Throughout my career I’ve refined and polished certain skills.  I’m better at some, a work in progress with others.  One skill that I’m quite proud of is being an effective troubleshooter.

Not only useful professionally but personally, troubleshooting is a part of everything I do in my life whether it’s something simple such as “what should I make for dinner” to “I can’t login to Therap” or even, “I wonder what happens if I change this zero to a one?”

No matter what the scenario, experience has taught me effective troubleshooting breaks down to two areas of focus:

1.  Use a structured approach.
Using a structured approach makes the problem less complex than it might seem at the time.  I have been in many situations were at first glance a problem seems complex but it ends up being something simple, anything from a loose cable to caps lock key.

2.  Ask the right questions.

  • Is it plugged-in?
  • Is it turned on?
  • When is the last time…
  • What happens when…

More importantly there’s the human factor.  In a support role, it’s important for the end-user to feel you understand what they’re saying.  I’ve learned repeating back what I hear helps relieve some of their concern.  If I’m unable to provide a solution in a timely manner, I like to keep in close contact through frequent updates, as I research a solution.

I have two mottos I keep in mind:

  1. Bad technology is my fault.
    The solution I provide needs to be as simple as possible.  Convincing the caveman to come out of the cave is more effective and long-lasting than throwing him out of the cave.  The end-user knows their business better than I do.
  2. Make people better.
    Troubleshooting is an opportunity to teach, to make lives easier through technology.  Use those few moments you have to help make their life better.