College Advice Blog

Dec 23, 2011

Interview with Helpdesk Manager

Considered working as a Helpdesk Manager? This interview will take you through the ups and downs you can expect in the position, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more.  

What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field?

I am a helpdesk manager at a law firm. I've been in this field for about eleven years. I transitioned to the IT field from a "catch all" position in administration. I had always been into computers and really became the de-facto IT person for coworkers who didn't have time to bother with helpdesk. Ironic! A part time helpdesk assistant position opened in my company, so I went ahead and did both!

How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

I manage the helpdesk here at the firm. We have a smaller staff, 3 technicians for 500 users. My job is to field calls and emails, create work orders, assign them, make sure the work is being completed and make sure my staff has the resources they need.

Since it's a smaller group, I often find myself taking on overflow work, performing helpdesk technician tasks. This includes different desktop support, including troubleshooting hardware and software, equipment rollouts and even telephone system work.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

I would rate my satisfaction at seven. It's above average, but it can be thankless. It's human nature that people remember failures longer than successes. If your computer is down for some time, you'll blame helpdesk. And you'll remember it longer than the time we gave you a nice new monitor.

To raise that rating, I think I would need a larger staff. Small staffs, regardless of company size, seem to be the norm in our industry. The problem is you're always reactive, not proactive. It's hard to keep users happy when you're running around fighting fires and making them wait. With more staff, we could provide preventative maintenance. That would lead to happier users and less drama.

Does this job move your heart, if so, how? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

Even though I am not 100% happy, due to the stress of putting out fires all the time, I admit this job does move me still. It's the little things, really. We're rarely sincerely thanked so it's touching when we are. As far as that "sweet spot" in life, I think I have reached it. I came to IT late in life and don't really have plans on moving further up. I like being a helpdesk manager and I want to stay here.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

I have mentioned it already, but I moved over to the IT field later in life. I am in my late 40s now, which is pretty rare in our industry. I am a woman, which is also uncommon. I think I have done pretty well for myself in a field dominated by younger guys.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

I was working as an administrator and was getting more and more bored with it. I had always liked computers and my husband is an IT director at his company and I unofficially helped the members of my department with lower-level desktop issues like adding printers, restarting services when apps hung, uninstalling Weatherbug, things like that. A part time helpdesk position opened and I applied for it. My manager knew that I liked computers, so she let me work part time for a year until a full time job opened on the helpdesk. That's when I became a full timer in the computer business.

If I could go back and do it differently, I think I would have actually pursued a degree in computers or maybe a certification and gotten started sooner.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this hard-learned lesson?

I learned the hard way that you need to separate responsibilities and let engineers do engineering, no matter how much they ask you to help out. We had a server problem about two years ago where our SQL services were running really slowly. I called the engineer, who would be in the office in an hour, and he told me over the phone to go ahead and reboot the server that was the active node in the cluster. I did that and something happened where it didn't hand over all the services to the other node. So SQL went from being slow to completely down. The engineer fixed it later, but we were all in hot water because instead of slower database access, we had absolutely no database services for about an hour and a half. I should have just waited until the engineer got in. That's what I do now.

What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

Well I didn't go to school for computers, so I would say everything! Seriously, I think I would say that on-the-job training in the real world beats theoretical book learning every time.

Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

At this point, I would say money! Seriously though, I do really enjoy what I do. I am happy where I am, and that's why I keep going.

Last week, I received glowing feedback about my newest tech. She has a lot to learn, but she's picking it up and is so enthusiastic. It was great to hear someone else have something good to say, and I was so proud, especially for another female in IT.

What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you really want to pull your hair out?

The biggest challenge is unrealistic expectations. YOUR problem is always the most important. Everybody wants something fixed right away, so we have to fight to manage their expectations.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?

It's pretty stressful since we're the first line of defense for computer problems. We have issues and complaints flying at us constantly. It's hard, but the work life balance is great. Unless I am on call we rotate among the four of us and when I leave this place for the day, I really LEAVE this place.

What's a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

I think the salary range for a helpdesk manager in my area is $70-80,000ish per year. I'll say I make somewhere in there. I am happy with that and I am not hurting for money.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

I have been at the company for over five years, so I get three weeks of vacation and two weeks for personal and sick days. It's great; we just got back from Ireland.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

I had no formal IT education so I would say hard work, enthusiasm, an open mind and some computer skills are all you need to get started for helpesk. I would rather hire a hobbyist who is excited to work with computers than an A+ certified computer science grad who is just passing time to get to a higher paid spot in networking.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

I would tell them that it can be a rewarding field, but PLEASE develop a thick skin and don't let the crazy and irate people get to you.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

I would like to be retired and living in Jamaica in five years! Barring that, I love being a helpdesk manager and would actually like to still be doing this five years down the line.

About the Author
This is a true career story as told to's Academy and is one of interviews with IT professionals, which among others include a Software Engineer.

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