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About being or working alone

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John
Microsoft MVP; QuickBooks Pro Advisor.
Some general thoughts by a long-time IT professional about the benefits and negatives of needing to work alone. A general light read that may resonate with existing and up and coming IT professionals. Have a read and share your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.

This is an article about being alone, or preferably, not being alone. This is not a technology article. There are no how-to steps here, no screenshots, no pictures, no tables – just a collection of my thoughts.


Have you ever needed to work alone? I suspect a lot of us find ourselves doing that because we do not work for companies of any kind. Most of the time, nothing negative occurs as a result of working alone. But on occasion, we might wish that we had someone to talk to or to bounce an idea off.


I work as a private business consultant so I often find myself working alone. I have a colleague who also needs to work alone frequently. When you work like this, it is worthwhile to develop contacts that we can call in time of need or with questions. My colleague and I are in frequent communication to ensure we know what the current issues are for a variety of our clients. This helps dispel the feeling of being alone (which may equate for you or me as a feeling of helplessness).


Recently a member here in Experts-Exchange gave me a very gracious testimonial about a solution I had offered:

“Thank-you, John .... You have repeatedly come through for me in my "crisis" situations”

A couple of days later, I helped the same member again and he wrote:

“Once again … Thanks for being there”.

In the latter case, Windows 10 was stuck, I suggested a reboot would be in order even though stuck in a loop and then do a Repair Install. The restart worked and the member was very happy. 


When I later thought about this a bit, I realized that just being there for the member meant not being alone. It meant having someone there with the member while they sorted out the problems and became operational. You can sense the feeling of relief when someone is there to help with working through an issue.


Now in my consulting business, the colleague I mentioned above is an (unaffiliated) partner who is also a very good friend of mine doing Technology Consulting. I bounced some work over to him some years back so I could concentrate on Financial Accounting Consulting work. One client is common to us. I do the Accounting and he takes care of the Technology Support. 


Some years back (about six years or so) we were still on an aging Server 2003 Domain Controller. It was well backed up but even so, thoughts of failure before we could replace it occasionally plagued us. I am sure some of you know that feeling. 


Now this Server lived in the basement of a church (as does the client) in the furnace room. My friend was there one evening all by himself doing updates to both servers. It was in the middle of the evening on a Friday night. My house was quiet when my phone rang. It was from my friend.


“The server won’t start”

“You mean the Domain Controller?”

“Yes”

I could sense the sweat pouring down his brow (no, we were not on a video call). I was becoming agitated as well as worrying about the possibility the server might not start and the implications that would ensue. 


There was some discussion and I am going to switch to present tense here.


“What about turning off the server?” I ask.

“I don’t want to do that for fear it may not start”

Pause as we try to gain our thoughts together. I have the same fear.


“Have you called Mr. Z (mutual technology consultant expert)?”

“No”

“You call him from there; I will wait here; I am not going anywhere. Call me back”

I waited until my phone rang again. 


“I called Mr. Z. He recommends we power down the server”

“So, Z says we should power off, I also say we should power off, what do you say?”

“I agree”

“OK, so let’s do this. Force the main server off”

A longer pause this time as my friend turns the server off, waits, and starts it up again. Meantime, I have a remote VPN connection to the client network which allows me to use Windows Remote Desktop to access the servers. We are still on the phone together.


“I got a login screen!”


I can sense his face visibly brightening and his voice sounding much happier. I log in from my computer and can see the Server coming up. 


We finished our discussion and we disconnected. Thankfully all was well. 


So, what was really important to my friend, or anyone else in a situation like this? 


He reached out, got me and no longer felt alone. The managing director at the time heard about this and quickly put a bottle of very good wine and a card of thanks on his desk. 


*Note* We changed our practice, worked together at this client, and updated at lunch hour. The client is fine with this process and the result was that it was now much less stressful.


Being alone in a difficult situation can be a frightening experience. My friend knew that and was happy to be able to reach out to me. The member above knows that and was happy I was online with them. Reaching out to a friend alone, or a member here alone means a lot and can visibly turn a tight situation positive. 


I enjoy helping people (here at Experts Exchange, in my consulting business, and in my volunteer work). It is very gratifying when it all comes together. 


My hope is that you too get the chance to help someone out in this way sometime. It can be very rewarding and transcends ordinary technology (or accounting or whatever). It is a good interpersonal skill to build. I work hard on this here and I am mostly successful but not all the time. We are all human.


I hope you also have the opportunity to reach out some time and ask for assistance when you are in a tight spot. It will feel rewarding for you to have someone there for you. You will know the feeling of utter gratitude to have someone there for you. 


On another note, my friend and I decided to upgrade the firmware on the client’s central RV340W wireless router. This is something that should be done to increase the security of network devices and workstations. We got the router screen, looked at the options, had the firmware ready, I misread the option to reset to factory specifications, clicked on it, the firmware update was a success and the wireless was suddenly gone. 


Not realizing at first what had happened, we tried a few things and then the penny dropped – the configuration was gone. We could not find our notes. We had the SSID, wireless security setting and password but that was all. We recalled when setting it up some months earlier that there was an extra “save all changes” step. We worked from first principles and got wireless working again. I made a Word Document with lots of screenshots and created a PDF from it. 


We have exactly the same router at another client and wireless was failing occasionally requiring a restart of the router (both routers on both clients are on a UPS). So very recently we went to that client and prepared to update the firmware. This time, I had my notes and resolved not to make the same mistake twice. We upgraded the firmware and no wireless! The router was accessible and on the correct IP address, so it had not been reset – just no wireless. 


We tried a few things unsuccessfully, the client was being patient, and then I said, “let’s delete the wireless profile, restart the router and make up a new one.” We set it up, saved the changes, restarted to ensure all had been saved. When the wireless came back, my computer showed a solid connection. All was well again. 


What happened at the second client? We believe that somehow the wireless profile was either not correct in all respects at the beginning, or else had become damaged. Making a new wireless profile fixed it. 


The next day, my friend and I were at the first client, he got a call from the second client and wireless was out again! Now what? The router is less than one year old, and we considered calling the vendor to get it replaced. But the client called back – somebody pressed the wireless button on the back of the router, the client re-enabled wireless and all was working well. There seems to always be a cowboy who likes to press buttons. 


Once again, working together, sharing our thinking and listening to each other is a very helpful and rewarding experience. We can ensure our clients are served well.


I again invite you to share your experiences about working alone in the comments section below.

John Hurst.



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