By Alyssa Kiehn, Class of 2020
This semester, I had the amazing opportunity to be the first high school Helpdesk intern and work with Forest Ridge IT staff, Mr. Sushkin and Mr. Smith. Since middle school, I have taken many trips to the Helpdesk after downloading a bad program or cracking my laptop screen and I was excited to see this new internship offered in the course catalog.
Having visited the Helpdesk many times, I thought I had a clear idea of what to expect. I envisioned that screwdrivers and various computer pieces would be strewn about on every table and counter, and the technicians would be silently hunched over a laptop poking and finessing a circuit board. Every so often, a student would come to ask questions at the window, and someone from the Helpdesk would magically fix the computer before handing it back and returning to work. The reality couldn’t be more different from what I imagined. I was surprised to find that the Helpdesk is people-centric. The first thing I learned, before hardware or how to fix a broken machine, was how to interact with the students and faculty. The list of questions to ask, in order, was: “What’s broken?”, “What have you tried to fix it?” and “When do you need this fixed?” At first, asking “What have you tried?” seemed strange to me.
I didn’t realize the importance of this question until I shadowed Mr. Sushkin to go help a teacher. The teacher was having trouble projecting her computer in class and was understandably frustrated. Walking to the classroom, Mr. Sushkin predicted that restarting her computer would fix the issue. Mr. Sushkin first asked the teacher what she had tried so far and listened. He then asked me to check the AV projector system. I checked to make sure the projector was turned on, the AV system was on the correct HDMI input, and all the wires were securely plugged into their ports. After checking all other possible issues, we asked the teacher to try restarting her computer. That fixed the problem, as predicted, and the teacher expressed that it had been a recurring problem.
I learned that being attentive and understanding to the people who come to the Helpdesk is just as important as being able to fix their tech issues. People who come to the Helpdesk are often frustrated with technology and dismissing their problems as amateur or easily fixable only adds to that frustration. Instead of silently fixing the computer or projector and then leaving, we try to use each call or visit to the Helpdesk as a learning opportunity to educate people on how to troubleshoot their own tech issues so that they have the tools to avoid future frustration. This is why asking them “What have you tried?” is so important. It teaches people that it is okay, in fact beneficial, to try new things with the computer and experiment with different ways to fix tech problems.
Being comfortable experimenting with computers was the next lesson I learned. While I expected that I was going to take copious notes before working on anything, I learned how to fix computer issues by simply being assigned to fix them and being guided at points where I got stuck. For me, being comfortable experimenting with the computer was a new skill and mindset I had to build. Though I consider myself tech-savvy and know multiple programming languages, I’ve always been wary of clicking the wrong button for fear that the entire computer will spontaneously combust. Sure enough, I ended up clicking the wrong button one day. The first time I was reimaging a computer by myself, I loaded the image for leaving-students rather than current-students, which meant that the computer couldn’t join the Forest Ridge network. I thought I had completely broken the school computer and was anxious about how I was going to explain that to Mr. Sushkin and Mr. Smith. After explaining that I installed the wrong image, they casually told me to just restart the reimaging process from the beginning. I was surprised how easy it was to fix my mistake! This experience pointed out the obvious fact that computers are meant to be a helpful tool. There is inherently always a way for people to fix their mistakes, so I shouldn’t be afraid to experiment or make mistakes on the computer.
For my cumulative project for this internship course, I am building a website that reflects the two lessons I learned: keep the focus on people and be willing to experiment with the computer. I’m creating a tech support website where students and faculty can look up tech solutions. My hope is that my website will allow people to experiment and grow, whatever their level of tech knowledge. As someone who plans to study computer science in college, I know I’ll be able to approach new and unfamiliar topics with a sense of confidence. Most importantly, however, I realize that technology is inherently people-centric. With this approach to technology, I know that beyond college I’ll be able to identify areas in society that have room for improvement and use technology to have far-reaching positive impacts.
- Forest Ridge Blog