Darth Vader Works At My Help Desk

A while back, I wrote this article for HDI’s Support World magazine (http://www.thinkhdi.com/). It originally appeared in the July / August 2006 issue of Support World. The original idea came from Kirk Weisler (http://www.kirkweisler.com/) and I mulled the idea for a while and expanded it. Here it is in the original form.


Darth Vader Works at My Help Desk

Conceivably, there are a few people in the world who have no idea who Darth Vader is. I actually have met two people in my life that had never seen any of the Star Wars movies. Most people, however, are familiar with the famous and widely loved chief villain of the series. Come on, throw out the name “Darth Vader” in a group of people and stand back. Odds are that within 10 seconds, someone will either make the deep hissing sound that we all know or a somewhat-passable imitation of James Earl Jones will sound forth with, “Luke….I Am Your Father.”

Several years ago, I heard a great speaker (Kirk!) talk about the Darth Vader’s who work at our help desks. We all have had them work for us and we all know who they are. They may be brilliant technicians who are genuinely outstanding in their fields; however, no one can work near them, with them or anywhere in the general vicinity of them.

I had nearly forgotten about the Darth Vader employee until one day when I watched one of the original Star Wars movies (The Empire Strikes Back, in case you wanted to know) with my son and thought back to that speaker and the Darth Vader reference. I then started to think about what other Star Wars characters are sitting on my team? I’m pretty sure that I have a Han Solo or two that are shooting from the hip and swashbuckling their way through the IT galaxy. There are definitely a few Storm Troopers – you know the type – precision accuracy, never run away from an issue, just attack it and keep gong, no matter what happens and no matter who dies, and, yes, they are all clones and seem exactly like the 37 other technicians who they replaced. Now that I got started, I think that I have seen the entire Star Wars universe parade through my call center – the whining Luke Skywalker’s, the unintelligible Chewbacca’s, the aloof Princess Leia’s, the list goes on. I believe that many of these characters inhabit each help desk – you just have to know where to look for them. Please note that each of the following can actually be male or female – the characteristics apply to either gender.

Let’s dive in….

Luke Skywalker – In the saga, Luke Skywalker always saves the day. But when you get beyond the implausible heroics, the everyday Luke is not really someone that you would want to hang out with. For one thing, he just fell off the turnip truck and stares big-eyed at everything around him. “You’ve worked at IBM? How was it? You know the Unix administrators? Tell me about them.” That gets really tiring after a couple of months.
Secondly, he whines. He whines a lot. “Uncle Owen, I wanted to go into town and get some parts….Mike, I wanted to go to lunch at 11 today….Bob, you said I could work on the email project this Friday….”

Han Solo – As I alluded to earlier, your basic Han Solo employee is pretty much a cowboy that lives close to the edge. You are never sure if his patched together PC will work, but he really knows how to get things done. He revolves around his own rewards, as in, “If I do this, can I have off next Friday?” but when it comes down to it, he always comes through with blazing guns and just-in-time arrivals. The next time you really need a server brought back on line by 5 AM, assign it to Han and sit back and wait. About 4:59, it will come on line.

The Storm Troopers – I really try to avoid hiring too many Storm Troopers. Now, you see a lot of these guys out there. They seem to be everywhere you turn. In fact, every time we post a job opening, I get about 200 resumes that have Storm Trooper written all over their Microsoft certifications. These guys are great for your ordinary frontal assault. If you have Microsoft Office, Outlook and Internet Explorer issues, they can take the objective with precision-like accuracy and overwhelming speed. For legacy systems and proprietary apps, they’ll put up a good fight, asking all the questions that were drilled into their heads ever since they were…er…cloned. However, in my experience, they don’t have a lot of skills in improvising and once they get put into an area where they are out gunned, they start to fall apart. Just like in the movies, they are good in numbers for huge help desks that deal with mind numbingly repetitive issues.

Chewbacca – He’s huge, he’s hairy and only one or two people can understand him. You have this employee working for you right now! He’s great to take him to meetings, because everyone just stares at him. On the other hand, Chewbacca is fiercely loyal and will literally defend you with, well, other people’s lives. Oh yeah, he also really good at fixing legacy software.
Princess Leia Organa-Skywalker – You may have noticed that there are not a lot female characters in the Star Wars movies (kind of like in the Information Technology world). Those who do work in IT are generally used to the Mos Eisley Cantina atmosphere that pervades the average IT shop. A select few have risen above the background status so often afforded the help desk and as a result, make it a challenge for those around them –not unlike her royal highness Princess Leia.

The Princess Leia Help Desk person is used to being in charge. She is very passionate about her work and is used to being right — whether she is right or not. Most of the time, she (or he) works quietly in the background (always within camera shot), moving tickets through the process, helping wherever she is needed, keeping an orderly rhythm to the usual madness of IT support.

Do not be fooled however, as Princess Leia has the habit of leaving her work to address whatever pressing issue she happens to have on her agenda. While her issues are generally good for everyone, they usually don’t mesh with the overall strategy. Yes, yes, it would be nice if we all had natural light and windows to look out of, however, down here in sub-basement C, that’s not going to happen. If you can get her put on a committee, however, she may be able to make things better for the whole division.

Yoda – Wise, old, quiet. Very easy to overlook, however, Yoda is your secret weapon. He has deep knowledge of everything and is a virtual master of everything he touches. He knows all and can do all. And for some strange reason, he is hiding out in your swamp. Treat him well and the force will be with you.

c. 2005 Brandon Caudle

This article may be reproduced in whole or in part for non-commercial use – however, please credit the author.

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