Dear #SQLAwesomesauce: Is this idea batsh** crazy?

Jen McCown, 2012-08-15

I’ve been out of town and off the grid – nothing like 10 days of family camping and roadtripping to unwind! – and now I’m back in black. Well, black polka dotted jammies, but that’s beside the point.

I received this email while on vacation, with a request for anonymous reprint.  Take a look, then weigh in on whether Considering‘s idea is crazy or not:

Dear Jen,

Recently you’ve made the transition from employee to contractor, and have had positive things to say about it. Having spent a year as a contractor in the advertising industry before landing my current full time position, I appreciate the appeal. I was reminded of your joyous reports of the transition to serial contractor today after spending some time on the phone with a client.

Some backstory, I have two current problems at my current employer. The first is that I seem to be on a non-technical management track. The second is that in the short term my duties are very strategical and not tactical. I like either doing things myself or supervising/mentoring other people on short term tasks. I don’t have the patience to wait multiple days for someone to start a delegated task, and that’s often required at my current job for reasons I can’t get into.

However, today I got dragged into an issue with a client. A “why ain’t this working” issue in which we were tracing activity from one of their workstations, through their firewall, our firewall, and finally onto their server. Afterwards, I realized that I really enjoyed that. Then I realized if I worked some sort of help desk/support line I would do that all the time.

Now let me explain myself. I don’t mean low level read the script help desk. I’m talking about the level of support people pay big money for, like when you pay $200+ to call Microsoft, Dell gold support, or something on that level. I’m currently a .NET developer so I don’t know if there is a help desk I’m a good fit for besides Microsoft Support. However, something like the Azure support team might be a good fit for me because I’ve been a UNIX admin, PHP programmer, and de facto DBA and sysadmin in former lives. This breadth of experience is exactly why I enjoy and excel at diagnosing issues where someone is using PHP on Linux to call .NET web services through two firewalls, and then creating an XML file  from the results that sits on a FTP server that a process on an AS/400 will pick up.

Now I figure that 95% of the calls fielded are relatively simple things from companies that use support tickets as a la carte consulting to support their infrastructure. I’m also aware that sometime the issue is making the client realize the issue is on their end. I think that’s a good trade-off. I like variety. I’ll deal with the mundane for the rare opportunity to be presented with the creme de la creme of edge cases and obscure bugs. I’ll deal with masses of dull inside the box thinkers for the chance to educate the occasional curious mind.

So my questions for your faithful readers are as follows. Is such a support position feasible for a senior level developer living in the United States? Is my only opportunity for this pursuing a job at Microsoft Support or are there other companies where developers get paid to talk on the phone to clients for short term (measured in minutes or hours at most) engagements? Has anyone worked one of these high end help desks that can talk about experience? Finally, is this idea bat shit crazy.


Considering transition.

Well, Considering, I personally think that any time you see a need, it’s probably worthwhile to at least test the waters. Is it possible to do a trial run in your free time, while keeping your full time job?  Maybe offer a company a free run, get some feedback, and see how they like it?

Now, my dear readers…some of you have your own companies, and all of you have experience in the field. What do you think about Considering’s idea? Let us know in the comments.

Happy days,


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