On guard There are things you don’t learn in college, as Register now the reader explains in this week’s episode of Tales from the Coal Face On Call.
Our reader, safely named “Col”, led the technical support team of a PABX telecommunications provider and installer in the early 90s. PABX, or Private Automatic Branch eXchange, was the backbone of telephony from many offices. Failure can be both a contract and a career limitation.
Col, however, was a professional and well versed in the ins and outs of such systems. The job was quick and so, he told us, “I hired a college graduate with all the courage and vigor that goes with it. He knew electron-Joule conversion formulas and the like.”
Ah yes, the enthusiasm of youth. We remember.
“His first call for ‘buck stops here’ level 3 support was a fairly large customer in London’s A4 / A40 corridor whose handsets were dying at random (blowing dual expansion cards mounted on a IBM backplane). “
The client was well known to Col’s company. The brilliant young graduate presented himself on the client’s site, full of ideas. Unfortunately, none worked. On the second day he was starting to despair, perhaps considering that a career in telephony might not be for him after all. Enter the cunning of age and experience.
Col was on the phone talking to the kid throughout the next fix when he heard a loud bang in the background.
“I was wondering where the noise was coming from,” Col told us. “He explained that the door to the communication room had just closed.
Odd. “From memory the partition door didn’t make that noise when it closed before. I asked if it was a fire door, he said yes, they all were.”
Col made a site visit the next day, armed with a roll of carpet pad and double-sided tape. The graduate eyed him nervously – was the graduate’s failure to solve the problem about to be rewarded with a sharp blow to the back of the head before being tied up in the roll and bundled up to the rear of the Mondeo company?
Not this time.
A little more information would be useful about it: the installation consisted of Northern Telecom SDX PABX cabinets mounted on one inch thick fiberboard (the partitions could not support the weight). “I started to tape the underlayment to the inside of the lids of the SDX cabinets,” Col said, “and explained to the graduate that there was a 5mm gap between the lid and the boards. Every time the new 60 kg fire door slammed, the wall vibrated and loosened more cards to their loss. “
He also left a sign on each cabinet warning that the lids must be screwed on.
The customer failed to mention the fire door upgrades during the first diagnosis, which meant that the time spent dealing with the problem was therefore attributable.
What about Col’s assistant? He learned that a host of new skills didn’t count for nothing in the face of hard-earned experience with users.
Have you ever found your cunning and experience outweighing the wide-eyed enthusiasm? Or got a curious book of things they not teach on training courses? Share the time your hard-earned wisdom saved the day in an email to On Call. ®