The other day I’d just come back from the store, and was washing my hands when I heard a loud bang. I assumed my wife had dropped something. Something BIG.
“Was that you?” she called.
“Umm… no. Maybe the kids knocked something over?”
But no, it wasn’t our daughters either. So we spent a few minutes wandering around the house trying to find some large object that had unexpectedly fallen over with a loud bang.
Then I checked the garage, and noticed that the door was a couple of inches off the ground. Hmm, odd.
Then I noticed that there were some metal cables hanging to the side of the door. Also odd.
Upon further investigation I discovered that the garage door is lifted up by metal cables on a spool on each side of the door (who knew?), and that in both cases these cables were unattached.
It should be mentioned at this point that I am pretty incompetent around the house. I feel good when I can successfully change a light bulb. But in recent months I’ve discovered that there are videos on Youtube showing how to fix pretty much any problem – so I decided to do a little research.
Lo and behold, I found a video, and amazingly I was able to reattach the cables. I felt so proud of myself.
I hit the garage door button, fully expecting that the door would now open properly and I would be a hero…
But no. It moved an inch and then stopped again. What the what?
Long-story short, my smart-and-helpful neighbor Joe showed me that the spring had broken, so the motor wasn’t able to transfer power properly to the axle-thing that turns the cable spools.
Joe was also able to help me manually lift the door so we could get the car out and park it on the street. Phew!
This afternoon we’re expecting a visit from a garage repair guy who will fix the problem for good.
Not everyone has the same core skills
What’s my point? Let’s compare the three people in this story:
- Andrew: generally incompetent, and has never even thought about how a garage door works. It takes him 20 minutes of research to figure out how to fix the wrong thing.
- Joe: generally handy and skilled home-owner. He has his own tool-kit and everything. He has worked on garage doors a couple of times. He quickly understands the problem, is able to help work-around the issue, but doesn’t have the equipment or time to fix the spring.
- Garage-Repair-Guy: his entire job is fixing garage doors. He’s been doing this all day, every day, for years. He’s probably fixed hundreds of springs exactly like this.
For Garage-Repair-Guy, fixing broken springs is a core skill. It’s what he does. He will have absolute confidence that he can identify the problem, fix it quickly, and won’t break anything else along the way.
For Joe, garage doors was a rare skill – something he’d seen before, but not his core expertise.
And the less said about my skills in this area the better.
A few days ago I wrote about the ever expanding list of skills we expect from today’s switch techs, and the challenges that causes.
One solution is to categorize some of those as “core skills” and some as “rare skills”.
- Core skills are tasks and abilities that a switch tech will draw on daily or weekly.
- Rare skills are things that clearly fall under a switch tech’s area of responsibility, but they’re needed so rarely that he/she never builds that level of confidence and expertise to easily apply them.
Rare skills for a voice network engineer may include switch translations, adding/removing PSTN trunks, migrating to a new switch, or implementing security best practices.
If you manage the network operations team, or if you’re a tech yourself, and this list of rare skills is intimidating, don’t worry. You’re not supposed to be able to do all these things.
You’re supposed to be good at the tasks you do regularly, but it’s unreasonable to expect that you’ll be comfortable handling situations that only arise once every few years.
In fact, it would be a waste of your time to maintain expertise in something you (almost) never use!
So what should I do?
In some cases, you can handle rare skills through great documentation – figure out how to do something once, write detailed instructions, and then next time it’ll be much easier.
Knowing how to do every single task: rare skill.
Knowing how to search through the documentation: core skill
Good documentation is a big help, but at other times, you just need an expert. At Award Consulting, we specialize in these rare skills.
Like the Garage-Repair-Guy, we spend our days handling network changes and migrations, and helping launch new voice products – taking care of those tasks that are not core skills for our clients – because they are core skills for us.
So if your garage door needs fixing, don’t call me. But if you need help with an uncommon situation in your voice network, drop us a line.