I've been in the Information Technology industry for 15 years. I started fixing people's desktops (when terminals were still common) and have graduated to managing a global network operations team for a large, multi-national company. I've worked the desktop, network and application side of things and hope to round out my career with some time in security and architecture before I final graduate to a director or CIO role.

I'm telling you that not because I want to impress you, but because I want to impress on you that I'm qualified to share with you the best way you can get your company's desktop technician to fix your computer in the fastest time possible. Believe it or not, calling your outsourced helpdesk and praying a quick solution is built into the process isn't it. Frankly, the paperwork and processes implemented by BS-degree-carrying-suits who wouldn't know a CPU if it were shoved up their noses is what slows things down.

In truth, the best way to get a quick turn-around on your repair is to simply know what you should and shouldn't say to your technician and how you should and shouldn't treat him.

Don't throw your title around. Your tech already has a mandate by the company in place to jump if your title warrants it and the backlog you create just by showing up with a problem is frustrating enough. Having a blowhard remind him that he has to drop everything and bow will only breed resentment and practically ensures he'll drag his feet. Just be your usual confidant self, smile and let him know your needs.

Don't take your frustration out on your tech. My wife (we work for the same company so she always calls me when she has a computer problem rather than following the process) is notorious for this and goes on and on about how frustrated she is and how stressed and how the stupid computer problem is going to make her late for a deadline and how terrible the helpdesk is and on and on. How well would you work if somebody stood over you while you were preparing a proposal and made you feel that you're somehow the root of all their woes with a never-ending tirade? Be calm and let your tech try to do his job. Your frustration will just slow him down. He's a technician, not your therapist (though the best techs I've worked with often wear both hats well).

Don't hover. Your tech may want you to stick around to answer questions as he diagnoses the machine but standing over his shoulder watching every keystroke is utterly unproductive and stressful. Imagine yourself in his shoes. Would you appreciate your boss hovering over you and breathing down the back of your neck as you worked? In fact, ask if he needs you to stick around and, if he doesn't, take a breather and go get some coffee. Just ensure he can reach you on a mobile phone or provide him with your login credentials before you go. Troubleshooting is as much an art as it is a science and your tech will work best if his creative inspirations can come without being analyzed and second guessed by an audience.

Don't lie to your tech. If you installed something you shouldn't have, tell him. Even if you uninstalled the software, lingering registry entries could be causing the problem. Lying to your tech will have him needlessly chasing ghosts until he discovers (and he will discover) that you lied or omitted the truth. Your fix will be delayed possibly by hours and you'll be forever known as the jerk who couldn't admit his own mistake. That makes you an idiot rather than somebody who made an honest mistake and that label will stick with you for as long as you work there. Admitting you've caused an ID-10-T error (spell it out) makes you human. Trust me on this, your tech is just as guilty of having screwed something up on his own system at some point in his life. We all do it. Just own up to it, share a laugh about it and you'll forever be that cool guy he's always happy to help.

Define your expectations up front and work WITH your technician to meet them. If you are in the 11th hour of a critical proposal that hinges on your ability to work, let him know what you need. Do so as business partners, not as a demanding, wining, pushy pain in his tail. If you will need a loaner, ask for one. If he tells you he doesn't have any, he's not lying to you to make your life miserable. Think about it. Doesn't it make sense that he'd rather take himself out from under a pressure cooker time crunch by giving you a loaner if he had one?

If you think you could get a loaner by going up the chain of command, don't do an end run around the guy (making him feel betrayed) but make him a coconspirator in your plan. Let him know (kindly) what you plan, "ok, Bob, let's do this. Somebody who probably isn't in as big a pinch as I am probably has one of your loaners out. Let me get my director to call your manager to see if we can get it from that person or work something else out. That way you don't have to be the bad guy. Ok?" Doing so makes him feel like part of the team and lets him know you sympathize with his circumstances. After all, he sure as hell doesn't have the power to do what you've just suggested and, without your director's push, his manager probably doesn't have the power either.

If you are facing time constraints, let your tech know what they are up front. Once. If you're the kind of jerk who feels they're entitled to repeatedly impress on their technician the need for rapid service by calling them every 30 minutes then you'll be lucky if they don't hand you an Etch-a-Sketch as a replacement system. Frankly, it's what you deserve. Your tech is not an idiot and he knows how to tell time. In fact, his department probably has predefined service level agreements that already put enough pressure on him. But he can't just sprinkle magic fairy dust on your laptop to fix it. He has to take the time to figure out what's wrong in the first place; which goes to my next point also touching on patience.

Your tech is not just a computer technician. To diagnose and fix your system he has to be a technician, a forensic scientist, a detective and a politician (to deal with people at all levels in the corporate machine). He isn't handed a project with steps conveniently outlined. He has multiple problems with multiple causes and often little or no clues to guide him in diagnosing and resolving those problems. He is a bit like a veterinarian whose patients come in, clearly ill, but incapable of telling him where it hurts. So show a little compassion and remember that if his job were easy, you'd be doing it yourself.

Speaking of compassion, you'd be surprised how far it goes. Back when I was in the trenches, the admin who brought us cookies twice a year had us jumping through hoops and doing handstands with smiles on our faces. Do you think we responded that way to the pushy, arrogant jerks who felt entitled to talk down to us? Unfortunately, the former has become a rarity and the latter all too common. From the time I started in Information Technology to now I've watched the desktop technician role go from a respected field full of impressive wizards to being treated as a last-considered bunch of computer janitors. The industry as a whole is treated with less respect than it was for no other reason than that bean counters can't conceive of value if there isn't a + in a balance sheet.

Every hour a tech spends working on a system is seen as lost potential earnings. Nobody stops to consider the reverse and equally true consideration that in fixing your system your tech may have returned you to work hours sooner than had you had to ship that system off somewhere to get it fixed or had to spend money to purchase a new system and recover the lost information from your drive. You can measure lost time, but it's much more difficult and speculative to measure time saved so IT always gets the short end of the stick. The very nature of the modern IT industry has your tech feeling like the red-headed step child of the company. Don't reinforce his bitter sense of rejection by treating him like some low-level underling. Be kind, be courteous and be friendly. If he thinks of you as a sympathetic ally, he'll go to incredible lengths to resolve your issue quickly. He takes just as much pride in his work as you do in yours.

Your tech may lack a business degree, a good sense of business dress and your ivy-league polishing, but don't let that go to your head. You spent 4 years partying your way to higher prestige on mom and dad's dime. He has spent and will spend every week of every year of his career studying and learning. He may not have your business sense or social skills, but he is every bit as smart as you. The very nature of the IT industry means that what you learned last year is obsolete probably before you even finished learning it. In a lifetime career, your tech will spend more time studying and updating his skill set for his job every month than you will for yours every year.

If you doubt that last statement, really think about the rapid changes inherent in technology and in his job. Consider the changes to your operating system, the applications your company uses, the updates pushed to your operating system every month, the exploits targeted within your operating system and its applications, the worms and viruses generated every day and the variety of hardware your IT Operations team supports. Add in spilled coffee, hardware manufacturing mistakes, software bugs, unrealistic processes, unrealistic SLAs and any number of other headaches and your tech faces an ever-changing battlefield where he is constantly assaulted by enemies and allies alike.

That last doesn't mean you should treat him as if he walks on water without getting his feet wet (though a little flattery never hurts) but that you should treat him with the same respect with which you treat your business peers. You don't have to invite him to your personal social events but you should at least do him the courtesy of including him in company-wide business functions.

With all those changes in mind, don't try to impress or second guess your tech just because you fixed a computer once or are a paper MCSE. He's not impressed and while what you've learned may make you familiar with the lingo, your actual technical ability is both non-applicable and likely obsolete. In my desktop support days I was called to fix the desktop of a pushy and arrogant consultant who "knew" everything I was doing and "knew" everything I was doing was the wrong approach. I fixed her machine in under 30 minutes (too long in her opinion) and returned it to her. She practically snatched it out of my hands, cracked the case with authority and (while reminding me of her MCSE certification) began lecturing me on what she would have done to troubleshoot the issue. It was when she pointed at her video card and told me it was RAM that I pretended my pager had gone of and extricated myself from the situation. It took everything I had not to point out her error and leave her feeling like the moron she was. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

You may well know a lot about technology, but a mountain of certifications doesn't make you more qualified to fix the particular brand and model of machine your tech is being asked to repair. He is familiar with the specific hardware and the software running on it, much of which may be proprietary and full of an assortment of quirks that can cause problems. Your general knowledge is very likely irrelevant. If your tech isn't turning to you and telling you how to fill out your TPS reports, you shouldn't be telling him how to do his job.

As I began another paragraph on the 4th page of this article, I realized I could do this all day. 15 years in the IT industry gives you a lot of history to draw on, but I suppose I should wrap this up and sum up with the single most important point I can make. Your IT technician is a colleague, a team member and an ally. He works with you, not for you, and the work he does is just as important as the work you do. Yes, he is overhead. No, he doesn't generate a dime of revenue, but if that's your criteria for belonging, ask yourself this; how competitive would you and your company be without guys like him keeping your phones, laptops, printers and fax machines running? You and your in-crowd friends may bring home the bacon, but he's the guy who provides and maintains the tools you need to slaughter and carve up the pig. Give him the respect and credit he deserves as an equal and he'll always ensure you get the fastest service he can provide.