The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.


Monday, December 15, 2008

How I used to work

I was a troubleshooter for most of my 34 years in the telecom industry. They called me a "switchman", "central office technician", "communications technician", and a couple of other things over the 34 years but my job was to troubleshoot. Equipment would fail or service would degrade and I would be be expected to determine why and then correct it.

I didn't do this alone, of course. There were support centers and co-workers who could assist me. Sometimes their assistance helped, sometimes it didn't, and sometimes it hindered. I worked mostly in the offices, on site, during my 34 years but also spent a couple of years as support and surveillance in a support center.

I was pretty good at troubleshooting. I found it to be interesting and challenging when a trouble arose. There's a great amount of satisfaction involved in solving a problem. The tougher the problem, the more satisfaction in solving it.

What I did involved a lot of particular knowledge but troubleshooting, in general, doesn't. It helps to have some knowledge about the subject of the problem but I don't think it is always needed. Troubleshooting is simply problem solving. And we all do this every day. According to Wikipedia , there are many methods one can use to solve problems. That's according to experts.

I think there are only a few, maybe two, fundamental methods. The others are simply variations of the basic methods. I once read a Psychology Today article (in the 70s I think) on problem solving that said there were two basic methods:

1. Logical - A methodical, planned, determinate system whereby steps are taken, results analyzed, and the process flows from there.

2. Intuitive - Non-linear, hunch based system. Sometimes called SWAG (Scientific Wild Assed Guess).

Okay, that's not exactly how it was described. I have always used a mixture of the two. I would follow a logical plan until my first coffee break. If no positive results by then, I would try the intuitive method. By the time the second coffee break approached, desperation would have settled in and I would be ready for what we called "The Shotgun Approach".

No, we did not actually use a shotgun. Though I was tempted more than a few times. It entailed swapping large numbers of parts in groups with another unit of the same type, testing between each swap. No attempt is made to associate said parts with the trouble at hand. These parts, by the way, are circuit cards similar to the cards within your PC or Mac. Done properly, this method actually works and helps determine the faulty part or parts. Done poorly and the result is two pieces of equipment in trouble.

If none of these approaches worked, we tried the "Passover" gambit. In other words, we passed it over to the next shift. This last one seldom worked because we invariably got the same problem passed over to us the next shift we worked. And, more often than not, it had become even worse.

When a problem was handed back to me in this manner, I would spend hours just getting the equipment back to the same condition in which I had left it. It would be about that point that I would usually stumble across the solution.

The above methods do not work in relationships.

10 comments:

redchair said...

I think your troubleshooting does equate to real life and the necessity of using both right and left brain to find resolutions.

We had an engineering crew with the studios that we're our troubleshooters. They were our most precious commodity and best buddies in crisis.
Vikki

MilesPerHour said...

The "Logical" and "Intuitive" sound like they come from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment. That is just part of the assessment.

I tend to "stumble" into solutions in regards to relationships as well though. If I'm lucky - lol.

Douglas said...

Vikki - Trouble shooting is more art than science, I think, and that's where the intuition comes in.

MPH = relationships can't be taken apart to see what's wrong, troubles in them are not resolved by finding the faulty part, and fixing them with a shotgun will get you a jail sentence.

I have taken the Myers-Briggs a few times. The problem with it is that it can be manipulated. I know, I did.

Small Footprints said...

Your last line cracked me up!

Great post!

Small Footprints
http://reducefootprints.blogspot.com

IB said...

In my work-life I have done similar work as you, although a lot less technical. My problem solving was the type that comes with managing large-scale production. I too have used successfully, a combination of logic and gut-feel to create solutions where none existed previously.

And, I agree 100% that those skills, so important in the business world, are useless with the people in our lives. I can't get anyone to listen to me at home, even about the smallest of issues/problems yet I commanded the attention of dozens of high-level professionals when hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of product and equipment was on-the-line.

I know in my heart, I will never understand why.

IB

http://idiotsstew.blogspot.com

Neo said...

and then there is the 'fuck it ' approach, when all else fails go back to windows. I was working with another system for a few weeks came across a problem (not connected to network) worked on that problem for a few hours and then just said "fuck it, I'm back to windows"
hahahhahahahhahaahaa

Argentum Vulgaris said...

I had the same problem as SF, I cracked up at the last line too...
absolutely mility

AV
http://netherregionoftheearthii.blogspot.com/
http://tomusarcanum.blogspot.com/

Neo said...

and then there is the 'fuck it ' approach, when all else fails go back to windows. I was working with another system for a few weeks came across a problem (not connected to network) worked on that problem for a few hours and then just said "fuck it, I'm back to windows"
hahahhahahahhahaahaa

IB said...

In my work-life I have done similar work as you, although a lot less technical. My problem solving was the type that comes with managing large-scale production. I too have used successfully, a combination of logic and gut-feel to create solutions where none existed previously.

And, I agree 100% that those skills, so important in the business world, are useless with the people in our lives. I can't get anyone to listen to me at home, even about the smallest of issues/problems yet I commanded the attention of dozens of high-level professionals when hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of product and equipment was on-the-line.

I know in my heart, I will never understand why.

IB

http://idiotsstew.blogspot.com

Small Footprints said...

Your last line cracked me up!

Great post!

Small Footprints
http://reducefootprints.blogspot.com