Technical Support - On the Job Experience vs. Personal Development

I’ve been a leader in technical support for five years now. I’ve managed a lot of folks where their first job in IT was with me, on my team, doing frontline customer service. Many had done customer service roles before in another industry, but the learning curve coming into technical support is big. This is because you are troubleshooting during every interaction, trying to figure out what caused an issue and at times independent to a customer’s environment, and piecing it all together to come up with a solution. Also, in technical support, there is a whole new set of skills you are expected to learn at a fast pace.

In this post, my goal is to share my thoughts on the difference between on the job experience and personal development and how they are equally important when thinking about your long term career in a new industry.

For example, when folks start a career with Jungle Disk, there is about two weeks of technical classroom style training. Then, there is a week or two of shadowing other teammates taking customer interactions. After that, you are on the floor taking calls, chats and tickets on your own. You continue to learn the in’s and out’s of troubleshooting Jungle Disk products. Learning those troubleshooting methods inadvertently allow you to learn your way around different operating systems (Windows, Mac and Linux), basic networking as it relates to backup successes and failures, and basic domain name servers (DNS), to name a few. So all that stuff is great right? Yes it is, only caveat is…you are learning how those things relate directly to Jungle Disk but could you apply that to any external service? Most likely, yes. What I just described is all on the job experience. You don’t get to choose the technical scenarios that come your way. You take the challenge at hand based on which customer is calling with a specific issue. In this industry, people want to see experience. This means having on the job experience is a very valuable thing for your career path especially in IT.

So, why is personal development just as important for your long-term career? Personal development is important because building and having a desirable skill set is a necessary component to being a desirable candidate when interviewing for the next role you want to be in. What makes you stand out from all the other candidates interviewing? Experience coupled with a solid skill set can do just that. If something were to impact your job today, would you be marketable and have enough skills to put on your resume so that you are the first choice of a new employer?

Here at Jungle Disk, we allow our team members to focus part of their week on personal development and encourage them to attain certifications and skills that will allow them to move up within our company and/or that translate to other companies in the same industry. This isn’t because we want them to gain the new skills then leave us. It’s because we value our employees and support their career choices. A few of our folks from our team are in the process of gaining their Network+ certification then they will move on to Security+. Some folks will work towards a Linux+ certification or a Google Admin certification depending on their interests. Really, it’s whatever they are interested in learning.That’s the difference with personal development, you control what topics you learn and where you apply it to versus on the job experience where you take on what comes your way.

Read our other blog posts by our technical team lead, Paul Ibarra, for more information on starting a career in IT and why we staff to promote personal development.

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