Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – Help Desk


Operation Inspiration

By One of the most-frequently challenging jobs is that of Help Desk technician. If you’re not familiar, let me explain. When you have an issue with a business, you often call Customer Service. That’s who will hear your concern, address the issue, and try to make you feel better about the company you’re dealing with. At least, that’s supposed to be how it works. Whether they succeed is a different story, but we’ll save that for another time.

Well, when it comes to technology, normal Customer Service isn’t good enough. There are things that are specialized bits of knowledge the average person may not have, and technology often changes so frequently that most people cannot keep up. That’s where the Help Desk comes in.

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It may be the IT staff of your own business, that guy everyone calls when they can’t print or download a document. Sometimes it’s the Support Team of a software provider or maybe an outside company that handles your technology. These staffers are tasked with fielding calls or e-mails from befuddled users trying to do what they need to do and just want their systems to work.

In the course of my career, I’ve taken on this role in various situations and it’s not easy. Typically, the people are frustrated and have a hard time explaining themselves. As the Support person, you have to get the information you need to help them, which may not be easy. If you’re trying to walk someone through a task in Excel, for example, but you’re taxiing down the runway in an airplane and have to do it from memory, it’s going to be challenging. When you ask, “What does it say in the top left corner of the screen,” they may say, “Dell,” giving you the brand name on the computer instead of the words the program has written there.

One user yelled at me that when he comes in every day the screen is ready for him to sign in and now the login wasn’t there. “What do you see?” “Nothing!!!” “What happens when you move the mouse around?” “Nothing!!!” It turns out that the power had gone out overnight and all he had to do was push the power button. Of course, he wouldn’t do that because he wanted me to fix it, so I had to have the maintenance man go press it for him because I was in another city.

One of the key skills necessary for this type of work is trouble-shooting, knowing the right questions to ask, identifying when things stopped working and what happened in between, then figuring out where to start. This came in handy recently when I received a call from a woman who could not log in to a certain program. Now, she was young and tech-savvy, and had tried a bunch of things.

“When I go to the two-step verification and put in my phone number to get a code texted to me, the system crashes.” OK, I put on my troubleshooting cap, and I know from experience that sometimes the web browser you’re using may not be compatible. “What browser are you using?” I asked.

“I was using Chrome,” she said, “but then I also tried Edge, Opera, everything. Nothing is working.” Then, drawing on the resources of years of Talmudic logic and Torah wisdom, I asked, “Did you call the support number that is on the screen? Maybe this is a known issue and they can help direct you.”

“Oh. No. I didn’t even think of that. That’s a good idea, let me try.” Sure enough, they were able to tell her what the problem was and fix the issue in under three minutes.

What struck me was that with all her tech knowledge, with all her creativity, she hadn’t thought to reach out to the ones who made the software for guidance, especially when the number was right in front of her. She tried numerous different ways herself, but when all that failed, she was lost. Thankfully, she reached out to me for that fantastic bit of insight.

Why was this so striking? Because it’s such a universal human problem. We encounter challenges, difficulties, or roadblocks, and we find ourselves stuck. We wrack our brains trying to come up with an approach that will work, but our efforts remain fruitless and we’re in the same spot we were before. Why is this? Because we think we can (and must) solve things on our own and don’t think of asking for help.

What we need to remember is that there is an entire user manual with answers to our questions. It’s called the Torah. There’s a first-line Customer Support team. Those are the rabbis and teachers who are very familiar with the manual and how to use the product (the world.) You might be surprised that the manual has a section on just the problem you’re facing, but trust me, it’s there.

You can escalate your issue to the Manufacturer through Tefila, and answers may come from places you never imagined. And that’s the great lesson I took from this story. Sometimes, when the solution escapes us, the easiest course of action is to simply ask for help – from the right source.


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