy that was. Imagine you are dialing up to the internet and it is not working. Your phone rings and it is the internet provider asking if you are having trouble and offering to help.

Computer Lingo

As I said for quite some time I did over-the-phone customer support at this ISP. If you have never tried to help someone fix their computer over a phone where you can not see their screen at all, well, let me just tell you it is not always easy and it requires a lot of patience. The problem was sometimes further complicated by the use of computer terms that people were not familiar with or just did not consider. The most common phrase I remember saying during support calls was explaining the difference between a left-click and a right-click on the mouse. I usually had to explain that when I ask them to click on something I always meant click the left button unless I specifically said right-click. One time while on the phone with an older customer who was not as familiar with computer terms I asked them the simple question that I ask a lot of our customers: "Can you tell me what you see on your desktop right now?". I really was not expecting to start hearing things like paperclips, a stapler, the phone, etc... I really had to hold back laughing and politely explain that I meant the "computer desktop" while in my mind thinking why in the world would they think I needed to know what was on their physical desktop. I still smile when I think about that situation.

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