S3E5: A Wombat Can Do That - Non-Tech Skills You Need with Chadd Wheat

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This is a podcast episode titled, S3E5: A Wombat Can Do That - Non-Tech Skills You Need with Chadd Wheat. The summary for this episode is: <p>We've got a bit of a tongue twister this week as we have the Team Manager of the Managed Services Team, Chadd Wheat, joining us to discuss critical skills that are sometimes overlooked or forgotten when the topic of IT comes up. Today's nerds are out of the basement and able to withstand full sunlight. We've even managed to conquer conversations that involve eye contact. In fact, we're in charge of a lot of things now. So the cliche of dark holes covered in Cheeto dust and Mountain Dew can officially be retired. (But we still like Cheetos and Mountain Dew...they are delicious "SOMETIMES snacks").</p>

Angel Leon: Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of ASCII Anything, presented by Moser Consulting. I'm your host Angel leon, Moser's Director or Personnel. We're glad you're with us for episode five of ASCII Anything and with us today is one of Moser's Team Managers for our Managed Services department, Chadd Wheat. You might remember Chadd from a couple of our episodes in season one, notably our Disaster Recovery and Backups episode, which honestly is by far one of our favorites. But today we're talking about those skills you don't really think about when you get into IT. What do I mean? Stay tuned to find that, but first let's welcome Chadd, back to ASCII Anything. Chadd, it's great to have you back, how have you been?

Chadd Wheat: I've been great, Angel. Thank you.

Angel Leon: Well, it's always great to have you back. We really enjoyed your appearances here, because they're fun full of information and that's exactly what we like. But let's start with the following, because when you think about a career in IT, the first thought that comes to mind is degree, certificates, but there's much more than the technical side of things. Let's talk about communication. How important is communication within the IT realm?

Chadd Wheat: A wise man once told me," You know what you have when you have a degree?" I said," What?" He said," A piece of paper." Now, that's a little bit oversimplifying, but to your point, we can train a wombat to do this job with the technical skills and how to push the right buttons and everything. But in IT, it takes a lot more than just technical acumen, I think the first thing that, especially in a help desk or service desk environment, it takes empathy. Each customer that contacts a help desk, they feel they're the most important person right then and there because they have an issue and they can't work. So we have to understand that yes, at this moment that they are the most important person. It's like the old college professor, they don't understand that you have other classes, they want your full attention. They want you to work on everything they give you regardless of anything else that's going on in your life. And then in a way that's the same with IT, they're transparent to whatever customer load you have or whatever else you're working on. So you have to have empathy to feel the customer's pain, so to speak. The second thing I think is you have to have an investigative mindset, and I often tell our new hires because they get a lot of questions direct from customers. I tell them, you don't have to have all the answers, but you have to know where to find all the answers and yes, even IT guys use Google. There're places like Google or past tickets or knowledge bases, vendor boards, or documentation, and importantly peer sharing. That brings me into the third point of what you really need, you have to have a mindset of teamwork. When you're working in IT, especially again, in managed services on a help desk, for example, you don't exist in a vacuum. Well you're one on one with a customer, it may seem like that, but you should have a whole team behind you. Moser for example, we do a great job with collaboration and I'm sure other companies do too, so you've got those resources and peers are among the most valuable resource, so use them.

Angel Leon: I want to say something because when we were preparing for this recording, you mentioned a quote that I found to be fascinating and that was," Before we train you, we have to untrain you." What do you mean by that?

Chadd Wheat: Well, for Moser and I'm sure again, other companies, a new hire needs to learn skills that matter to that specific customer set and their new company. We want to foster and keep the person's logical and investigative and customer support mindset, but they have to learn how to unlearn so they can learn, if that makes sense. What I'm saying, I guess is, you need to stay nimble and open to change. You need to learn how your customers and your company, how they do business. So if I go from company A to company B, they're going to have a totally different way of approaching internal things, how they interact with customers and things like that. So you really, day one in a new job, but you have to be a change proponent. I think it was Ben Franklin once wrote a letter," In this world nothing can be said to be certain except for death and taxes." And I think change happens, we see it all around us globally with pandemics and social intellectual, technological, things change all the time. So even on day one, somebody has to be prepared to unlearn your habits and relearn what your customers and what your company expects from you.

Angel Leon: Yeah. And that's I think it's very important because people don't realize that how a place does things it definitely varies from place to place, it even happens in HR. When I came to Moser a couple of years ago, I was doing HR very differently than the way we do it here. Obviously I came in from a very large organization where we had big brother headquarters, basically looking down on every field office and telling us what to do. Whereas when I came here at Moser I was the one that started setting the tone, I was the one that started setting those guidelines and the things and the way that I like them to be. So it varies, right? So if you go from a big brother, say one of those big IT corporations to somebody who is much smaller, like we are at Moser Consulting, it is going to be a little bit different than those big corporations.

Chadd Wheat: Yeah. And we talk about internally culture is very important to us and we try to espouse what we call the Moser way. That's a lot different than a lot of companies. Like I said that includes cultural, community, family oriented, and for a lot of people coming in, that's a shock that we're so mindful of, especially the employees and the communities we live in.

Angel Leon: Yeah. And that's totally different set of ideas because the way we do things at Moser beyond the technical skills, the way we treat employees, the way we welcome everybody, the way we make everybody feel as part of the Moser family, that just speaks volumes, and then that creates that mentality of work. If you treat your family members right, they're going to produce, they're going to work at a high level. So that's very interesting as well, because for IT people, as I was talking with Bob Russo several episodes ago, they're different in the way that they're motivated to do their job. They're a little bit different than most other employees from other categories of work. So switching gears real quick, when people think of IT people in general, they don't think about how tough minded they are. This is interesting to me because IT people require the use of logic and rational analysis in order to solve problems. As I think back to a recent episode with Bob Russo, who I just mentioned, he made a great point about how IT people are first and foremost problem solvers. Would you agree with this statement?

Chadd Wheat: The short answer is yes. IT people have to be tough minded and thick skinned, especially working in a help desk or managed services situation. Because you want to maintain that empathy for the customer, but you have to realize that they're going to come charging out because if they have a problem with their PC or environment, they're already going to be spun up and maybe even angry. And sometimes they'll take it out on you, so you have to understand it's not personal. You didn't do anything to make their environment break, but you may be the focus of their anger. And also in a help desk, you ask about being a problem solver first and foremost. So in a help desk, yes, you want to have a mindset of immediacy, you need to solve their short term problems right then and there, because like I said, they don't see the big picture, they don't care what your company, what their company's doing. They want you to fix their PC so they can work. And then in a more consultative role, that's when we start looking at trends and long term solutions, like look back on a ticket history. Are people of this client having the same problems and what can we do to be more proactive, so we don't get that same call tomorrow?

Angel Leon: No, that's very interesting that you mentioned all of that because on the flip side, I do want to say that another notion when people request IT help is that they know that you guys are the experts. They know that you guys have" the answers" to whatever problem they have. Yes, the call might be an upsetting one because they need to print 50 pages and for some reason, their printer cannot connect to their laptop. And that to somebody like me, who's not as technical as some of our IT counterparts within Moser, could seem very frustrating. I had this happen to be a couple weeks ago and we had one of our other team managers within your team help me out with that. But it was a simple solution, it was something as making sure that all the drivers within my computer were set to the drivers that I needed from that specific printer. So simple solution, but if you're not in that right frame of mind and you're thinking," Ah, this guy's not helping me or this thing cannot print." Then my attitude is going to reflect on that ticket and then I'm going to start probably making some comments in passing to the individual who's helping and that's not good. So I agree our IT folks I know for a fact have a great thick skin. First of all, a lot of them are very fun and jovial to talk to, so they're very positive minded.

Chadd Wheat: And I think, again, that's where that empathy comes in because you said it was a quick fix or an easy fix, but to your user, you may not thought about that, or they think they should have thought of it. So we have to treat them like, this is why we're here, this is our job. You're an expert in HR, for example, I have zero idea of all the things you do in the background and all the forms and legalities, et cetera, et cetera, so while you may come up with a quick fix in an HR scenario, it's beyond me. So we have to treat them like a lot of people have this problem, we're here to fix it.

Angel Leon: Right. No, and that's what I mean, I call it a simple solution because in the end, not knowing what was the problem really as a whole, for me was obviously frustrating. But when our teammate came in and he basically sat down with me and said," Oh, this is what it is." And it took basically less than five minutes to fix that, to me, it seemed like a simple solution. But to me as end user, I didn't know I had to look out for those things. So when he was working on my laptop and it only took five minutes to fix, I was like,"Oh, that was easy." But of course, without that technical knowledge, without that technical experience, I would've known to go to the places where he went on my settings and deleted my printer, install it again and make sure I downloaded the correct drivers for it. But speaking of our managed services team, you are a team manager within our managed services group, which is a very special group of individuals as I mentioned, they're unique with great talents. I know you love your team and you're always telling us that our managed services team has a very unique way of doing things. Why is that?

Chadd Wheat: Well, yeah. Lovingly, first of all, I'll say. Lovingly, it's like hurting cats sometimes. But I mean that in a good way, all the guys and gals and managed services have great skills, and they're independently minded, which again, that's where the hurting cats comes in. But being independently minded is also an asset and we foster that.

Angel Leon: Yeah.

Chadd Wheat: But even with the independent mindset, we try to have them focus on that collaborative mindset because let's face it, if I go fix your printer, your network, and then it breaks tomorrow and I'm not here, somebody else is going to have to come back in and do it again. So we need to share, we need to collaborate and we need to document. Yeah. Another unique thing I think about our staff is we have a lot of what I'll call nerds. And again, lovingly I'll call myself a nerd, but it's not just technology, we have tech nerds, we have gaming nerds, we have movies and comic nerds. I'm a history nerd, and we like nerds, because that nerdism outside of work, it shows an innate ability to follow and research your passions, which that translates to directly to your job. You love something that much and you're willing to spend the brain power to go further into it, that really translates well to the professional world too.

Angel Leon: Yeah. No, I agree. I have to say I'm a nerd at heart. I am a little bit of a nerd for everything that you just mentioned, history, gaming, movies, trivia, you name it.

Chadd Wheat: Nerd.

Angel Leon: Yeah. And I admit it, I'll be the first one to admit it. Yeah. My family and I just went on a vacation a couple weeks ago, actually more than a couple weeks ago to Universal Studios in Florida. When you have an 18 year old and a seven year old who live and breathe Marvel and all these comics and things like that, you want to be an active participant in their lives and the things that they like, you have to enjoy those things. And so it's not uncommon for this household to be part of and enjoying such things and going to the movies and watching such things. So it's part of our life, but it's also, as you mentioned, is a passion because we enjoy it individually and as a family. So as you mentioned, that translates into your job. My office is decorated with Star Wars, I've got Marvel stuff in there, I've got a couple Batmans. Batman is my favorite character, by the way. I just like that he doesn't have any superpower and his superpower is just being rich and being able to afford nice cool things.

Chadd Wheat: We don't like that, but...

Angel Leon: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But anyway, I digress. I do understand that, and that's something that I think from our team's perspective that translates into the way that they do things.

Chadd Wheat: Yeah. I think that also shows that mindset of wanting to learn more, wanting to know how things work and again, translates perfectly into the IT community.

Angel Leon: Yes, it does. It does. And that basically translates into continuing to learn, develop your skills, just wanting to continue to evolve as a human, as a professional and even your personal brand, as we're talking with all the things that we like beyond work and how in the long run, that really makes it for a better team, because you have people who share the same ideas, they like the same thing. So when they come to work together, they, Hey, what did you think of the last episode of Boba Fett? And there's a discussion that happens, and people bring in their thoughts if they liked it or not, if they liked the series or not, if they're looking forward for the new Obi- Wan series that's coming out in May. So those things make for a better team, they make for a better cultural and better environment, and then at the end it just makes-

Chadd Wheat: Let me interrupt you. You know Han Solo shot first, right? I'm just saying.

Angel Leon: See what I mean? See, it just brings up discussions that...

Speaker 3: But guys, that's not even his real name.

Chadd Wheat: See, we could go nerd all day long.

Angel Leon: Yeah. This is suddenly turning into a Star Wars episode, but no. Last thing before we go. Where do you see the IT folks going into the future? The IT employee of today is not the same than that of five years ago. So how do you see the roles evolving in the future?

Chadd Wheat: Yeah, well, we talked, I think in one of the previous episodes about the IT guy with the scruffy Jurassic Park t- shirt on, sitting in the basement with a Mountain Dew and hacking away the keyboard, that's not who we are anymore. It's evolved, and I think going forward, I guess there's three things that will never really go out of style. That's the customer- centric approach, both internally and externally, your internal customers, your external customers and that empathy, and the ability to put yourself off in their shoes. I think the second thing is that ability to stay nimble in learning new technologies, because as you all know, technology changes about every three months and new products come up, old products die off and it's just the way of the world, so you have to stay nimble. And then I think the third thing and we touched on it a little bit is the ability to manage stress, to have a thick skin when you're dealing with customers and to keep a good work life balance. Because if you're not happy, you're not going to be happy in the workplace. So it's important to maintain those lighter moments, we were talking about, around the water cooler discussing Star Wars, but that's important stuff. And managing stress I think is a huge key, it avoids burnout, it keeps things fresh and it makes for better employees and people.

Angel Leon: Absolutely everything you talked about, I agree and then some, because as we were just discussing and joking around about Star Wars and different things, that's what keeps that flame going, that interest. And when you look at what you have to do as a job, if you like it, if you love it, that's great. But then if you love those around you and those people that are with you every day, when you come to think about it, you're spending more time with them than you are with your actual family.

Chadd Wheat: Yeah.

Angel Leon: But then the latter part, so the family piece is very important because if you can maintain that work life balance, that's always going to be key for some people, obviously family, it is very important for all of us. And so you have to balance that piece, and how do you balance that? Well, happiness. If you're happy at your job, you love what you're doing, you love your teammates, you love your coworker, you enjoy coming to work. Then the time when it comes to go home, you feel satisfied. And that's key I think in every aspect of work life.

Chadd Wheat: Yeah. You'll hear people all the time say," Eh, it's just a job." I feel really sorry for those people. And to me, no matter what it is, even if it's a career switch or whatever, find something you're passionate about, find something you're interested in because like you said, I never want to look at it like,"Oh great. I got to go to work." I want to approach it," Hey, it's Monday. Cool. I get to caught up with the guys and gals or get to go to work." So I hope those words never come out of my mouth that," Eh, it's just a job."

Angel Leon: I agree with you a 100% because you don't want to get to that point, where if it's just a job for you, then may I suggest look for something else. I know that sounds cold, that sounds terrible, but if it's not fulfilling you on the professional side, then you should probably rethink your career choice at the moment.

Chadd Wheat: Right.

Angel Leon: And something that we don't lose over is the second part that you mentioned about being nimble and making sure that you're remaining current with technology and all of that. Training here at Moser is very important, we love to upskill our people, we're always pushing our people to make sure that they're learning the greatest and latest, but that they're also taking care of their professional skills. So that's something that combined with all the satisfaction that we talked about, it makes for a good brand, it makes for a good individual performer, and just satisfies you a little bit more. So again, it's very important for you to keep satisfied in what you're doing and training and being able to train your skills and continue to leveling up is always key.

Chadd Wheat: Yep. I agree.

Angel Leon: Well, Chadd, as always a pleasure to have you with us on ASCII Anything. Thank you very much for being here today.

Chadd Wheat: Well, thanks, Angel. It's always a lot of fun just to talk about nerdism and Star Wars and IT.

Angel Leon: Some of our favorite topics.

Chadd Wheat: Yep.

Angel Leon: Not in any particular order.

Chadd Wheat: Right.

Speaker 3: Obi- Wan series is being released on the 45th anniversary of Star Wars.

Angel Leon: Yep.

Chadd Wheat: What is?

Angel Leon: There you go.

Speaker 3: The Obi- Wan series is being released on the 45th anniversary of Star Wars.

Chadd Wheat: Nice.

Angel Leon: Yeah, it was interesting because a lot of people were complaining that," Oh, they should have released it on May 4th." May the fourth be with you. I think they chose the right date for such a character. Yeah.

Speaker 3: Yeah. It's an actual anniversary as opposed to just a happy accident.

Angel Leon: Yes.

Speaker 3: Of pronunciation.

Angel Leon: Yes. Exactly. Yeah. All Right, Chadd.

Chadd Wheat: You guys are nerds, I love it.

Angel Leon: See, we're all nerds at heart. We'd like to thank Chadd Wheat for joining us this week to talk about IT people and their skills and how they are much more than those IT skills. ASCII Anything will be back next week with another episode, continuing to dive deeper with our resident experts and what they're currently working on. If you have an eye idea or topic you'd like us to explore, please reach out to us through our social media channels. In the meantime, please remember to give us a rating and subscribe to our feed wherever you get your podcast. Until then wombats can do anything, even IT. So long everybody.


We've got a bit of a tongue twister this week as we have the Team Manager of the Managed Services Team, Chadd Wheat, joining us to discuss critical skills that are sometimes overlooked or forgotten when the topic of IT comes up. Today's nerds are out of the basement and able to withstand full sunlight. We've even managed to conquer conversations that involve eye contact. In fact, we're in charge of a lot of things now. So the cliche of dark holes covered in Cheeto dust and Mountain Dew can officially be retired. (But we still like Cheetos and Mountain Dew...they are delicious "SOMETIMES snacks").