Sherry Willis, Girl Tech Supporter
Sherry of FundRaiser tech support is breaking ground in her job, just like Lois Lane, Girl Reporter and hero of my younger days. "People find it interesting that I'm a woman doing tech support," says Sherry. "This is still definitely a male-dominated field. Despite the fact that I am the only girl here in FundRaiser tech, I don't find that a handicap at all. I don't know if that's the company or if it is that if you learn enough to do the job, then any company would be happy to have you. Here, I'm not the first woman to do tech support. FundRaiser has a history of hiring women for the job."
Because FundRaiser prides itself on its high-level of tech support, great care is put into finding the right people to do the job. "Right now, there are two of us dedicated full time to doing tech support, myself and Jonathan," says Sherry. "We have different focuses. He is more interested in the fine tech details. I am more interested in the Big Picture. I think that is typical of women. So together we make a good tech team. He will delve into the fine details on a case, while my focus is trying to get people to be able to do what they want in the shortest amount of time possible."
She started doing tech support in the military, and then went on to do hands-on tech support at a library in Wyoming where she lived at the time. She has always enjoyed the people part of tech support the most. "I don't like computers all that much, and I tell a lot of our customers that, but only 50% of computer tech support is about computers. The other 50% is working with people. If something is over my head, then I send it to the programmers, but that doesn't mean my job is over then. I need to keep in touch with the programmers to make sure that the support gets done because they have a lot going on. I also keep in touch with the customers and let them know we're working on it.
"We do a lot of training in tech support. People want us to walk them through how to do a particular job. Also, often people just want us to confirm for them the way they are thinking of going about something in the software. They want someone to check out their approach before they commit a lot of time and energy to it. They tell us what they want to happen and how they are thinking of doing it. We are in a great position to answer those types of questions, because we see so many ways of doing things from so many different customers. That gives us a lot of perspective. If someone asks, 'is this the best way to code something in order to give us a certain kind of data,' then we can draw from a lot of experience to make sure that is the best way to approach it. We know which report they will need to run and how to code so that the data is pulled into that report in the best possible way."
"I also find that people respond to me differently in a way that is linked to their own gender. Women who call in for tech support want to feel like you are competent. That is their top priority. You can't be hesitant at all. Male IT people actually respond better if I let them know that there is a lot I don't know. It seems to quiet the sense of competition and they listen better if they can also teach me something. I find that there are still very few women who are hired to do IT. I very seldom talk to women who have been hired to do the IT job."
Laughing, she says about her job, "I am surrounded by guy computer nerds and sometimes they go off on some programming or operating peculiarity, and then I have to tell them that I just don't care. They take that in stride and we enjoy working together."