10 Reasons It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guy”

I only met my brother’s ex-girlfriend’s family once — the year they invited our family over to share Thanksgiving dinner. Since we were basically a group of strangers looking to make a good first impression, the table conversation was nothing more than friendly idle chitchat.

When I asked our hostess for more mashed potatoes, she took the opportunity to ask me about myself while dishing out my second helping — “So Shaun, what do you do for a living?”

Hesitantly, I responded: “I work in computer support.”

The transition to silence was immediate. All eyes suddenly turned to me, raised eyebrows all around. If you hadn’t heard my response, judging from everyone’s reaction you might think I said something outrageous like I was a male stripper or a gynecologist — but I knew the awkward silence would soon be broken by an overwhelming outpouring of computer questions.

“Oh wow, a computer guy!” — “So you know how to remove spyware and viruses and stuff, right?” — “Our family computer is really slow, I think it has a virus.” — “Do you have a business card, or can I get your number?”

I politely and patiently answered their questions, hoping that we’d exhaust the subject in a matter of minutes and then move on to something else. As it would turn out, my hopeful prediction was very wrong — the gentleman sitting next to me scooted his seat closer to me to begin an interrogation.

This man I was meeting for the first time must’ve truly believed that I was going to help him with his problem at that very moment. It didn’t matter how uninterested I looked or sounded, he was convinced that I must know the answer he’s looking for and he was determined he would get it.

Situations like this one were common for me. I’ve had eavesdropping strangers approach me with questions about their computer while I was eating in a restaurant. I’ve had oblivious coworkers step in front of me in a buffet line to tell me about their computer problems while I was serving myself food. I’ve had neighbors who spotted me from their window rush outside to coax me into working on their home computer while I was walking to the corner market. My knack for solving people’s computer problems had become so well-known among my neighborhood that these circumstances were near impossible to avoid.

You might be thinking, “So why complain? If your help is in high demand, why not embrace your talents and charge people for your time?”

I tried to for seven years. I’ve worked in the computer industry in various ways — help desk support, web design, consulting and sales, field technician, freelance computer specialist, and whatever other fancy name you want to give “the computer guy.”

I stopped enjoying it. There were certainly times when I enjoyed myself, but most of those times were when my computer talents were still developing. Once I stopped learning new things on the job, I would become fidgety and want to move on to something else.

From my career-hopping experiences in the computer industry, I’ve become acquainted with the Top Ten Reasons it doesn’t pay to be the computer guy:

Reason #10 – Most Of Your Accomplishments Are Invisible

The computer guy never hears anyone tell him, “I just want to let you know … everything is working fine!”

The reality is that people call the computer guy when something is wrong.

As a computer guy, if you work really hard to make everything work the way that it should, and things work fine, then people believe you don’t do anything. Everything you manage to get working correctly or do perfectly will forever remain unnoticed by computer users. They’ll only ever notice that you do anything when something isn’t working correctly, and you are called upon to fix it.

Reason #9 – Every Conversation You Have Is Roughly The Same

When the computer guy dares to mention what he does for a living, the typical response is, “I have a question about my home computer…”

Or when the computer guy first hears about a widespread problem within the computer network he’s responsible for, he can barely begin to assess the problem before a dozen other people call to report the same problem.

Or when the computer guy explains a certain process on a computer to a user who is incapable of retaining the process, he will inevitably need to reinstruct the user of this same process — indefinitely.

Reason #8 – You’re An Expert Of Bleeding-Edge Technology Products, Aren’t You?

The computer guy often finds himself in situations where someone is asking him for advice on a pending investment of the technological variety.

“I heard about (some hardware or software product) that can do (something desirable) for me. I brought you these (advertisements/reviews/printouts) because I wanted your recommendation. Which would you buy?”

Although the inquiring person sincerely trusts the computer guy’s judgment over their own, in almost every instance the real objective of these meetings is to ensure their own immunity from making a risky purchase.

If it turns out to be a bad investment, and they cannot get (the hardware or software product) to do (anything desirable), then you will be their personal scapegoat — “But honey, the computer guy said I should buy it!”

Reason #7 – Your Talents Are Forcibly Undervalued

Thanks to the constantly declining price of new computers, the computer guy cannot charge labor sums without a dispute. If he asks to be paid what he is worth, he will likely be met with the “why not buy new?” argument.

That is, desktop computers are always getting smaller, faster, and cheaper. It’s possible to purchase a new desktop computer for under $400. If the computer guy spends five hours fixing a computer and wants $100/hour for his time, his customer will be outraged, exclaiming “I didn’t even spend this much to BUY the computer, why should I pay this much just to FIX it?”

Reason #6 – You’re Never Allowed A Moment’s Peace

The computer guy is so prone to interruption that he rarely finds an opportunity to work on his own problems. This is because:

  1. Computers never sleep.
  2. Computer problems aren’t scheduled.
  3. Every problem takes time to diagnose.
  4. The computer guy can only give one problem his full attention.
  5. Each user believes their problem deserves attention now.

Consequently, the computer guy has a 24/7 obligation to keep critical computer systems running, while simultaneously juggling everyone’s problems. He’ll often need to forfeit any opportunities to tend to his own needs for the sake of others — because at any moment, of any day, he can be interrupted by someone who wants to make their problem his problem.

Reason #5 – People Ask You To Perform Miracles

The computer guy is often mistaken for someone who possesses the combined skills of an old priest and a young priest. I’ll sum this up easily by example:

“No, I really can’t recover any files from your thumb drive, even if you did find it after it passed through your dog.”

Reason #4 – Your Assumed “All-Knowing” Status Sets You Up To Let People Down

There is no common understanding that there are smaller divisions within the computer industry, and that the computer guy cannot be an expert in all areas. What makes things worse, is when the computer guy attempts to explain this to someone asking for help, the person will often believe that the computer guy is withholding the desired knowledge to avoid having to help.

This is somewhat related to the next reason:

Reason #3 – You Possess Unlimited Responsibility

The computer guy is expected to solve problems. It is difficult to determine the boundaries of that expectation.

Some of the oddest things that I’ve been asked to do include:

  1. Use pirated software to undelete important company files.
  2. Create an Intranet, after explaining I didn’t know how to.
  3. Teach someone how to hide their pornography collection.

Solving problems can range from replacing batteries in a wireless keyboard to investigating why the entire building loses power at the same time every morning. Resolutions can necessitate weaving a 50-foot cable through a drop ceiling, or wriggling under a house on your belly to add an electrical outlet.

Reasons #4 and #3 boil down to this: no matter how often you want to play the role of a hero, there will always be circumstances that test the limits of your ability to be one. It’s difficult to judge when helping someone means doing something immoral, and it’s even harder to admit you are unable to solve someone’s problem — and chances are, that someone will view you as incompetent because you were unable to help them.

Reason #2 – A Life Of Alienation

People only talk to the computer guy when they need him to fix something. Also, when the computer guy approaches a user, they’ll hop up out of their chair under the presumption that he’s there to fix something — as if it would never be expected that he only wants to strike up a conversation.

The fact that the computer guy never gets a moment’s peace can also practically force him to withdraw into solitude. His co-workers don’t understand that he doesn’t want to hear about their computer problems during his lunch hour — he does that every other hour of the day. That’s why the computer guy eats lunch alone with his door closed, or goes out to eat every day — not because he’s unfriendly, but because he needs to escape the incessant interruptions.

Reason #1 – You Have No Identity

It’s an awful experience when the computer guy shows up at a neighbor’s doorstep with a plate of Christmas cookies, only to have the child who answered the door call out, “Mom, the computer guy is here!” He begs for an identity that is not directly associated with computers, but “the computer guy” label walks ahead of him — it simply cannot be avoided. I was given a name and I’d love to be addressed by it.

Having read these reasons, you may believe that I’m complaining. It’s true that I was upset with many aspects of my life as the computer guy, but I’m past the point of complaining.

I took a good hard look at my existence and realized that things were not likely to change in the line of work I had chosen. Instead of just complaining, I took action and began making positive changes in my life.

Working in the computer industry isn’t for everybody. It wasn’t for me. I’ve compiled my reasons for putting it behind me and placed them here, so that anyone who is unsatisfied with their life working in computers might recognize it’s not for them either.

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375 Responses to “10 Reasons It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guy””

#1 jacobarber on 03, May, 2007 at 12:11 am

hey, when i push the power button on my computer, it just comes up with “No Operating System Found”, and there’s a kind of grinding noise. Can you help me out?

#2 ig on 03, May, 2007 at 10:12 am

Seriously dude, you just have to be an asshole about it. There’s no other way to avoid being “the computer guy” and owning everyone’s problems.

Nowadays I just pretend that I don’t know anything about Windows. (You ARE using Linux or Mac, right?)

#3 loxo on 03, May, 2007 at 10:17 am

hey, I switched on my firewall and my house burnt down, can you help?

#4 alec on 03, May, 2007 at 10:29 am

My piece of advice: develop a Nick Burns type of attitude. Seriously, if you’re arrogant and condescending about fixing people’s computer, they’ll come to you a lot less often.

#5 Eric on 03, May, 2007 at 10:33 am

Right on. As an IT pro with over 20 years experience I set a goal this year to not fix anyone’s computer for money, or for free. As you pointed out, it just doesn’t pay, the follow-up kills your time, and anything else that ever goes wrong is “your fault” b/c it must be related to whatever you did. I pass all the rebuilds and fixes on to my teenagers now. They love it, it’s easy money for them, and it’s enough money for them. Thanks for a great post!

#6 mike on 03, May, 2007 at 10:39 am

it’s a deprecating career path. take some classes and change direction. work with kids…do something that will get you the individual attention and respect you need.

#7 Shane on 03, May, 2007 at 10:44 am

Slam dunk post. You summed up alot of what I think every day.

#8 PeAn on 03, May, 2007 at 10:50 am

Don’t be the computer guy.
Be the software architect. And have computer guys work for you.

#9 Brooke on 03, May, 2007 at 10:56 am

This is why I simply tell people that I am a consultant ~:)

#10 Ted on 03, May, 2007 at 11:04 am

You hit the nail on the head. It’s weird, people recognize that you have a lot of knowledge and skill but they don’t respect you for it, and don’t want to learn about their computers themselves.

#11 Doug on 03, May, 2007 at 11:10 am

Great post man, I tried to articulate a similar post — but you’ve done a much better job!! I feel your pain man.

#12 peter on 03, May, 2007 at 11:16 am

You might find this hard to believe but when I was working in nuclear reactor safety some of those same features applied. Now the people at dinner haven’t actually got reactors that they want looked at but you might still find they want to extend your working week by an hour (unpaid).

#13 Mantra on 03, May, 2007 at 11:17 am

You can only be abused if you allow yourself to be.

The problem is not being able to say “No” or not countering a request with counter-request for something of sufficiently equivalent value. What was the story about the guy on Craigs List who exchanged “favors” for computer help?

But they’re “taking advantage of the relationship” you say. But every relationship/interaction with others is like that. You learn to live with and deal with it or you’ll end up being a victim for the rest of your life. It’s a choice – explicit or by default.

#14 Rob on 03, May, 2007 at 11:18 am

Amen Brother! I cannot agree with you more, this is why I’m looking to do a career change.

#15 Flem Ogdab on 03, May, 2007 at 11:20 am

Computer work (no matter what kind that you do), owning a pick up truck, and being able to grill will always guarantee someone needs you.

#16 Merc on 03, May, 2007 at 11:30 am

Dead on. With close to 20 years in the industry as well I can relate to every point. I also stopped working on computers for friends, neighbors and so forth. Just not worth the headaches. I will help family members, but they’re kind enough to come to me only after they’ve exhausted other resources. Pretty much everyone I know in the field would bail out of it tomorrow given the chance. But.. still have to pay the bills. Tough to transition to a new career when you’re in late 40’s.. but looking nonetheless.

#17 Brett on 03, May, 2007 at 11:36 am

Man.. Spot on.

#18 UFies.org on 03, May, 2007 at 11:40 am

Being The Computer Guy Sucks…

Of coruse, we all know that It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guyâ€Â?, finally someone’s enumerated them from 1……

#19 idano on 03, May, 2007 at 11:42 am

I feel you man. I “used” to be the computer and I went into Web Development to escape the hell. Now when people ask me computer related questions I respond, “Wow, I have been out of fixing computers for a couple of years now so I would not know where to start.” This gets people every time as they “understand” how technology changes so quickly.

It is so nice to go to parties now and have real conversations that have nothing to do with computers.

#20 mg on 03, May, 2007 at 11:55 am

I have exactly the same problems! So the big question is, what do you do now?

#21 RP on 03, May, 2007 at 12:05 pm

My internet doesn’t work 🙁

#22 manaheim on 03, May, 2007 at 12:15 pm

I was just blogging (couple days ago) about how to deal with this very problem and a friend pointed me to your entry.

I feel your pain. Click my name if you’re curious how I decided to deal with it. 🙂

#23 aju on 03, May, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Get over it. Most jobs are this way. The only complaint that seems reasonable is number 7. As far as number 1, for as long as I can remember, instead of being AJ, I was Roberts dad, the flower lady’s husband, the electrician, or what ever. As an electrician I can work on the north end of a machine that is as big as a large house, and be blamed for something breaking on the south end. If I do my job really well and the factory is working at peak efficiency, they lay one of us off, or give us make work to do. See all of us have the same problems.

#24 Jim B on 03, May, 2007 at 12:24 pm

Well said indeed… #11 should be, “if you ever charge your friends, neighbors or relatives money for working on their equipment, it becomes YOUR equipment for the rest of it’s life.”

#25 Neurofreak on 03, May, 2007 at 12:25 pm

Okay, look… Every single complaint you have ultimately comes from the fact that you do not assert yourself (which is a common theme among “computer guys”). If you want to avoid this stuff, don’t be afraid of being an asshole a little bit. People will respect you more.

When the little kid screams “Mom, the computer guy is here”… correct him on the spot. Tell him you have a name, and you’d like him to use it appropriately. When people ask you about your job. Tell them anything you want, in fact, tell them it’s top secret and don’t answer. If someone already knows and asks for your help… tell them you really wouldn’t know, or you just don’t want to mess with it right then because it can be so time consuming.

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#27 Shaun Apple on 03, May, 2007 at 12:33 pm

haha, funny story. I can relate to that. My name is Shaun too.

Shaun Apple
Love Across Borders.

#28 glenn on 03, May, 2007 at 12:33 pm

i know this is not the popular opinion right now but I’m a happy “computer dude”. i think this post is funny. I have to be firm sometimes and let people know that _their_ problem won’t be solved anytime soon but hey… it is what it is. yes, plenty of times i’d rather be fishing but hey, after 13 years i’m still having fun. being the computer guy is great! if you think it sucks, you need to go back to radio shack!

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#31 Yves Roumazeilles on 03, May, 2007 at 12:42 pm

No really, this kind of job is not a normal one. Probably nobody out of computers really see the difference between each of the different computer-related jobs.

One of the worst situation is when you do not charge friends for what you do, but they charge themselves (sending you a gift, repetitively). Then, you’re sucked in.

As I close my own post: “Don’t tell my mother that I’m work with computers. She thinks that I’m a hooker.�


#32 10 Reasons It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guy� on 03, May, 2007 at 12:45 pm

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#33 rootnode on 03, May, 2007 at 12:47 pm

I felt like that too, for the first few years of my career. Then I discovered something. I’m not in it for the money. Or more accurately – I’m not in it ONLY for money. When I was I felt like you. Unappreciated, disrespected, blah, blah, boo-hoo.

Then I got into it. And not just “I’m better at this then 90% of people out there, so bow-down to me” into it. I got “As good as I am, 90% of people out there doing this for money are better than me” into it. I wanted to know what they knew. I wanted to be, not better than anyone – and have my cock sucked for it – but to be the best I can be. Sounds cheesy but it is what it is.

Every problem I face is an opportunity to solve something. To learn how to solve problems better. To anticipate problems and resolve them in advance. To help resolve problems that no one knew existed till I came along and pointed them out.

The money’s good. I don’t complain about getting it. But what drives me is that I get paid to be a problem solver. I’m a professional computer guy. I eat my bread and butter from understanding and solving computer problems. I get to solve a puzzle EVERY DAY and I get paid for it.

I belong to an elite club of laborers who have an opportunity through sheer determination, power of intellect, hard work and skill to touch and resolve problems in ANY industry. Every process in every field of every profession can be enhanced, made better, improved through computational science, communication and automation. How many out there have been given the ability; the tenacity to endure and the opportunity to be part of the all encompassing effort to push EVERYTHING in existence forward, faster?

I say stay in it. Be better at it. Don’t become a baker or coffee shop owner just cause the guy next door does it and has a fancy car. Any schmuck with a loan can do that.

Be a pro. Grow a spine. And stand for yourself if you feel unappreciated. No one’s gonna fight your battles for you.

#34 yadayada on 03, May, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Just learn this simple sentence:
“I don’t have time.”

…or what I used to say back in the days:
“I study Computer Science. Think of me as a mathematician using a big calculator. I don’t know more about computers than a physician knows about telescopes.”

#35 willsmith on 03, May, 2007 at 12:55 pm

there will always be a computer guy… when one gives up, two are born… its like Gremlins…

#36 ex computer guy on 03, May, 2007 at 12:56 pm

I used to be a computer guy, so I went to MBA school, and now I’m a banker…the only problem is that now people come to me for advice on stocks and investing!

A word of advice, just be crappy at what you do, kind of a dick, and nobody will ask you for anything!

#37 anon on 03, May, 2007 at 1:06 pm

Now you know how it feels to be a doctor. 😉

#38 matt on 03, May, 2007 at 1:14 pm

“Reason #5 – People Ask You To Perform Miracles”

Yep, like the time when someone’s PC wasn’t getting past the login screen. When I told them I was just diagnosing the problem first, they said, “Oh, I thought you would have some magic code that would fix it.” I ended up wiping the whole system.

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10 Reasons it does not help to be a computer guy…

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#40 mark on 03, May, 2007 at 1:18 pm

dood, i sympathise completely. I am an IT Analyst/Service Support guy and everyone of those reasons is damn true.

No wonder some IT guys go postal and shoot up offices. They should get medals for ridding the world of muppets 😉 (no, i don’t advocate murder, just a little light hearted humour)

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#42 Dan Masq on 03, May, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Man, you’ve summed up so many people’s lives.. great post..

#43 Sean on 03, May, 2007 at 1:40 pm

The only problem with your post is that all of us reading it are “the computer guy”, and we already know what you’re talking about.

Regardless, it was a great read.

#44 Bob on 03, May, 2007 at 1:50 pm


I realize that you’re going to get 900 comments praising your no-nonsense assessment of a career in Technology, but I just wanted to take a minute and say THANK YOU.

I’ve been in the Network Administration field for almost 5 years, and I need out – for each and every reason you mentioned above. I’ve had 2 Network Admin coworkers(1 of them a close friend) commit suicide in the past year.

#45 IITWU on 03, May, 2007 at 1:52 pm

International IT Workers Union

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#48 The other Sean on 03, May, 2007 at 1:55 pm

LOL…. I have mentally composed this post everyday for last 7 years.

#49 The other Sean on 03, May, 2007 at 1:57 pm

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Sorry to hear that.

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#51 Luke Daly on 04, May, 2007 at 8:10 am

What a wonderful article, you brightened up my day!

All points are correct and I can relate to every single one! Due to me currently working part time while at Uni in the webdesign industry I have been asked to develop a few websites for close family friends which I obviously said yes to and in some cases got £100 or so, the problem I have had is because these people have paid me a very small amount of money for relatively large projects they expect me to drop uni work & my part time job to update their websites, often with 100s of pictures which are 300dpi 3mb JPGs. So that means I have to edit the pictures, upload, edit pages all while doing four assignments and twelve websites at work etc.

How I wish I was a simple street cleaner sometimes, no pressure, laid back and chilling work…. yeh right ^_^

#52 Ben on 04, May, 2007 at 9:59 am

Been there, done that. I started in computers at age 31 – second career 1978. From that time I saw that. I found a great defense, its called ‘Creative Incompetence’ and comes from a book I was required to read in business school ‘The Peter Principle’- 3rd career. After they have learned that it will take me 2 weeks to get around to fixing their computer they usually find another computer guy. Now I am a ‘Motor and controls engineer’ 4th career. I still get to play with computers, but now my computers run large industrial motors and are powered by 480VAC.

#53 Travis on 04, May, 2007 at 10:41 am

dude, i feel you totally the same, i live in a community of about 8,000, im thee COMPUTER GUY. IT sucks…but i had the same problem, it was fun, til i knew it all too well…then i was annoyed.

#54 Denithor on 04, May, 2007 at 11:35 am

Try being a plumber, it’s even worse.

#55 hexx on 04, May, 2007 at 11:46 am

that’s why I change my phone number every six months or so 🙂

#56 Jim on 04, May, 2007 at 12:10 pm

this is great!! – i’ve found that charging something, even a small amount, tends to reduce the number of requests to more serious ones. and 2 other things i don’t talk about – fixing cars and electrical work – those generate a similar series of requests 😉

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#58 Pascal on 04, May, 2007 at 1:17 pm

Wow, this article is written as if someone got into my head and wrote my thoughts for me. The only thing that’s different is that I still enjoy my work, by and large. The way I deal with requests for help is by prioritizing. If someone wants help at work, I put them on the list. My boss respects my workload so that hasn’t been a problem. I try to make it a point to personally help no more than a couple people a month. If more people approach me in that period of time, I tell them to come back to see me next month, no matter how dire their situation is.

A lot of times I’ve helped people, sometimes for hours, only to be compensated with a lunch. Lunch? You owe me a week’s worth of lunch, and I let people know when they have not adequately compensated me.

Conclusion, you make the rules. They need YOUR help, not the other way around. But do it courteously, and it will save you a lot of frustration.

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#60 rxf on 04, May, 2007 at 1:46 pm

I know the accuracy of all these observations, not because I am a “computer guy” but because I am a doctor. Essentially all professionals, additionally including lawyers, walk this walk. Some can handle it, some move on. I know a guy whose response to his mother-in-law’s request for medical advice was, “I never give free medical advice to women without first doing a pelvic examination.” No, the marriage didn’t last and he’s still a jerk, but he is a very skilled doctor who does a lot of good.

Someone will say, “but at least you get respect.” It is empty respect when it is your job at any moment to fix what is wrong now because “You’re here.” (And the money is sometimes just not worth it, but I’m 66 and what else can I do?)

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#62 Zombie on 04, May, 2007 at 2:40 pm

In about a year I will be getting my first job. I will be a tech guy in the hospital. I am young and I thought this line of work was awesome, but the way you say it…it sucks.

#63 dan on 04, May, 2007 at 3:33 pm

The other problem is actually getting someone to pay the flipping bill, its an oh my god we are all going to die emergency to get you over there at 2AM to hide porn, its not a hurry or a bother to pay the bill until 120 days later if at all.

#64 Mine on 04, May, 2007 at 4:21 pm

It is simple, I have lived through the same problem as you, and it is true the moment anyone gets a whiff that you might have something to do with computers you get flooded with questions.

The way I have learned to handle it is by describing whatever I do without using the words “computer” or “support”.

Basically, I tell people that I do “problem analysis and resolution” and if they as me more about it I tell them it is boring because it has to do with statistical occurances… Keep it vague.

If ever someone ends up tripping me up and making me admit I even USE a computer, the moment they ask me how to fix a problem, I ask them what they are running. If they say Windows, I respond “I run Linux, sorry, I don’t know about Windows” or Mac, or Solaris or Vax fer gods sake.

Oh, and –
09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

#65 Denil Wickrama on 04, May, 2007 at 5:25 pm

This was an interesting article but I can’t say I agree with that all of these assertions are true or if they are true, negative. I think the worst is that “you are forcibly undervalued”, but if you specialize in a niche such as bioinformatics I think it need not be so after you’ve gotten unique experience. “You never have a moment’s rest” would be bad too, but perhaps you can do something to get better clients in that case. If you are the only person with expertise in a certain area of IT then you may be able to command some level of respect or hire some other IT people under you in your company that are willing to handle odd hours. Thanks for the article.

#66 Robert on 04, May, 2007 at 5:36 pm

Thanks for this. It’s amazing how much is true…

It also doesn’t help when there’s someone completely without understanding of how something works and they _think_ that they do. I’ve seen work undone immediately after I’ve fixed it _and_ explained how and why.

Nobody changes the timing belt on their car right after getting a tune-up but they will immediately install any hokey, unnecessary, bug-ridden, shareware garbage wallpaper changer when getting a new computer.

There should be ‘keys to the kingdom’ – either users get qualified or resign themselves to being an operator and not a mechanic.

#67 Glenn on 04, May, 2007 at 5:38 pm

Being an oracle developer, people assume I am the computer guy and after being in the field, I know a lot of stuff that the average guy doesn’t know. So, there assumption that I know how to setup firewall and routers is correct. However, I point out that there are all sorts of specializations and tell them you wouldn’t go to a pediatrist when your head hurts either. That makes em think twice.
Also, hang out with other computer guys and make fun of business users. It makes it much more enjoyable.

#68 Tom on 04, May, 2007 at 6:14 pm

I used to develop intranet applications for a small firm, being that I was the only one that did this I was also applications support (but thankfully there was a seperate hardware/network support person).

I can say that most of these are true, but you can free yourself by finding a niche you like and running into it as fast as you can. I do computer security consulting now and when people ask what I do I can say I’m a consultant. Or if they already know I work with computers and ask for help, I tell them “I’m a hacker, if you’d like me to hack into your computer I can help you with that, but I’m muc better at breaking systems than I am at fixing them.” That tends to intimidate end users enough to not want me anywhere near their home computer, or at least gets the message across that I’m not interested.

I must say #4 rang true though, people have no idea how large a field it is until you spell it out for them with diagrams and fancy pictures.

#69 Haig on 04, May, 2007 at 7:22 pm

I hear you loud and clear, Shaun. I ran my own little repair company servicing homes and small business for 5 years. I started out loving computers, and figured I could make some money fixing them. I was young, probably a little naive, and energetic. By the end of the 5 years, it wasn’t even about computers anymore. My 650+ customers, plus friends, acquaintances, and silly employees sucked the life out of me. Thankfully, I recently sold my business and moved across the country to blaze a new path for myself. Good luck to you!

#70 juan on 04, May, 2007 at 8:13 pm

I have the same problems – every one on the list affects me almost daily. Time management is hell. But I love what I do.

What saves me is sales ability. Six years ago I was an average user selling, internet to business and related networking domain etc services when I decided to geek out hardcore and learn everything about the stuff I was selling. Thus I was reborn a tech and left my job to be the computer guy.

I charge people around 100 bucks an hour and subcontract some work out to the techs I used to work with too. I have a bigger house and better car – I make 3 times more than the sales job paid and I stayed home and slept today because its Friday and the phone didn’t ring!

Life is wonderful. I have freedom and a flexable schedule. I work for people I like and the ones I dont like go away because I overcharge or just pull a no-show half the time! Plus there are extra fees tacked on when you are an jerk to me. However, no one owns me anymore, unlike having a job.

With my sales ability (people skills?) I have learned to control customer expectations by explaining what it takes to get things done and what it costs. I use some charm and intellect to dominate them and take their money.

I speak in simple terms people can understand but I MAKE them understand. “Your hard drive is like a tangled pile of string, lets reformat and start over” or “a router is like a phone system. It takes a call and routes the webpage to your extension.” forget the OSI model and tcp/ip 10/100 binary B.S. – speak in terms they can comprehend.

I only work for people or businesses that have money. If you are broke and can’t afford me. Too bad because I am busy. Rich people will pay $600.00 for a reformat because they can afford it and I do it perfectly and explain how time consuming and hard that is, besides they don’t know anyone better. (because they are already SOLD on you) Poor people have junk computers, they complain and want to get it done for $50.00. Avoid them at all costs.

I don’t apologize for anything breaking. I cleverly shift the blame back to them or Bill Gates. It’s never my fault.

I use sales to push the value of a service call. I come over to fix your email and by the time I leave they have an external backup, a stick of RAM and a couple clever new tricks to make them feel smart (think – google earth, maps, phonebook, mozilla tabs…) I walk way with $600.00 instead of $100.00 I resell the parts which I keep a stock of in my car at 50% markup plus bid the add on sales as per job items – not per hour and whammo I get paid right.

This is my version of the computer guy. I’ve adapted these methods as a live and learn process. Hope it helps someone.

#71 Michael on 04, May, 2007 at 8:15 pm

Excelent article, is the first time I visit this web site, and I just match the perfect article for my situation, Im totaly Agree with you..



#72 Michael on 04, May, 2007 at 8:19 pm

Excelent article, this is the first time I visit this website, and I see this article that match with my situation, I have been IT for 4.5 years, and Im starting to feel the same way, since 1 year a go.. Its so true..

thanks for the article,



#73 Carl on 04, May, 2007 at 8:25 pm

Ozzy buzzed me and said he needs you to help Tom Decicco tomorrow if possible.

#74 EdwardATeller on 04, May, 2007 at 9:10 pm

$100 an hour? You’ve got to be kidding. Computer guys are not worth that hourly rate. Sorry if that bothers you, but it’s the truth.

#75 David on 04, May, 2007 at 9:19 pm

Sounds good that you’re changing paths!

A lot of people respect the computer guy, but some treat them as slaves. Why? Because they treat their computers as slaves – mules to do their work for them.

I liked it when computers were a hobby, and people actually wrote programs and had fun. As computers got better at doing useful work, they began to be owned by people who didn’t take the time to love and enjoy them (not to mention companies). They just want to exploit them – and this gets transferred to the computer guy. What you’re complaining about is exploitation.

After seriously considering it, I decided not to be a professional computer guy. My main reason was that I would be working with Microsoft products again. I find linux retains more of the hobbyist ethic of computers, so I just enjoy them that way – like the good ol’ days. And I also realized that while I sometimes enjoy chewing on a computer problem or helping someone, sometimes I don’t! Freedom is the key to removing exploitation.

Set yourself free, and Good luck!

#76 Steve on 04, May, 2007 at 9:21 pm

This is great — I have felt all of these issues and found myself laughing. You should really try to get more exposure.


#77 Jason on 04, May, 2007 at 9:53 pm

So real, it hurts. I used to be the computer guy, doing repairs for a shop and doing customer service… now I do operations type work in an office. Usually I just mention where i work briefly and then talk about how I also have a band that I’m starting. Much rather talk about music than “how can I download music with my computer” or “my internet connect stopped working, how does a firewall work”. Ugh.

#78 DrFu on 04, May, 2007 at 10:33 pm

I have felt your pain… all of it. Having followed a similar career path, it should be no surprise… but instead of jettisoning the industry, i just stopped being ‘the computer guy.’ I now am a professional problem solver. I work in the most underpaid department of my company (where I was briefly hideously underpaid). it is also the main source of our revenue — our production department. Now I still work in production, but mostly so I can feel the pain. because my job now is to point out all of the tech problems we have (fixing some, working with other departments to fix others) and all of the _process_ problems we have. Seriously, if you are sick of support, support-like work, or just being a modern IT plumber, take a look at process management and problem solving. It takes a lot of social interaction to do it well (not trample egos, etc), but if you have any flair there, it is a whole different (and better) class of problem solving. I have no faith in my company, but I do love my job. How many other people get to honestly say that?

#79 sb on 04, May, 2007 at 10:39 pm

Sorry, you don’t sound like the computer guy to me. You seriously don’t know how to setup an intranet? Do you know what that is? No wonder you don’t like being the computer guy.

#80 story on 04, May, 2007 at 10:41 pm

Hey Shaun,
Check out my loving parody of this awesome post. Things are tough all over, y’know 🙂

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#84 agus on 05, May, 2007 at 1:04 am

this kind of scenario is common for us, the “computer guy”. i think there is nothing wrong with the outsider to see or treat us like that, that is normal. The problem i think is on how we deal and handle that kind of situation. if you learn a little bit about marketing/sales, (human)communication, social(engineering?), your brand/position will be benefit you. you will be a real respected hero.

you can’t change people, but you can change yourself.

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#86 Solo on 05, May, 2007 at 3:01 am

Reason #10 – Most Of Your Accomplishments Are Invisible

So are the accomplishments of the accountant, the secretary and the gardner. You are a computer guy, not a brain surgeon.

Reason #9 – Every Conversation You Have Is Roughly The Same

If you are a stock investor, you get stocks questions. Mechanics? car questions. If you have no other hobby, then yes, you are stuck talking about computers. There is always the opportunity to hand over your card and proudly state that your business could not be better. Also mention $150/hour.

Reason #8 – You’re An Expert Of Bleeding-Edge Technology Products, Aren’t You?

Why can’t you be? Scan the headlines of gismondo and engadget for 6 minutes every day and you wil be an expert. You deal with computers, probably the most complicated apparatus invented by man, what is so scary about cell phones, pdas and plasma tvs.

And even if you don’t know, you can always educate people about how to do their own research.

Reason #7 – Your Talents Are Forcibly Undervalued

Home users never pay for computer support.

Reason #6 – You’re Never Allowed A Moment’s Peace

That’s because:
– You can’t say no.
– You are good at what you do.

It took only one “accidental” wipe/reinstall of the neighbors’computer for them to think twice before calling for my help. Come to think of it, they never asked me back.

Reason #5 – People Ask You To Perform Miracles

Never hurts to try. I saved keyboards that had coke poured into, and thumbdrive that had passed the laundry test (wash – rince – dry)

Reason #4 – Your Assumed “All-Knowingâ€? Status Sets You Up To Let People Down

Just be glad you are not a doctor. When things go wrong, you get sued for millions.

Reason #3 – You Possess Unlimited Responsibility

Anyone who views you as incompetent is invited to try it themselves.

Reason #2 – A Life Of Alienation

Read back about having a hobby, or a life, or something to talk about besides computers.

Reason #1 – You Have No Identity

See previous point

All in all your article is great. I know that in this industry it is easy to feel that way, but you really should not!

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#88 Trucker Tom on 05, May, 2007 at 4:50 am

Man, how I can relate. Computers were always a big hobby, and I thought “Wouldn’t it be neat to work with them as my job.” Boy, was I wrong. I’ve come to the conclusion that computers bring out what I like to call the “Psychic Vampire” in many people. Also I finally realized that I was engaged in people-pleasing behavior. I would go around looking for problems to solve for people and then be secretly upset as I was fixing them.

I solved the problem by going back to my first career as an over-the-road truck driver. The first month I was back out on the road I turned my cell phone off, which was quite an effective way of breaking people from calling me on my dime for free technical support.

These days I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut when I overhear people discussing computer problems. I’ve had it with helping people who just want to help themselves to someone who is more knowledgeable than they are.

Anyone wanting to make the jump into a career change driving a truck over-the-road I can likely hook you up with the information you need at http://www.truckerphoto.com.

#89 JoeMundoNYC on 05, May, 2007 at 6:33 am

Riiiiing!!! Riiiing!!! Riiingg!

Computer Guy: TechSupport! Can I help you?

User: Hello It’s Mr. B Weiner am traveling and in a Hotel. I have this new Wireless laptop however I press the “On” button and nothing Happens…

Computer Guy: Can you make sure power cable is plugged in the device and certify if it is also plugged in the wall. Maybe you can go to next avaialble socket and check if you have power there.

User: Wait A Minute! I don’t think you understood me. I said the laptop is “WIRELESS” so thats why I did not bother to bring the power cable.

Computer Guy: (runs to his nearest anti acid)

(and I swear that i had a call like this, the user was a bean counter)

#90 JoeMundoNYC on 05, May, 2007 at 6:36 am

ok.. did you break the internet again?

#91 RogerCon on 05, May, 2007 at 2:16 pm

Part-time consulting might be the way to go. Don’t feel bad charging triple-digit hourly rates, no one forces them to work with you. Play dumb on all the free stuff if you have to, it’s not a sin.

One item I thought you missed was the idea that touching an application makes you the ‘owner’ of it. “I don’t know what’s wrong with our database, but can you look at it?” is uber-frightening. Even if you don’t do anything, except give advice (which the clients can’t remember anyway), they’ll somehow imagine that you actually worked on it or fixed it, much to the anger of the original programmer.

Good luck with the next career – you’ll find PC knowledge will serve you well just about anywhere.

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#93 rajan on 06, May, 2007 at 10:11 am

not many people talk about the adverse side of IT jobs, especially when the reward is high!but when it comes to the use of it for ‘life and fun’ no time left for it! the article is worth spreding for ‘food for thought’. Perhaps future generation will benefit!

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#95 Darth_Ninja on 07, May, 2007 at 12:38 am

Sad but true

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great job Shaun, look at all the buzz, v nice,, you certainly have a gift for writting,,

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#99 miz.scarlett on 07, May, 2007 at 9:51 am

You hit the nail on the head. The only thing worse – being the small office computer guy AND having a real, billable job at the same time. If you think people bug you for free advice when they find out you know computers, see what happens if you tell them you do taxes!

#100 www.enchilame.com on 07, May, 2007 at 11:01 am

10 razones por las que ser "el que sabe de computadoras", no paga

Ser "el que sabe de computadoras" muchas veces resulta contraproducente. Aqui hay 10 razones para pensarlo dos veces antes de publicitarte como experto

#101 LEM17 on 07, May, 2007 at 11:55 am

So you want to be a writer?.
Ok, from now on you are a Wanna-Be-Writer. Tell people you are a wanna-be-writer when you meet them and see what happens!
I think you will be discussing your new carreer and it will help you realize it.
I look for your upcoming “10 reasons why it sucks to be a W-B-W”

#102 LEM17 on 07, May, 2007 at 11:57 am

Or not!

#103 LEM17 on 07, May, 2007 at 11:59 am

Write a book on “How to Avoid Telling People What You Do For a Living, A Secret Life of a Tech Suport Guy”. Just Credit me with the Title. Good Luck

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#107 MathiasT on 08, May, 2007 at 12:46 pm

I can relate. Even my business card says “Computer Guy”.

#108 Russell S (Kansas) on 08, May, 2007 at 1:26 pm

I feel your pain. Great article, man. It made me laugh.

#109 Aw come on ... on 08, May, 2007 at 1:52 pm

Come on – EVERY trade, and I mean every trade could cite any of those and more reasons for ‘not liking their job’.

I agree with all the posts that effectifely say grow up, get a spine or get out of the career you are in and find one you can be happy in.

I’ve been in computing now for 25yrs and yes I’m also ‘the computer guy’ but it all comes to your attitude towards your job. Does it own you or do you let it own you?

I sit next to a guy who earns twice as much as me and I don’t care. He on the other hand gripes all day long about the bloke between us who earns a few thou more!!!! It’s YOUR attitude, you need to change it.

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#111 jenjen on 08, May, 2007 at 8:12 pm

hey that’s so wierd… EXACTLY the same thing happens to computer chicks! … and I thought it was just us 😉

#112 Damian on 08, May, 2007 at 8:52 pm

Great article, although it makes depressing reading, seeing as I’m a first year doing a Computer science course =(

#113 HeinousKyle on 08, May, 2007 at 10:14 pm

I usually have to be a prick when I tell people that I don’t want to fix their computer problem. If I try to be nice, nobody listens.

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#115 clarus on 09, May, 2007 at 8:09 am

I’ll admit, the first thing I thought of, apart from the obvious relations to my own life, was that you could make the same exact statement for being a doctor…

food for thought.

#116 Paul R. Potts on 09, May, 2007 at 3:46 pm

My personal favorite scenario:

Pre-sales consultation. “For what you are doing, I would really recommend that you buy X. It is a lot easier to use, and I know it really well so if you have a problem I can probably help you out.”

So my dad buys “Y.” It was on sale. Actually, he spent more, but it was shinier, bigger, whatever. Then proceeds to complain that he can’t get anything to work, and ask for help.

“X” was an iMac G5. “Y” was some kind of a big Gateway bundle with all kinds of peripherals thrown in running some version of XP with which I was rather unfamiliar.

I should mention that we’re on opposite sides of the country.

My mom bought the iMac G5 I recommended. She’s still a little timid with it but generally able to get things done pretty well!

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#118 James Meszaros on 10, May, 2007 at 12:02 am

Your page perfectly describes every day of my life. I love my job but, much like a doctor, when I’m on my lunch break piss off! If you have a question ask for my business card then go away!

#119 Hani-UAE on 10, May, 2007 at 5:07 am

Added… based on personal experience.. 😉

Reason #11 – Computer “Girl” is moooreee invisible than computer guy

When users called computer service and the one who answer the phone is computer “girl”, they will likely to ask, “Is there any computer GUY there?” or “Are you sure you can fix this?” or worse…. “Can i speak to your IT Manager?” while the girl herself IS IT manager.

Reason #12 – If a computer guy/girl fix things, they are “TECHNICIAN” .. not “IT ENGINEER”

Computer guy/girl expected to be magician, all the problems should be solved when it comes to them. When they cannot plan for the IT systems or Office automation for the whole office, they are only considered as ‘technician’ , but when they actually plan the IT infrastructure, they will considered as ‘over budget’ or ‘too high-tech’ ..

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#121 basscleff on 11, May, 2007 at 1:10 pm

lol, you fix computers right?
I feel your pain…

ever try saying….I have a name you know…
that’s “Mr. Computer Guy” to YOU!
and the price just went up!

#122 Bob on 15, May, 2007 at 9:28 pm

Some of the “computer guys” should read intellectualwhores.com and ladderwiki.com – for me it looks like Reason #2 and Reason #1 are related to the topics discussed at these sites.

#123 sisil on 18, May, 2007 at 11:56 am

i’m in the same field as u were =P
u’re great.. keep writing…
i can’t donate any money, but i clicks the ads in ur pages, thought it would help raise some money.. ^^
well, gudluck!

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#126 goatman93 on 21, May, 2007 at 5:37 pm

I agree with this completely, as a student in a small school and town, every fucking day I hear “Oh I’m having a problem with … and I can’t fix it, can you help?” So much that I am refusing to give help. Outside of family and close friends, I won’t help. Relating to #4, I have had someone come up to me and ask how you add more songs to Guitar Hero, he gave me the website and said ” The instructions and Video are on the site.” I answered, then why don’t you do it yourself? His reply: Well I don’t know how to do it. Another one related to number 4, A kid came up to me, asking how he can unblock myspace from his computer, I replied I don’t know, and he shouted out into my face, “WHAT? YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING DO YOU?” then the next day he came up to me and asked me the instructions for doing it that I apparently researched on MY TIME.
I hate the computer-illiterate.

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Computer Guy

Der Mann spricht mir aus der Seele!


#131 jared on 22, May, 2007 at 1:26 pm

Scan the headlines of gismondo and engadget for 6 minutes every day and you wil be an expert.

No 6 minutes of looking at headlines will not make you an expert in anything.

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#137 Cliff Samuels jr on 23, May, 2007 at 3:10 pm

The solution to this problem is to take the plumber mentality to solving a computer issue. Plumbers charge by the hour no matter how simple the problem. People complain about the cost but will still always pay the plumber’s bill in the end. That is what is needed in the tech profession. No more MR/MS nice guy.

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#145 john on 28, May, 2007 at 7:45 am

boohoo hoo!!!

That’s me!!! That’s my biography!!

Someone even asked me to fix his plumbing because he knows i’m a computer “Engineer�!!! When I told him i do not know how to do that, he looked at me with a disgusted face and told me: “Oh! you must be an engineer only “on paper�! �

I’m fed up ! fed up! fed up!

Just tell me one more thing: what is your current profession?

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#150 Teddy on 01, Jun, 2007 at 11:38 pm

Spoonfeeding is not the solution to anything. give them a cent today they come back for two tomorrow, then yo’re in trouble. go make your own school of courses for people, so they LEARN, instead of relying on you day in day out.

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#156 Mike on 14, Jun, 2007 at 1:21 pm

I work for a multinational corp. They had us sign a really thorough non-compete agreement. Regardless of how they do or do not check on it (I’ve never known anyone to get checked / busted), it is a great shield.

I cite the non-compete and say “man, I am so sorry – I cannot do that – but I can refer you to several sources”. Of course once the “FREE” source (me) is gone it’s funny how unimportant the issue becomes.

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#158 joehugh on 15, Jun, 2007 at 3:25 pm

the computer guy” = help desk support? web design?

well that is quite the lowest position you can get in the field of “computers”… Its the kind of thing 15 year olds do at school.(although it did sounded cool during the dotcom bubble)

Sorry but HTML is NOT a programming language.

#159 kleary on 15, Jun, 2007 at 4:44 pm

With regard to Reason #7: The fact that the computer guy spent five hours on the machine so that he may charge $100/hr pales in comparison to the amount of time the user spent putting in and managing all the data in the box. All the pictures, MP3s, videos, e-mail, etc… All that lost time. “How do you place a monetary value on that?” should be the computer guys response. Yes, the PC is inexpensive these days, but the labor, both to the user and the computer guy, is not.

#160 john on 16, Jun, 2007 at 12:56 am

I agree 100% with what your saying. Just this week at work I’m in my cubicle, and one of my co-workers come up to me introducing me to one of his family members that came with him to work. It was a nice gesture, which I am grateful for the opportunity to meet. Now this co-worker and I often talk about life, movies, politics, and in general guys things. What more, my occupation at work is a programmer, not the “computer guy”, though it seems that if you use a computer for a majority of you work, that you somehow are a guru to fixing them as well. What shocked me is that I was introduced to his family member as the computer guy that “can fix anything”. His daughter, whom I have never met before, says that she has a computer that is really having problems. At this point I’m both shocked and kind of perplexed. My thoughts at that moment were, “wow you have a computer, gee, who would have thought to possess such a device.” I also remember thinking how could that be the first thing you say to someone just meeting them? Lifting my dropped jaw slightly I responded by how computers in general can be difficult and the cause of many headaches, and basically eluded at notion of “repair.” Why is it that programmers automatically get classified as the “computer guy” or repair guy?

#161 The Digital Life, LLC » 10 Reasons it doesn’t pay to be “The Computer Guyâ€? on 20, Jun, 2007 at 2:30 am

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#162 Mick on 21, Jun, 2007 at 10:10 pm

I got around the issue by having business cards printed up with pricing on the back.

Soon as someone finds out I’m in support and they ask about “this thing that’s happening on my home PC” I hand them a card (never my work one, always the one with pricing) and tell them to give me a call about it sometime.

It’s amazing how many folks don’t bother once they realise you aren’t a charity. And if they do, the pricing I came up (30 minute charge blocks, minimum of a 1 hour call out fee) with means it really is worth my time 🙂

#163 Tom on 22, Jun, 2007 at 4:07 am

heh its like with any job except when it comes to computers most people don’t know shit so there’s more need for help in the sector rather than say car mechanics

#164 Leslie Erentreich on 23, Jun, 2007 at 8:46 am

It’s utterly ridiculous…I rarely see family or friends b/c its always a favor…or some kind of homework…and I know jack about computers…I just do the research for them and use common sense logic to solve the same problem they could easily do themselves…and even though everyone comes to me for help even at work…no respect…b/c i’m a young girl with big breast…even though i knew more than the IT guy they hired…and the only degree I’ve got is from bhs highschool…

well just so all you computer guy’s know..i totally dig you…intelligence is sexy…humility is hot…and video games rock…


#165 Droo on 27, Jun, 2007 at 3:27 pm

Im in the same field and I have to say, It aint that bad. Everybody is always happy to see me from the bottom level to the top executive, because Im here to fix something they fouled up. Its all about your attitude for it. The one thing that I dont like about it is that it does not impress the ladies. I just tell them that I work in Post Production. I do work for one, Im the computer guy there, and also many other things as well. If word gets around the neighborhood that you know my shit, I undercharge and ask for it in cash, I lay it down straight and tell them I do an analysis of what its going to take to fix it. If I dont want to do the job, I quote high. It is really not as bad as you say. I go to lunch with everybody at work. At home, Nobody bombards me with questions.

#166 Nate on 28, Jun, 2007 at 2:58 pm

I feel ya. Im 15, and im the only kid in a house of 7 computers that knows ANYTHING about them. Everytime I sit down to eat, im called because someone doesn’t know how to open a file, or a picture. Or every time my favorite shows come on, I get called because they don’t know that to be able to download something, you must tell your firewall to allow the download. And when I try to teach them, they forget it in an hour…Even though its common sense! Just like what Leslie said, most of the problems are SUPER easy to fix, its just that they are afraid to use common sense
and fix it!

#167 10 Reasons Why It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guy� on 28, Jun, 2007 at 10:51 pm

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#168 Leon on 02, Jul, 2007 at 2:47 am

My god, I acctualy used to enjoy “helping” people out, but this has come out to the point where people are forcing their problems on me, its like “Hey Leon, my laptop does not work, ill give it to you tommorow”…the saddest part is, im still in highschool, and im allready known as the computer guy… how sad.

Even at home, i only have 2 computers, but after everytime its used by my mom/sister its got some kind of virus on it, I have to spend 3 hours to fix, then “it counts as my turn” and I dont even get to play on the computer…

#169 This So Called Life » Blog Archive » 10 Reasons Why It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guyâ€? on 17, Jul, 2007 at 2:18 pm

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#170 Rob Lambert on 17, Jul, 2007 at 11:40 pm

Hey, I had the same thought a few days after you wrote this, but I just now stumbled onto your posting. See here:

Rob’s Minor Annoyance of the Week: People who think that just because I write software, I can magically fix their computer

My favorite on your list is “Your Assumed “All-Knowingâ€? Status Sets You Up To Let People Down”

#171 Stephan Ainley » Kind of why I’m not going into computers on 19, Jul, 2007 at 2:00 am

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#173 Bob Plumer on 21, Jul, 2007 at 1:49 am

Being an amateur computer guy I guess I don’t suffer from the burn out that you seem to be going through. Being the “computer guy” among family and friends is an escape from my dreary job. You do have some points one about computers being so cheap it’s hard to charge very high prices(if at all) for what repairs are worth vs the cheap PC’s coming out. Also being expected to know about every bleeding edge technology item out there is a bit much. Also the expectation of being able to fix a problem on the spot is a pet peeve. Otherwise I do still enjoy it. Find another hobby. My cousin who’s in a similar position actually works on cars as a hobby. Maybe you just need another distraction.

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#175 Steve Wright on 22, Jul, 2007 at 3:21 pm

This guy is obviously a burnt out whiner. Yes, everything Shaun says is true to one degree or another, but if you take one ounce of initiative, you can usually counteract and thrive with most of the issues presented.
1. Social situations outside work -Know your stuff….WELL – When people ask you questions, be able to demonstrate some useful knowledge in common areas of computing. People will appreciate the advice and guidance, but you have to speak authoritatively and have them actually benefit from your advice. Reading Cnet and PC magazine won’t do it, REALLY know your stuff.
2. Be the social leader at work – Don’t wait until someone comes to you with a problem. Go talk to them. Read any book/article on making friends, getting along with crowds, being effective socially if you need to. Soon, they will start stopping by just to say hi too. If people just stopped by with problems, I actually say “Oh hi John, did you just stop by to say hi?” . They will get the point.
3. Get better at what you do – Yes, generic computer help is undervalued and comoditized. Get really good at some special areas and all that goes away. Get really good at computer admin automation, databases, web work. You will get paid more and have the skills to stop feeling overwhelmed with computers having to run well all the time. You will actually be able to make them run well ALL the time, or at least enough of the time.

So if you are in this work or thinking about it. Don’t listen to Shaun. It can be very rewarding and fun if you want it to be.

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#177 Amit on 22, Jul, 2007 at 3:41 pm

All the reasons that you’ve listed have happened to me in some form or fashion. I had my ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ with IT and I’m looking to move on with the rest of my life. This is not for me anymore, at least, not in its current form.

Great article and good luck!

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#179 stygyan on 22, Jul, 2007 at 8:31 pm

The worst of it is that they assume you have no LIFE at all. You can’t be heading to a friend’s house or preparing for a good night… many a good dozen of ‘naked action in pairs’ have been broken by a phone ringing… can’t stand it. I’ve started to charge them all, it seems they’re not calling anymore.

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#182 Dave on 24, Jul, 2007 at 1:50 am

I also use the non-compete agreement. “Sorry, I have a non-compete agreement with my company. If I help you for free, then technically I compete with my company, which you would have paid for.”

Plus I use the “Sorry, I don’t do Windows… Install Linux instead.”

And product recommendations… I now insist on charging for time for this one. And now it doesn’t happen anymore.

But ya, the computer guy sucks, and I sold my support company 3 years ago… but people still ask me… now I just tell them my knowledge is obsolete (and it kinda is!)

#183 Luiz Felipe on 24, Jul, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Why do you think Gentoo was created? to make your life easier. if someone asks you for help, start talking about gentoo(how cool it isto compile stuff…)
or u can come up with some RMS talk(about how they are a psychos for using windows or mac…). exception for women and payers of course.

being a geek is great, cheer up
have u seen IT Crowd?

#184 Anon on 25, Jul, 2007 at 5:12 am

I dont like wires, so i cut them off now my computer doesnt turn on, wat do i do now?

#185 Faran on 25, Jul, 2007 at 11:24 am

so I used to be a “computer guy”
There were ups and downs to it.. I swooned my xgf into while fixing her computer one time, but she might’ve liked me earlier

I hated being paranoid and thinking that people only wanted my time for help on computer stuff
I wanted more respect
We all have other skills

I guess I did exactly what you did and changed everything.. I choose a different line of work – engineering.
I began studying economics and political science and art so that I could converse with different kinds of people.

I still follow my passion for computers and keep up-to-date on the industry but if someone wants to talk to me, I don’t bring it up, and I act un-interested if someone else does!

It works like a charm..

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#187 googleman on 26, Jul, 2007 at 8:17 pm

Steve Wright,

You are correct, it can be rewarding if you want it to be. However the reality is that people in IT are usually overworked, expected to do more with same pay. Maybe you are lucky at your job, but there are many companies/people that take advantage of us in one form of another. It doesn’t take long nowadays to be in IT and get burned out very quickly.

#188 Xnotix on 27, Jul, 2007 at 11:10 am

This really is a great post. Tnx!
I’m going to let my old man read this so he understand I’m not the only one saying that there is no money in being “the computer guy”.
Maybe then he stops giving my mobile number to everyone who has questions :-/. Just like others I’m now also saying I’m a consultant or researcher in new media or something like that.

#189 fizzymax on 28, Jul, 2007 at 4:26 am

Great Article, I have been “the Computer guy” for 10+ years now and a couple of years ago I said I had enough. I understand every point you make and have felt that way for a long time. I love repairing computers but I am over dealing with the people. I don’t even get invited to relatives or friends houses unless it involves some question or job to do on their system, my mum even does it. Congrats on finding your calling.

#190 Miguel on 29, Jul, 2007 at 5:05 pm

Even though there’s about a ton of comments here already, I just wanted to say, wow, brilliant article. I can relate 🙂
I worked in “end user support” for 2 years and I tell you after a while that phone becomes mightily annoying. Even top-level employees bringing their home computers to work so that I could fix it for them. ;|
Even though I don’t do computer support anymore, I still get family asking me for help, but if it’s family I’m happy to oblige.

#191 lazyasell on 30, Jul, 2007 at 3:45 pm

I like this article. It reminds me of why I don’t plan to continue as a system administrator beyond my current job. I want to be the one who gets the recognition for my own successful ventures, not the 24/7 computer guy in the background.

#192 lazyasell on 30, Jul, 2007 at 3:46 pm

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard computer guys complain about other people constantly assailing them with computer problems. Oddly, I work as a computer person myself, and I haven’t had the same experience. Perhaps it’s because I describe myself as “system administrator and programmer,” sometimes putting the “programmer” first, instead of “computer support,” or because my systems store data and don’t have many real users logging in, I just don’t get that many support requests. In fact, because of the association I work for, I’m more likely to be asked about when the next big one will be, even though I don’t have a clue about seismology.

#193 Kathy on 31, Jul, 2007 at 10:03 am

Nice post. I relate most to having no identity. I don’t attend work functions much anymore, at least not the ones my clients attend. They see you from across the room, drink and food in hand, then proceed to come over and ask me about a problem they’re having on their home PC, as though I do not enjoy drinking and eating like the rest of the people standing next to me at a social event. Ugh.

#194 Andy on 01, Aug, 2007 at 9:47 am

You think being the computer guy was bad? I’m a dentist and every time I mention that at a gathering, I have people open their mouths and tell me about their specific problem. I hate having to look at someone’s mouth in a very non-professioanl setting.

#195 Aaron on 01, Aug, 2007 at 3:56 pm

I understand your pain, I work in the AV department at a hotel. We strictly cover the audiovisual components, i.e. projectors, screens, microphones, etc., but we constantly take on the jobs of about 3 other departments in the hotel by fixing internet problems, computer problems, phone problems, hanging signs/banners, and a bunch of other things. But you really do have to be able to say no to these things, or require something in return. At my job, for instance, I do these things for others because they help me out in return (most of the time). That, and I’m bored of just sitting around in my office. The same attitude will follow in your writing career if you don’t stand up for yourself. Everyone will want you to “spell check” or “grammar check” for them, because you’re a writer, so you must be really good with the English language, right? Best of luck to you, I hope you find whatever it is that you want to do with your life and succeed with it, great article!

#196 Landon on 01, Aug, 2007 at 6:55 pm

The problems are all solveable. I used to own and operate my own computer repair business. It was great. No co-workers to have bother me, no helping people unless I wanted to and had the time. Every job you have is going to have these types of problems you have listed, but you should also follow your dreams. Best of luck!

#197 Patrick on 02, Aug, 2007 at 3:06 pm

I call on all “Computer Guys” to adopt my strategy, for if we all do this it will word off those who ask questions. I stumbled upon this tactic, because I tell very boring stories at a phenomenally slow pace. Pausing after every sentence and forgetting what it was I was say. So therefore when asked these question, be ask long winded, dry, boring and as frustrating as possible. I give you my assurance that no one else at the table will dare ask you another question. I like to call it the Grandpa Simpson maneuver. As I gather you are already tired of reading this post.

#198 Chris on 04, Aug, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Amen. I purposely try to hide my job title (tech support) and it never works. It’s like radar, people just see it.

And they think I am on the computer all the time. After I leave work I try to enjoy life, see what’s beyond the computer screen.

I spent extra money on a mac just becuase I didn’t want to look at another start menu at home when I casually do email and pay bills online.

#199 Chris on 04, Aug, 2007 at 2:44 pm

Also the unfortunate truth of being in tech support, aka “the computer guy” is that you have to learn to say “no.” It contradicts what we do – we make it happen for people. I love that about my job and it makes it worth it to be so genuinely rewearding.

The downfall of being interrogated mercilessly is not limited to IT. Doctors don’t get peace either. One medical question after another.

We have to learn to say no. No, we can’t do anything with non-company computers. No, we are not up to speed on every new technology that comes out of silicon valley, only the technology that this company implements to be productive. No, we will not help you hide your pornography from your boss.

There’s a very fine line between helping people and just being the computer slave that pushes buttons for people who are too lazy to do it themselves, and that is the hardest thing to master.

#200 TheBuilder on 07, Aug, 2007 at 7:52 pm

I love computers but have decided to “side” with apple. The main reason: my infamous canned response to “Computer Guy Questions” – “Sorry I can’t help you, I only deal with macs.”

I guess I’m not going to let a preconcieved notion that I work on computers lead me to fix windows break downs.

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#205 Sobac on 17, Aug, 2007 at 8:20 pm

I don’t have any problem with being “the computer guy”, because I don’t care about snubbing idiots who annoy me.
Be self-assertive, and be an asshole if need be but have what they call in the military “command presence”.

I do computer maintenance in trade for all sorts of neat stuff (car and truck parts, tools, etc) and the people I deal with are happy because we both do well on the deal.

I’m friendly, and nice, and also have a “BOFH switch” I am happy to use. 🙂

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#207 Me on 19, Aug, 2007 at 4:57 am

Get over yourself, you’re no doctor. If people act like this to you, then you have idiots losers for friends and relatives.

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#209 Kn10 on 19, Aug, 2007 at 8:58 am

Dude, you could SO use the website Technibble.com
Has plenty of articles with how to deal with people as a computer technician:


#210 Vegas Tim » Blog Archive » Miscellany XII on 22, Aug, 2007 at 9:57 pm

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#211 Mrs. Computer Guy on 25, Aug, 2007 at 1:37 am

Growing up with my father being the “computer guy” and being married to another “computer guy” can suck as well. I remember needing my dad’s help for school assignments (not computer-related, but he knew quite a bit about the specific subjects I was studying), and he would be delayed because someone messed something up and he had to go fix it right away; I understand if it was for his actual job, because some of the programs were designed to make the streets safer, and cops depend on these programs to work 24-7. But no, these problems were usually someone suffering from “Big Head Syndrome”, when s/he thinks they know better than any computer guy and runs to the computer guy when s/he screws up.

My husband and I are rarely able to go a week without someone needing his help. During our vacations, even our honeymoon, we got calls for my dear hubby to do something. (None of his friends, family, etc. ever happen to have any problems until we’re home or on vacation, which means he’s atleast an hour away, so all we get are calls.) Thankfully, we’ve worked out a system that will work (well, atleast until after I’ve recovered from pregnancy and labor): he gives me a signal that tells me its a computer problem and I suddenly act as if I’m in pain and need him.

My advice to “computer guys”: value your family (or whomever you live with) over voluntary computer fixing. In fact, use sympathetic loved ones as an excuse to NOT do something or to set boundaries (e.g., “if you keep *insert problem-causing action here*, I suggest going to *insert expensive source of computer fixing* from now on, as you are eating into my family time”).

#212 synchro on 26, Aug, 2007 at 11:17 am

I’ve also been in this business for 20 years and I still love it! If it has buttons and little LED lights, I’ll fix it. I am a slut! I pump more information into people’s heads when they ask questions than they can stand. It’s the one thing in my life that never gets old. I have been very lucky to have celebrity/wealthy clients who appreciate my talents and I’ve been able to branch out into other vocations as a result of being “the computer guy” such as composing music for film and becoming a pilot. All from connections made from the computer industry. My eight year old daughter seems to be following in my footsteps and I can only hope her adventures are even better than mine have been.

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#217 Adam on 21, Sep, 2007 at 4:00 am

The problem wasn’t your career; it was your character. You’re a walkover who won’t just say “no” when you know perfectly well you shouldn’t be doing that crap. Tell people you don’t want to talk about computers ovr lunch. Tell people you charge an exorbitant rate per hour for PC maintainence. Just don’t be such a walkover in your next career.

I used to have the same problem, with confidence it can be overcome and you wno’t let people use you like that anymore.

#218 Hammer & Duct Tape on 21, Sep, 2007 at 6:26 am

The computer guy == fail…

Ten reasons it doesn’t pay to be “the computer guy”


#219 BillyG on 21, Sep, 2007 at 7:56 am

I casually mentioned to my wife’s aunt that I usually charge $60/hr for a cleaning, and she still asked me over the next time we visited.

For 2-3 hrs work, she gave me $70 and I was happy; better than hob-nobbin with the in-laws lol.

#220 JD on 21, Sep, 2007 at 8:06 am

One little quick question, from time to time, by regular friends/collegues is ok.
Like being tempted to ask a doctor friend a little medical advice or a chef a cooking advice, etc…
If the person is nice and honestly thanking me, I might do more.

Reminds me of a “friend” at college.
Almost EACH day he would “forget” to take some paper to write down the lessons and would ask me for some.
After a few weeks/months, and several warnings, I finaly told him “no more, enough is enough”.
He went crazy and called me all sort of names…
The lesson I learned is that there are (fake) friends (who profits from your generosity) and (real) friends (who support you).

#221 JD on 21, Sep, 2007 at 8:13 am

Oh, and another excuse is: “So you like computers??? Here, play with mine and fix it… Having fun?”
Used a lot in job offers: “Passion for IT”, which translates to “Likes IT so much, he would accept to work 18h/day for peanuts”

#222 Brian on 21, Sep, 2007 at 10:00 am

This was hilarious and I felt your pain for many years. I had to make it clear to people by outright saying “I fucking hate fixing computers” and eventually they left me alone, except for one greedy, selfish, weaselly, individual who has been banished from my life! 😉

Good luck with getting into writing!

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#227 V I ComputerGuy on 25, Sep, 2007 at 12:59 pm

Love this. It’s been 24 years since I first learned to program my TRS-80 Color Computer. I enjoyed programming. Later after school, I got a job selling computers, and over the years I have learnt a lot and built systems and got Microsoft certified and had my own work for myself business, running cable, fixing viruses etc. for the better part of 5 years. After, 250+ customers, I moved back to Jamaica, and after bumming around for a while I realised I enjoyed sports more than fixing Bill Gates problems and now I teach Chess and play golf. I used to enjoy the challenge of fixing problems, but some people are too lazy to learn how to use a computer, and too cheap to pay to get it fixed. How much does a toilet cost? but you’ll pay a plumber whatever he needs and still bitch about it. Yes, Doctors and Dentists get the same requests, and health care is easy, don’t eat crap and just brush your teeth. But tell people not to download any nonsense to their computer and will they listen? I open viruses to see if my protection works. (not as well as I hoped, I had to boot to DOS to get it off, yes in XP). A regular user will always try that at home. “I thought it was someone I knew”. But, hey sometimes you have to call it quits and do something else, let a new Tech get a chance. After 24 years I finally got my MAC laptop but my PC is still invaluable. I try to find programs that work for both, to share my data. Computer users should have to study for a users license, like for cars, and some people should get a license to have children. Maybe we should just scrap Windows and everyone just get a MAC. Windows will eventually morph into a MAC anyway, but why wait. I looked a Linux a few times, and even Linspire, but fixing other peoples stuff never left me with enough time for new learning. Good luck with your writing Shaun, if the post you wrote is evident of your skill you should be successful in no time. Peace.

#228 msnchat on 01, Oct, 2007 at 11:42 pm

anon May 3rd, 2007 | 1:06 pm Now you know how it feels to be a doctor.

lol least drs make decent money..

#229 xtrimmm on 04, Oct, 2007 at 12:28 pm

right on buddy! it sucks being the computer guy.. i can relate to all of this stuff.. i work as a computer tech and i experience all this stuff you’re talking about..

#230 10 Reasons Why It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guyâ€? « Top Tech News on 11, Oct, 2007 at 7:09 am

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#231 Paul on 16, Oct, 2007 at 12:03 pm

I believe this situation is endemic to anyone who’s a professional…anything: doctor, lawyer, etc. I’m a freelance book editor. I’m constantly amazed by the number of people I meet who have a manuscript they want me to “just give a peek.” Of course, they’d never consider compensating me for my expertise – a job I do with skill and speed for upwards of US$1000 a job. To paraphrase one of the earlier comments here, sometimes “ya gotta be a prick” and tell them you won’t do it. I’ve bent the rules a few times and edited stuff for friends (sometimes at a seriously discounted rate, but never for free), but it’s almost always turned out to be a disaster. Either there’s way more stuff to fix than the money you make doing it (“Hey, ya ever heard of SpellCheck?”), or else they get pissed off by the changes you make. It’s definitely a no-win situation.

#232 Shaun on 23, Oct, 2007 at 2:08 am

oh my gosh, dude, you are DEAD ON! Although some would say I’m in my very beginning of my field (I’m a Computer Technician for a certain computer store) I get this type of question everytime. Now although I do revel in it because I love my job and I love helping people with computer problems, the BIGGEST drawback is that I end up with little to no time to myself. Fortunately my fiancee is tolerant of it, sometimes I have to look at her and say “Hey, lets spend some time together” and she appreciates that. Makes my life in this field a hell of a lot better. Currently pursuing a career in networking and network security–22 and still loving this (heres to not eating my words later!)

#233 RedZeppelin on 25, Oct, 2007 at 10:13 am

Let me just say: Get out of my head!

That article is so spot on.

I just discovered your blog via a post on Digg, and I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit.


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#235 Jacques on 09, Nov, 2007 at 9:19 am

Reason #11 – People don’t take your advice – you’re good enough to fix their mess for free, but not a true expert of course, so:
– they keep installing smiley’s, toolbars, screensavers because ‘they are so cool’…
– maintenance tools you recommend they only run once because they ‘keep forgetting’…
– defragmentation is buried too deep in the menu, so they ‘couldn’t find it’…

The biggest problem is often sitting in front of the pc.

#236 ben on 18, Nov, 2007 at 9:03 pm

you should watch the IT Crowd! hella funny lol

#237 Steven Klassen on 23, Nov, 2007 at 1:44 am

This was a great article.

#238 Dot Hage on 26, Nov, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Wow, that was a great post and it generated a lot of feeling. Just wanted to let you know about what happened to my coworker when the two of us were on help desk. He was actually asked a computer question while peeing at a urinal in the company men’s room!

#239 Brian on 26, Nov, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Fantastic article, especially fun to read around the holidays when family visits are imminent.

#240 “The Computer Guy” — I can relate | urban bohemian on 26, Nov, 2007 at 3:08 pm

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#241 sailerboy on 03, Dec, 2007 at 11:04 am

Hey, I am trying to create a program that will efficiently find 50000 prime numbers, but my compiler doesn’t compile it.

#242 Mrs. Micah on 04, Dec, 2007 at 7:14 pm

My dad was the computer guy. This is so true! I try not to call him unless it’s desperate.

#243 tim on 06, Dec, 2007 at 10:14 pm

Seriously, is there a support group for those who want to break out of this dead end field?

#244 Dim on 14, Dec, 2007 at 5:44 am

you are pathetic man. a smalltime computer techie is a miserable profession, unless you move on into the real IT. working as a system admin in a serious company is a very well paid and very highly recognized job. and most started as computer techies as well.

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#246 Bob on 29, Dec, 2007 at 2:26 am

Dim, I started out as a techie.. moved into the “real IT”.. and got tired of the miserable ego cases that seem to be in the “real IT” profession. Ill take 100 complaining customers over the people I’d work with in the “real IT”. And, Oh, by the way, I am working as a small time computer techie, and making well into the 6 digits..

“There are 10 types of people in the world; those who understand binary, and those who dont.”

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#248 James Urquhart on 08, Jan, 2008 at 6:14 pm

Kind of reminds me when i got a Mac.

All of a sudden, i was the “Mac Guy”. Started getting questions like “Why do all designers seem to use Mac’s?”, etc. It’s like i am the ultimate authority on Mac’s now.

I guess there is no escape 🙂

~ James

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#250 Mongoos on 09, Jan, 2008 at 5:19 pm

At my previous job I worked as a Teir 2 Systems Administrator for the US Army Reserve. Word of what I did got out among family and friends.

…the horror. The shear horror.

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#253 Brian on 23, Feb, 2008 at 8:39 pm

There are only 2 people who get free computer help:

1) My wife (‘Nuff said)

2) A friend who’s a gourmet cook and professional winemaker (things are less hassle if I have a couple of glasses of wine before troubleshooting)

If I lived closer to my parents than 3+ hours drive I’d probably help them but they know better than to ask for assistance over the phone.

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#255 Liam on 27, Feb, 2008 at 11:58 pm

I think number one should have been. People want everything for free.

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#258 David W. on 15, Mar, 2008 at 1:53 pm

I love your article. I run a web development business and many people assume that because we sit behind a computer all day long that we are “computer guys” too. Fact is, we have a computer guy that helps us! Just because people work at a PC doesn’t make them the computer guys.

Thanks for your great blog.

David W.

#259 Ron on 01, Apr, 2008 at 1:21 am

This blog makes a very good point. I agree with it 100%. What I am wondering though, have you ever had this career path get in the way of developing a relationship? All I know is before I actually started working with computers, I never had a problem getting women. I’m not sure if it has a direct correlation, or if it just simply affects my personality/confidence in some way that I’m not seeing but other people are. Weird…

#260 Tiran Dagan on 05, Apr, 2008 at 8:22 am

I agree with all the prior postings suggesting an escalated sense of arrogance… Who wants a “computer guy” WITH AN ATTITUDE?! When family friends learned I was able to solve their most complex problems the offers for barters came pouring in: spend 15 hours in my office to fix my network and I will answer your accounting question. Come spend a pleasant weekend in connecticut/pennsylvania/DC with us (and fix our computer). etc. I love the idea of pretending you are not a windows guy/not a linux guy/not a mac guy – as appropriate…

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#263 Ces on 15, Jun, 2008 at 9:57 am

“and chances are, that someone will view you as incompetent because you were unable to help them”
And sometimes find myself in this situation. My friend once indirectly suggested that she is as qualified in computers/programming as me (because I couldn’t fix her problem) despite the fact that I’m finishing my computer science degree.

#264 Estherar on 16, Jun, 2008 at 1:30 pm

This article sounds eerily familiar…and not merely because the hubby’s in IT (I just sent the URL to him). We “people guys” (aka doctors) get very similar sh*t!

#265 Bob on 26, Jun, 2008 at 4:24 am

I’m the computer guy for a school of about 1500 people, and I love it. For every person that asks me to perform the impossible, and is disappointed when I can’t, there are 10 who bring me problems that completely stump them, but which I’ve seen many times before, so I can solve in a minute. And when that happens, people are always so grateful. Just a “Wow, thanks” from a student can make my whole day, and smiles really are contagious.

Before this job, I was doing basically the same thing for a health care company that was under a lot of stress, and I found it to be a lot more like you’ve described above. No matter what I did, people didn’t seem to be grateful, it was never enough, etc, etc. So maybe you weren’t doing the wrong thing, maybe you were just doing it in the wrong place.

#266 Chris on 10, Jul, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Dude, I know how you feel. I started charging every person who asked me a computer question a minimum labor charge of 1 hour. Now I have enough to buy a new motorcycle, and people don’t call me as much.
“Sure, I can show how to share an Outlook calendar, currently that runs 100 dollars”.

#267 Mark Armendariz on 17, Jul, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Spot on. This is a very well laid out description of the whole problem.

After 4 years as a professional “computer guy” (financial district in Chicago and Wall Street in NY), and about 5 years before that as the neighborhood “computer guy”, I could not empathize more.

In the end, I moved to programming and tell everyone I’m a janitor. Oddly, nobody ever asks me to mop their floors.

#268 Sam Thompson on 21, Jul, 2008 at 6:32 pm

Brilliant article. I work for a software company and provide trading support for a significant number of banks in the city. I’m often surprised at the knowledge that non-techs expect us computer guys to know. I work specifically as support for one piece of investment software, but the amount of times I’ve been abused for not knowing why custom Excel/Acess databases aren’t working or other non-related or even rival software isn’t working as expected. Its almost as if all things on a computer are universally fixable!

I gave up fixing people’s PC’s at university. As you say you can never get a fair rate for the amount of time you will put in.

As a salaried career though i love my job! I get to work on a new problem every day and occasionally people say thank you and appreciate my skills.

#269 MOMEN on 05, Aug, 2008 at 4:38 am

really nice article that summarized all what face being a computer guy

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#271 Matt R. @ YFNCG.com on 18, Aug, 2008 at 12:25 am

This is a great (and funny) article, although it seems to be heavy on the pessimism, which unfortunately perpetuates the reputation of the computer guy being overly sarcastic and anti-social.

I’ve posted a rebuttal article on my blog that takes this list and spins it in a positive way, so that those of us who plan on embracing computer guy-dom can find a way to enjoy what we do.

#272 vw on 27, Aug, 2008 at 7:10 pm

I printed this over a year ago and keep it in my inbox. I’ve read it 10 times since then – always after getting smacked down by one of the 10 reasons ….

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#277 RedwithRage on 01, Oct, 2008 at 3:17 am

I was about to pull the trigger when I stumbled upon this blog. I thought I was alone. After 20+ years of this job I no longer see people for who they might be, I look at people much differently. I can evaluate an individuals level of intellect in a split second. I get both praise and blame but the blame thing is getting harder and harder to ignore with age. The hardcore stupid will believe a total stranger who knows next to nothing before they ask or listen to me. These same dumbasses will jump to their own conclusions based on pure ignorance in which my reputation does not recover. Once a dumbass has shown signs of ignorance and has made up his/her mind there’s no getting them back. They can also share their ignorant point of view with others who are equally ignorant compounding the problem. At some locations this job rewards me the same level of respect a busboy gets at a greasy spoon resturaunt, maybe less.

#278 FeelBetterNow on 04, Oct, 2008 at 6:10 pm

Sounds awful. Doctors and mechanics must experience similar frustrations. If I can speak for end users, I think we are legitimately wary of being taken to the cleaner$ for the monumental sin of not knowing how the gears on our various ‘contraptions’ work. We also resent the utter contempt we’re shown for this lack of knowledge when our education, training, and aptitude are focused elsewhere. I wonder if Einstein or other noteworthy scientists have your level of skill/IT knowledge either, but it certainly doesn’t detract from their intelligence. By all means, if someone is being a jerk, won’t pay you, etc., DON’T PUT UP WITH IT!! Go ahead and play the arrogant ‘computer guy’ card all you want in that case, so you won’t get fed up and take it out those of us that are willing (eager, even!) to conduct business in a respectful manner and pay a premium for skillful, courteous help. Applying arrogance across the board (as some have suggested is the ‘only way’ to deal with us ignorant end-users) just looks like a weak coverup, and even though it might feel cathartic at the time, it’s a defeatist attitude. You could be a genius, yet you’ll be perceived as overcompensating for a lack of skill, which will simply exacerbate the very scenerios you detest. Please know that you are appreciated, even if you are taken for granted some of the time. Next time you’re at a social function, politely remind people that you’re “off the clock” at the moment and give them your contact card so they can contact you for more info (services, fees, etc.)… they’ll get the message!! Everyone has boundaries that need to be respected… don’t let someone trample on yours. Keep your friends close 😉

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#281 htgerman on 03, Dec, 2008 at 9:11 am

Great post! I must admit it made me giggle. I’ve worked in IT for years before setting up my own business in a different field so I can entirely relate to it.
From my experience, there is one more reason: If anything goes wrong with a computer after you’ve fixed it it is your fault, even if you for example you fixed the client’s internet connection and a month later there is a problem with an Excel macro .. it simply must be something the computer guy has done ..

#282 Tony Kasunic on 29, Dec, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Well written, but only shows one stage of computer life. If you get through what the author is saying in the article, you CAN turn it around and then IT can be a very profitable and rewarding field. For everybody who asks you questions, give out only a small piece of advice, but steer the conversation very quickly toward your hourly rate. If the person is serious, then they will meet with you at a later time, and pay you. If not, then they are just waisting your time and you don’t need to talk to them anyway. People are lazy leeches by nature, it doesn’t it make them bad people, just a__holes. So be an a__hole back, get your money, then set aside free time and enjoy the money you earned.

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#286 deepseafish on 04, Feb, 2009 at 10:32 am

Just a note, I’m not sure if this has been mentioned in the 286 comments before, but your choice of color and background color lacks legibility. I had to copy this to my editor to read it.
Otherwise interesting read 🙂

#287 Thomas on 24, Feb, 2009 at 10:55 am

Great article, which I believe is also written with a sence of humour. It’s rare that I read all comments to a post, but this has actually been the case here.

I must admit that it has both been entertaining and also educating to read some of you guys experiences and how you cope with things. I have it the same way and I believe that I have now got some tools to say no to people I don’t want to work for.


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#289 George on 20, Apr, 2009 at 10:27 pm

My favorite – Well it was working yesterday.

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#292 techproguy on 20, May, 2009 at 10:48 pm

I work in I.T. and I must say that this article is so true dude.
I especially hate the “brain-child” who, no matter how much you explain to them( in deep detail), still come right back with the exact same problem. I want to smack those type of people. I really hate the idiot that blames the Tech guy for some problem that occurs after the tech guy has proven to have fixed their pc. Its usually the same idiot who doesn’t understand a thing you show them.

“no, no, no, I told you that you shouldn’t use p2p file sharing because you will end up with the same virus infestations again. ……….Do you want free music or do you want a working pc?!?!?!”

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#294 Will on 03, Jul, 2009 at 4:07 am

A few months ago I came to your site because my wife felt that I was unhappy and a few articles that would be of some help. When I read this one, I realized IT was no longer for me. I was in the point of my career where certs were going to be needed to make more money and frankly, all the reasons above plus working with severely socially challenged people in a hostile IT environment had changed my mind. No longer were my coworkers on a small team helpful like in my large corporate settings but, they were trying to cut my throat and make my life difficult.

To make a change, I decided a risk was needed. Things that made me unhappy were: Someone else deciding if my merits were worth my employment, abundance of corporations and businesses only wanting contract work to save money (IT especially), the 10 above reasons, the fact that friendliness didn’t seem to matter, the illusion that new IT (sharing) was replacing traditional IT (hording information) when it was really not, and finally (this kinda goes with hording) when you ask your supervisor how to do something and he answers you by tossing a 900 pg manual instead of just answering the question = he doesn’t even know but expects you to know yet you have to smile and nod and try to find the information you need while throwing up swallowing his lie that he read the whole thing last weekend. Yeah and when I’m bored I read the telephone book!

So I’ve finished classes to get my Real estate License, working on getting an insurance license, and hope I never have to be “The computer guy” again.

I’ll be able to set my own hours, earn my own merits and deserve that pat on the back on occasion, and the earning potential is so much higher. I didn’t say it would be easy but, I know it will be different! Especially now that i have control over my employment, time off, and rewards. In IT working contracts, I’ve worked 3.5 Years without any paid time off. Now hopefully I can make enough to take it off when I need it. Hopefully helping people will earn me a compliment. The main thing is, I made a change and took a risk because of your site! I realized I’m in charge of what I’m unhappy about and not taking action is only causing the unhappiness and allowing it to control me vs. myself taking action to control it. I’m not sure if I’m going to be happy but, I’m sure if I’m not, I’ll have the common sense to make a sound decision to make a change. Thank you!

#295 Jim on 13, Jul, 2009 at 4:38 am

Man, am I glad I found this. I’ve been a self-employed computer guy for over 20 years and am burnt out enough that I can see the end of it. I’ve been an honest, hard-working businessman who never took advantage of his customers, but it’s just gotten to be too much for me to know everything that my customers expect me to know. My whole life is just a series of OS/SW-related problems that never seem to have the same solution. The request that the customer considers to be a simple task has become an almost overwhelming job. They want to upgrade to a new computer but have no concept of what’s involved. They want to move their photos/documents/music (which are often scattered all over the drive), install their original software (often not having the original programs to re-install), they “have to have all of their browser “favorites” and Outlook or OE e-mail, all Windows updates/service packs, and a bullet-proof antivirus/anti-malware program (which I have yet to find). I’m sorry, but no matter how good you are at this, this stuff takes time. Or the scan after scan after scan to clean some damn bug off of their computer only to arrive at the conclusion that it just needs to be re-formatted and re-loaded (repeat above). Most of my customers are good people and will generally abide but what I advise, but if I’m going to do the job right (and I am) it just takes time. Time that eventually whittles my worth down to barely minimum wage. I’m just tired and I don’t think that I can do this much longer. Two bits of advice for someone new in this business or considering it: 1). KEEP UP! What you knew yesterday probably won’t help you today. 2). Get a job with a good sized company/corporation. You won’t have to sell yourself out to make a living and you can leave it at the office at the end of the day. Yes, you’ll have to put up with the office BS/politics, but the job won’t own you and you’ll have a better chance of enjoying your “down time”. If I have a choice between a computer career and a computer life, I’ll take career.

#296 John Doe on 16, Jul, 2009 at 5:18 pm

1.) Murphy’s law is stronger than you. No matter what, always expect sh_t to hit the fan, especially when you don’t expect it to.

2.) There is no such thing as a 100% smooth upgrade. When you tell people it will only take __ minutes or hours, your chances are higher something will go wrong.

3.) Software that makes it easier to deploy makes it easier to destroy. Example, Marimba Tuner. Yes it’s great when it works, and when it doesn’t, be prepared for hundreds of screaming users because someone messed around with it, causing deinstall of MSoffice!

4.) Accounting loves it when you combine print server/file server/network server all in one server box to save money. Then they hate you when that single box goes down hard.

5.) No matter what you spec as your computer requirements, expect corporate purchasing to get you half that spec (512meg instead of 1 gig ram, 80gig instead of 160gig drive.

6.) Marketing department will always get more money than the IT department. And they will get to do more outings, more donuts, more company lunch meetings, better laptops, etc.

7.) Expect IT meetings to be as exciting as learning the tcp/ip protocol stack. I would rather jam a penny under my nail at least the pain is quick and goes away. Meetings suck your life force and get nothing accomplished.

8.) Once corporate pushes for SLA (service level agreements) or “metrics”, watch IT morale drop low.

9.) People who never actually use the software you support will have authority to push it out for use.

10.) Don’t expect to learn new technologies, instead learn to use old software and hardware. (see below)

11.) Expect some proprietary software that will only work with NT4, Mac Classic, or Windows 3.11, yet is critical to the business unit. Expect to support it.

12.) Computer guys that get sex in exchange for PC support only happens in porn movies or imagination.

13.) There will always be users who think they know more than you do, hates your guts, yet you have to support them when they fail. Then they blame you for their own failings saying you did something to compromise their computer or powerpoint presentation.

14.) Always be friendly with the president’s secretary, she is the second most powerful person in your company and can help you get stuff normally not approved by corporate purchasing.

15.) When other PC guys are on vacation, something always happens where sh_t hits the fan, and of course you’re alone by yourself.

16.) You get stuck working on a project that you can’t sneak away from, and by that time all the leftover food from lunch meetings have been picked clean by the office vultures.

17.) Expect to be paged for some low priority crap like: My emails messages are not coming in to my blackberry/iphone (even though their computer is working fine in front of them.)

18.) People will have no clue when you email a single self executing install file to double click, but they have no problem putting on Itunes, yahoo messenger, weatherbug, AOL instant messenger, google earth, bonzi buddy, anything spyware, ESPN, etc.

19.) Expect people to walk up to you at 4:59PM with a corrupt hard drive problem and a flight that leaves in one hour.

20.) Expect things to go wrong on their computer when they do presentations outside the company, but magically works fine when they come back.

21.) Expect people to blame you when the projector bulb goes out, even though you told them to carry a spare bulb, and they didn’t want to be bothered because they were in a rush to leave to catch their flight.

22.) You are expected to work during lunch of 12-1pm; That is the only time people will ever leave their PC to be fixed.

23.) You sometimes have to work late because they used their computer all day until 5pm. Who cares if you have to go home right? We love working overtime for free!!

24.) There is always one or two senior/upper level IT guys, really old schoolers, that no matter how great your idea is, are always afraid to pull the trigger or back you up.
“Nah we don’t need that new fangled Vista, windows 95 is still working perfectly fine!”

25.) Expect to be asked computer questions when:

* you are eating or have food in your mouth during lunch
* during company picnics
* during bus drives to company picnics
* while you are participating in company picnic events
* you are having sex and it’s your turn for after hours weekend support
* you just came in from the subzero weather, and barely took off your scarf/hat/coat
* you send the entire office an email that internet/print server/file server will be down until further notice, but they still walk right up to your office/cubie just to make sure
* you are taking a pee/dump in the office bathroom
* you are walking down the office hall carrying 101 things in your arms
* you are trying to sweet talk the hot new employee girl ( C_ _ K block)
* you already answered the computer question, but they come back 1 hr later just to be sure, so they ask it again

26.) You are always expected to know how to use that new fangled electronic thingy. “Hi! I just got this new gizmo 2000, can you make it check my email and notify me of important email thru telepathy?”

27.) Expect people to lie to get their way. “Um…yeah, Billy Bob from marketing said you’d upgrade me to an 8 core processor and 16gig ram without charging our dept”.

28.) Expect people to tell you things you would never ever say. “Um .yeah, you said it was ok to wipe my XP install with OpenSUSE, you said it it was fine just last week..”

29.) Expect people to come up to you so they can argue. “Um yeah, My MAC OSXXX rocks!, it runs rings around Vista! and it makes babies too!”

30.) Expect other PC guys to have silly religious wars over email via CC. “No No No Bob! The proper way to reconfig the xorg.conf file is to utter the 10 verses of the lost scrolls, schmod the ABC file, rename it 32 characters, backflip, and disco dance to “getting jiggy with it”.

31.) Expect people to think that because you are the computer guy, they think you have an unlimited budget and can get them anything (more ram/bigger drive/etc)

32.) Expect to make hot chics think that because you are the computer guy, you have an unlimited budget and can get them anything (more ram/bigger drive/etc) “for a price”

33.) It’s generally acceptable to pay a plumber $500 dollars to do 1hrs work replacing a pipe, but why is it not acceptable to get $500 to do 8hrs work rebuilding a PC from scratch and reinstall applications and configuration/files for someone that got hit with viruses?

34.) How come there are no IT unions? We get do overtime and on calls “for free”, yet the pay doesn’t come close to a doctors! But we are doctors for computers!

35.) Why do people think that because we are computer guys, thay expect us to know other areas of expertise “um yeah can you program my car’s ROM to have more aggressive acceleration? And can you also put in a new air filter?

36.) It’s inevitable,. but you will always come across a case where backup fails on a PC the same day of the hard drive crash. “I’m sorry, but we only have last week’s backup for you”

37.) Expect to have people line up outside your cube especially when the internet is down “Hey is internet up yet man? I can’t reach Facebook.”

38.) Expect people to know that you have the power to see anything and everything they do, yet really you’re too busy being the computer guy that you don’t even have dam time

39.) Expect additional job descriptions like: “In addition to maintaining the network and computers, we need you to do payroll accounting, develop databases, manage the intranet, manage the front desk when the secretary is not in, water the plants, and feed the chickens.

#297 John Doe on 16, Jul, 2009 at 5:41 pm

And for those guys that say “IT is great, it’s just you and your attitude man!” I say this to you:

A.) you are either working in management, a great con artist, work in a small or IT related company, networking, or other semi-related field, not break/fix/phone computer support, so you don’t get 1 billion emails/phone calls asking for help.

B.) If I bitch slap you each and everyday each hour on the hour 5days a week, 4 weeks a month, 12 months a year, will you still maintain the same “OOOh yes I’m So excited and enthused to help you!” attitude?

C.) you have authority and funds to be able to order anything you want anytime. While other poor IT guys work like this:

1.) guy/dept needs computer sends to main office for approval and gets it, you spec out core 2 quad, 4gig ram, 1Tb drive

2.) main office fudges to get a better deal from computer supplier and instead orders 1gig ram/160gig drive. The IT guy at THAT location then proceeds to GUT the laptop and replaces it with 512meg ram stick, and 80gig 4200rpm drive BEFORE it gets sent out to your branch office

3.) you get a 512meg 80gig 4200rpm laptop and your client is wondering why it’s still slow

D) You work as an IT sweatshop manager and contract out the real work to others while you sit behind the computer and surf porn.

E.) you are in upper top company management where your skillset needs something the level of a squirrel, and you got a good gig going.

F.) you are a contractor, you get paid hourly unlike the poor salaried techs who has to work 24/7 or after hours, or lunch,or weekends just to keep up with work.

#298 typical tech on 19, Jul, 2009 at 8:33 am

Prolly the number one thing that is hard woroking in IT salary position:

You know what to do to fix the problem (but it requires hardware upgrades/software upgrades/etc), but you are told to do it only with the resources that are available at work.

tech answer:

“I’m sorry i can’t get your pentium I/4200rpm-20gig drive/256meg ram/laptop running any faster than it is.”

tech thinking:

“The son’s of b_itches up at corporate won’t give me any help, any hardware, or any funds so my hands are freaking tied! So STOP CALLING ME to come down and keep working on your slow @ss computer because it’s slow! It IS SLOW!, and there’s nothing I can freaking do about it!!!!!!. I drive a ford pinto, I can’t freaking snap my fingers and turn it into a 9sec dragster can I? OK!!????”

#299 Faisal on 02, Sep, 2009 at 12:24 am

hey dude… really tragic experience …same with me….. i m also a Computer Guy betterly known as Computer Worm… Ha ha… people expects a magic from me… this is really a great article….

Can I repost it with your original credits ????

#300 jdoe on 06, Sep, 2009 at 7:38 am

I’m the poster from 296-298 (john doe/typical tech), you have my permission to spread my posts. Set the truth free!

#301 Anonymous on 11, Sep, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Boo hoo. You’re in the lowliest computer-centered position in the world, and you’re bitching your job sucks? If you want a better computer-related job, get a fucking degree and get a real computer job, not “neighborhood/corporate fixit,” which a fucking MONKEY could do with moderate knowledge.

You want to be a respected computer guy, get a respectable computer job, not a job one could do simply by reading HOWTOs. I’m talking Software Engineer, Hardware Engineer, or Computer Scientist, not “computer support” which is just a PC term for “computer repairman.”

#302 10 reasons it doesn’t pay to be the computer guy | psychopomposity.net on 13, Sep, 2009 at 5:00 am

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#303 psch major on 15, Sep, 2009 at 9:41 am

@11, Sep, 2009 at 1:46 pm
Dude. We ARE software engineers, hardware engineers, web desigenrs, people that wear many hats with multiple degrees and certs and we do many things. It’s not like the olden days where you had a server guy, a network guy, a helpdesk guy. We are forced to wear many hats and do many functions due to a lot of cutbacks and people getting out of the field altogether.

It’s always easier for someone else to say this especially if they NEVER worked in the SAME field that we do. You probably do a different type job either management or media or other. Typical attitude.

BTW, I never ever considered a PC repair guy or “car mechanic repair guy” or “heating/cooling technician” repair guy or “plumber/handyman” such a “lowly” position. It’s a job function that requires lots of experience, troubleshooting and know how, just like any other job in the industry. And as anyone knows, you can’t function in a corporate environment if everyone does the same thing. Even the janitor has an important task, and I don’t consider that “lowly” at all.

If you have a problem viewing other jobs as “lowly” maybe you should ask yourself why you feel the need to belittle other people, maybe you are active aggressive or were a bully at school:

-They can’t care for others because no one has consistently cared for them
-They can’t purposefully communicate their desires, intentions, and feelings
-They can’t construct internal dialogues

#304 robb on 23, Sep, 2009 at 6:00 am

i think it’s just you unable to be a computer guy.
this is sad, but true.

#305 Thomasso on 02, Oct, 2009 at 9:35 am

I face the same dilemma from time to time.
Good article!

#306 10 Reasons - NECO Forums on 16, Oct, 2009 at 4:51 pm

[…] Reasons To take a moment and thank your local "Computer Guy" ….. By name! Tis all too […]

#307 Dick Burns, some company's computer guy on 14, Nov, 2009 at 7:41 pm

Funny post, but true. everyone will harass you to help them and then you will not have a moments rest.

#308 Dick Burns on 14, Nov, 2009 at 7:43 pm

Funny post but true.

#309 Bill in Detroit on 17, Nov, 2009 at 12:30 am

Juan hit it on the head … if you are getting snowed under with requests for work, you are not charging enough. I do free work for my Dad and my wife. End of discussion.

#310 Rassmuss on 18, Nov, 2009 at 8:07 pm

I found this article long after the fact, but it is still awesome. I am “a computer guy” and I, of course, can totally relate.

Thanks for summing it all up.

#311 Scott on 20, Nov, 2009 at 3:13 pm

I just don’t tell people what I do. Makes me more mysterious! 🙂

#312 10 Frustrating Reasons You Don’t Dare to Be a Computer Guy « CuriousDude's Blog on 19, Dec, 2009 at 9:43 am

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#313 10 Reasons It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guy” and Why It’s Better To Pretend You Don’t Know Anything About Computers | Fka200.com on 21, Dec, 2009 at 6:34 pm

[…] 10 Reasons It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guy” […]

#314 bosso on 22, Dec, 2009 at 2:54 am

I get that all the time from friends, or friends of friends. I just tell them it’ll be $50-$100 to look with no guarantee of solving the problem and they go away and I never see them again 😀

#315 Joshua on 30, Dec, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Even if you change careers, you will still be known as the computer guy.

#316 JabB on 03, Jan, 2010 at 12:57 pm

My husband got called on Christmas day and then again through the holiday break by several people, all wanting him to come over on his vacation and fix their new computers for free. I told them all he was sick. He is sick. Sick of being taken advantage of!

#317 Delmy Alvarenga on 27, Jan, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Funny read. It’s fair to talk about the things we don’t like about the things we do. Although I agree most of this points are relevant insights of being a techy, I disagree with number 10. People shouldn’t be expecting for “constant good-work-motivation” to keep it on, because your are doing your job and that should be more than enough. I loved number 1, i’ve been myself in charge of the cms of a website, and all of a sudden, in less than a month i was called “the webmaster”, which i’m not. I’m a graphic designer for pete’s sake, yet they started calling me names. Awful enough to stand up and tell them “call me by my name!!!” LOL anyways, terrific post. It surely made me a good laugh 😉

#318 anonymous on 29, Jan, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Good post. It really gets interesting in my position, where I’m a software developer, network admin, network engineer, and tech support rolled into one package. Ugh.

#319 Kristian on 14, Feb, 2010 at 2:43 pm

This is exactly how I’ve always felt!

A couple years ago, while visiting family at Christmas, I got talked into going to fix the computer of a friend of theirs and then ended up having to go and setup a new computer for a friend of a friend of the family member… on Christmas! :@ grrr

And they were all so clueless about computers! It was a nightmare :'(

I just pretend I know nothing about computers now. Even when I used to say I was just a web designer, people would still think I should be about to fix their computer.

If I tell anyone anything now, I’m a software developer who only deals with UNIX servers. I don’t know anything about Windows, hardware, or desktop PCs 😉

#320 john doe on 17, Feb, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Another bad thing about being computer guy:

– everyone always asks you questions and expect to know it all like a human google, even obscure crap like how to modify circuit boards on electric guitars

– they ask for advice and then you give it…but they don’t call you back or respond to your emails/questions….until finally their shit breaks and then they blame you saying why didn’t you say it was important?

WTF! Dude I contacted you multiple times! You IGNORED ME!

– there is a growing trend in IT to be jacks of all trades (cisco networking/break/fix PC, app support, database developer/software devleoper/unix and windows server admin all in one). And then they pay frakking peanuts and expect you to work 60hours every week while being on call 24/7. Frak that. I’m a garbage collector now, I make more money and noone asks me questions or call me at 2am or asks computer favors.

Those of you in IT now should form unions, we can’t let these people step all over us!

#321 Jim on 06, Mar, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I totally agree and finally found someone that has out my own thoughts into words.
I am a life long computer guy from way way way way back. I was there for the invention of 5 1/4″ floppy diskettes. I am still into computers today….and these top 10 things are right on the proverbial nose!
Thank you for writing this! These are the thoughts of a true computer guy!

#322 Michael on 11, Mar, 2010 at 1:45 pm

So you need recognition to be happy? What happened to humility?

Spiderman was hated by the people, but still preformed his duty and gave his gifts for the betterment of humanity.

You have a gift and you don’t want to share it with the world? Sounds selfish to me. I dream of a life where I have done the most good for the world I can possibly do without a single person knowing I did it.

If you can’t find happiness in other people’s happiness, then you are a sad man.

#323 peterandersen.com » Top 10 Reasons It Doesn’t Pay To Be A Computer Guy on 20, Apr, 2010 at 2:27 pm

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#324 Gerry Corcoran on 26, Apr, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I’ve been working in on-site computer support for 11 years now and have been running my own business for the last 2. I’ve not always liked my employers but I love what I do more now than ever. Many others have said this already but I feel it bears saying as well: You need to grow a pair and stand up to people.

The only reason family/friends/co-workers/strangers/whoever take advantage of your skill set in the way you do is because you let them, period. I’m more than happy to answer questions and provide free help to people I know if they ask and let me know my work is appreciated. But if I go to a family dinner and people start interrogating me about computer stuff, my answer is easy “I’m off the clock right now.” Anyone who knows me understands what that means and they talk to me later. If they don’t get that or continue to persist with something like “Oh but I just have a quick question…”, I re-iterate “I’m not working right now, I’m here to have dinner with everyone. I’ll happily talk to you about this later.” It seems like a hard thing to do at first but it’s gets easier with time. You may think you’re being rude but they’re the ones who interrupted a family dinner to grill you about their problems, it is they who are being rude.

Additionally, if it is not someone who I’m either close to or am trying to make a serious impression on, I have no reservations about charging them. Frankly, my time is valuable and if I don’t really know you and you are asking me to do work for you, you’re going to pay for it because otherwise, I’d rather be with my girlfriend or at home playing video games. When you assert this position, many people will in fact be happy to compensate you. If it’s someone I sort of know (like one of my girlfriend’s extended family members), I may discount the services (they all go through my company) but I do so at my discretion and only if *I* feel like it. If not for your employer, you don’t owe anyone anything for free and if they’re going to take up your free time, you deserve to profit from it.

As for the point about co-workers who don’t seem to want to deal with you when you aren’t fixing their problems, the answer to that is simple: They’re jerks and not worth knowing. Anyone who is going to pigeon-hole you based on your interests and profession is not a good person in my opinion. Anyone who will hold you personally at fault because you couldn’t recover the data from the hard disk that had been making clicking sounds for weeks and that wasn’t backed up despite your repeated suggestions is just stupid and has no one to blame but themselves.

I admit that I’ve never worked as an IT administrator in a large corporate environment but even with superiors, you need to assert yourself. I have business customers who get upset when I can’t get then 10 year old PC to run Office 2007 well. What do I do? I start selling them a new solution and I don’t let up on them until they agree. If they don’t, I tell them straight up “This is slow because it’s old and if you don’t want to upgrade, live with it. Don’t believe me? Call someone else and they’ll tell you the same thing.” If the bosses won’t give you the resources to do your job effectively, it is your responsibility to tell them so. If they don’t like it and blame you, then it’s your job to tell them why they are wrong. Telling truth to power is critical for any career advancement and though they may not seem like it, most bosses like employees with guts who will stand up for their point of view. The ones who don’t are often seen as weak and held back.

In short, be assertive and watch how these problems fade away. I know it isn’t easy to do, it took me years to learn how to do it myself and I took a lot of abuse getting there. But trust me, it’s the ultimate solution to your problems. If you can’t do that, then I suggest changing to another career, one that doesn’t involve *any* kind of customer service.

#325 josh sommerberg on 06, May, 2010 at 7:48 pm

@ Michael and teh bad spiderman analogy

Spiderman didn’t have to deal with the same people day in and day out answering the same questions from yestearday, and getting calls at 3am because his crackberry/iphone wasn’t getting, while his webmail works perfectly fine.

I wish I was spiderman, I’d spin cobwebs at anyone that bothered me on a bad day. ggrrr.

#326 Erik on 16, Sep, 2010 at 10:44 pm

My god this post is the best tech post I’ve ever read.

I’ve been in the tech business for 7 years now (network/server/desktop guy) and every…single…point is spot on. Especially the last part about loving my job when I was learning and growing to despise it.

I actively avoid most people I know because invariable anytime I go somewhere it becomes a q and a about some inane problem their having with a computer somewhere.

One thing I dislike most and I’m surprised it wasnt on your list, non computer people telling you how to do something. Frankly….if you ask me about a problem and want to argue about the solution…then fix it yourself.

Greatest post ever. Thank you.

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#328 redwziard on 23, Oct, 2010 at 12:54 am

Yup, every single thing you said, every single comment said here applies to my life.

I simply started telling people “I work with people” because I do. I refrain from telling them to what aspect. I turn down anyone asking me to help them now. This post is simply awesome as well.


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#330 BWB on 08, Nov, 2010 at 3:23 am

Good article, interesting responses. I’m a freelance IT guy (more by chance than by choice…long, boring story). I think it comes down to life experience: if you’re the sort of person to let situations roll over you, it doesn’t matter WHAT field of work you’re in, you’re essentially screwed. *Lots* of people know me as “the computer guy”, but they also know that when they ask e to solve a problem for them, it won’t be a freebie (unless it takes me less than 90 seconds to solve their stated “problem”). Since I charge less than the prevailing rate (whatever the hell that is in 2010), I don’t feel particularly guilty for this you-play-you-pay stance: my time is worth as much as anyone else’s, so the convenience of hitting me up (so to speak) at a party to fix a problem that might cost someone tens of thousands of dollars is actually worth a fraction of that, at least. It’s part of human nature to be a cheapskate; it’s quite uncool to make a career of it in front of thousands.

#331 10 Reasons It Doesn’t Pay to be a Public Defender « Between a Laugh and a Tear on 11, Dec, 2010 at 11:19 pm

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#332 Conor on 10, Feb, 2011 at 10:03 pm

I’m 18 y/o and just started my course in computer science, and it’s already happening to me o.0 Word gets around pretty damn fast, even friends who I was in school with suddenly believe I have the secrets of computers since we left school. I think I’ll take a hint from your post and make sure I get a job programming or something other than support.
Great post 😀

#333 matt on 24, Feb, 2011 at 1:24 pm

haha im an IT guy too… everything you said is so true… just because i work IT doesnt mean I can fix your droid or Iphone and people are constantly pissed at you

#334 10 Reasons It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guy” | Lazy[FCUK]™ on 05, Apr, 2011 at 4:24 am

[…] recently bumped into this article, originally posted by Shaun Boyd at http://www.lifereboot.com about being “the computer […]

#335 IT Rush on 06, Apr, 2011 at 12:01 am

Nice explanation.. the next time you see these people coming, maybe it’s time to post some kind of ‘the computer doctor is not around’ try again later.. just joking..

#336 Pnickle on 12, Apr, 2011 at 10:03 pm

I’m not even a computer person, just programmer and I get these questions too. But you’re sweet for having tried to fix them for as long as you did.
I found the trick to any job is to continue finding things to learn that make you happy, and getting joy from that. Oh and finding your own way to avoid things you don’t enjoy so much. 🙂
Good luck with your future endeavors.

#337 coyote on 29, Apr, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I’m so unbelievably happy I got out of the computer industry and back into my first love, the restaurant industry.

#338 MattyG on 29, Apr, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Amen, rootnode; amen.

I enjoy the work I do. I’m pretty damn good at it. I enjoy helping people. I -like- working miracles. I get paid well to do it; I’m quite expensive to hire. Happily, when I help people for free they know this and appreciate it. If they don’t.. well, they’re called ‘customers’ and they can show their appreciation with a cheque.

It can be annoying when people sidle up to you and beg for help. but I’ve become pretty good at deflecting them – those I’m happy to help get asked to call me at a more convenient time; those who don’t are given my work number and become customers. I have absolutely no issues helping people who cannot afford it but desperately need it – I charge companies a lot of money for what I do, so this is my way of evening things out and giving back.

That said: the article is dead right, it isn’t all wine and roses.

#339 Expectation Management. | The Refined Geek on 11, May, 2011 at 10:02 pm

[…] spurred this idea was this blog post on why it doesn’t pay to be the computer guy. Boyd makes some great points in there hitting […]

#340 Kristin on 12, May, 2011 at 5:47 am

Comment nr 33 is brilliant – I just wanted to say – I agree with it fully and am striving to become one of them brilliant ones – I can already solve quite a few problems in Electronics and IT on about 6 different OSs. But when someone asks me about an intricate Windows problem that they have, I tell them that I loathe MS and don’t want anything to do with it. Accompany it with a smile and let them know that Unix is the shit, and they don’t mind changing subjects just like that. 😀
Because I am a woman, it makes it easier too… 😉

#341 Trev on 12, May, 2011 at 6:01 am

Too true!!!
I originally trained & worked in construction.
Spent 24 unfulfilled years being “the computer guy”.
Why, as “the computer guy”, do people think you’ll fix their PC for free or for peanuts?
After 12 years freelance, the markets drying up. So much work shipped to India to save a few quid.
So, I recently switched trades back to building. I’m now “the kitchen, bathroom & tiling guy”. Self employed and enjoying every minute.
Best of all, everyone has stopped asking me to fix their PC. They now ask “can you fit a new bathroom and how much will it cost me?” and not expect it for free.
Strange, a fair days wage to fix a PC is considered a ridiculous amount, yet a fair days wage to tile a bathroom is acceptable.

#342 Phoenix Stormcrow on 15, Jun, 2011 at 12:30 am

Believe it or not, many similar issues plague the landscaper. It is a professional service industry, which requires specialized knowledge both broad and deep, and a particular set of skills which can only be developed through long and hard experience. Yet time and again, I’m confronted with my clients’ inability to understand this, and the limitations of my abilities. For example: “I’m sorry ma’am, but your tropical plants simply cannot survive the kind of freakishly cold winter we just had”, or “I assure you [for the tenth time] that yes, these trees lose their leaves in the winter time. It happens every year.”, or sometimes even “Look, I can’t guarantee the health of your plants if you insist on dicking around with the irrigation system every day. That is why there is such a thing as a landscape contractor.” Fairly common responses from clients, actual or potential, when told my rates are “Well, I think I’ll just do it myself” (and they call back in a month or two) or “Well, I’ll just hire some Mexicans” (and they call back in a month or two).

Other comments express the right idea: always assert yourself. Failure to do so only attracts the kind of business you don’t really want.

#343 teetotimmy on 01, Aug, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Great article. I wonder if computer techies could have alter egos… like superheros.

#344 Brandon on 10, Oct, 2011 at 1:52 am

Oh god.. I was about to go to school to become Red Hat Certified and get my many other Certs till I read this. I do not think that is worth $33 an hour to just end up working at Waffle house again but instead of cooking your fixing computers.

Gah.. is it at least worth it for the money?

#345 Sean on 16, Oct, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Shaun, thank you very much for your article. I am a senior computer science major and have lived with the ‘computer guy’ label my entire life. It was fine around the house during high school but once I moved into the freshman dorms at college it became unbearable. Every word you wrote about disappointment and lack of appreciation were spot on. I thank you for writing down your thoughts, they really hit me.

#346 suffering on 16, Dec, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Soo true. Every word of it. A lil about me below.
I have worked as an IT administrator since i was 18 in age. My life hasn’t been the same when people started asking for help on silly things which are not related to work, plus they bring their own personal pcs to let me fix it. They think we have soo much free time in the server room??? like srsly, we r always needed for much important work but some take it real hard n start to complain to my IT manager that i m not a good employee coz i didnt fix their personal pcs(F SAKES). I have already dedicated my life to work n cut off social life a bit. But after 3-4 yrs when i m promoted as a senior administrator, they think that i will be available 24×7. They have no idea that i also have life n other personal issues at home but of course no one cares coz thats how the world runs, isnt it? I also broke up with my gf coz of working in the IT industry. Now i m all alone, lonely, not respected nor appreciated the work i have always successfully done for the company. We r like worst than slaves for the companies out there. Srsly sometimes i wish they cld see how our lives r. Lastly, once i was sick on weekend, they called me on that freakin day to work when i was not really in a good shape. But they didn’t care n started to say things like “you r not good fit for the company n bla bla, we can replace u easy”. When I heard those words i decided to type my resignation right away n send it after the month was over.
If u guys think that money is worth working in IT industry, it doesn’t. The life of IT guys r short n soo depressing. I rather take care of my health n social life to make me happy than 24×7 hell work that makes me miserable n not respected. And no, don’t mention “not all companies will make u work 24×7”. Maybe at 1st they will take it easy but sooner or later they will be using u to work to the core n compromise ur social life n personal time with families n friends. And those things r important to me coz i have skipped cousins weddings, nephews birthdays n many more which makes me wanna spend time with the loved ones. Anyways goodluck to all of u who r gonna be in the IT industry.

#347 Jeb on 27, Dec, 2011 at 11:43 am

I feel like I just read the past 3 years of my worklife in 10 minutes…

Now I want to know how Sean took action to get out of this poophole I’m in..

#348 Elsa on 09, Jan, 2012 at 10:07 am


This is a really well written article. I agree in every word that you say especially when people know that you are working with computers they judge you right away that you must be an expert on latest technology and stuff… It also annoys me that sometimes you are obliged to fix the computer…

#349 Will on 13, Feb, 2012 at 5:34 pm

This looks like another person who wants to say “wah wah boo hoo me me me”. You got involved with computers because they interest you, and if you can’t get interested with talking about things you like, you need to take yourself down a few notches. I’m a consultant computer engineer and I get questions like this all the time. I’m more than pleased to help other people understand computers like I do. It’s like learning another language. I wouldn’t go into a first year spanish class and speak fluently to them, expecting them to understand everything. Tip: don’t be an asshole, people don’t have the same knowledge you do.

#350 Johnux on 24, Feb, 2012 at 1:44 am

Wow, great article. I’ll be the 350th person to say I’m in the same boat and that I feel you on this. Anymore, I just lie about what I do to strangers. Or at least give them some off topic thing I do on the side rather than clearly stating I’m an IT consultant. I figure one day I’ll tell someone I do something so absolutely cool that I’ll decide to make THAT my new career.

#351 Unix User on 24, Feb, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Thank you so much, both to the author and the posters. I agree with the article 100%. However, much of the advice in the comments from those who have a more assertive attitude has given me the confidence to do what I know I must do – deal with the left and right requests for service using the methods described.

#352 Marvin on 13, Mar, 2012 at 8:19 pm

I enjoyed you writing, I think you did an excellent job describing the poor pitiful computer user – victim mentality. If you don’t mind some unsolicited advice; the background on your site is way to dark – extremely hard to read.

#353 Joseph on 15, Apr, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Brilliant post! I couldn’t have put it into better words myself what I’ve gone through like you have. But, now that I’ve made an entire website and blog with the title “Joseph the Computer Guy,” what am I going to do?…

Call myself “The Consultant?” 😐 lol
Any thoughts?

Joseph the (________) out…

#354 Dusty on 11, May, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Since i despise working in retail or with food, I’m going to fix computers for minimum wage(i have no job). 20 yrs of exp. to work for minimum wage is not worth it. If i could do it all over again i would have became an accountant that doesn’t have to deal with people. My best advice for people is to not become a computer tech. You are grossly underpaid for the work you provide.

#355 Julian on 15, Jun, 2012 at 3:07 am

Now I know why all I.T Support guys have bad attitudes when asked to do something at work! Always sigh when when you really need their help, let you wait the whole day to get a response.

…but hey its your job DO IT!

#356 Gina Novelle on 16, Jun, 2012 at 9:36 am

Ha ha that was my life for 25 years exactly. I escaped, and never looked back. I got to the point where I hated computers, and people. I took three years off, moved to a different state and made my kids swear not to tell anyone I could work on computers. Good luck in your writing career. I was a free lance writer for about 10 years, yes about computers. I was thinking about do that again, after this post, I decided to write comics!

#357 Timothy on 03, Aug, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Looks like I owe my family many thanks for completely burning me out on PCs. Back in the days of Win 3.1 and MS-DOS I was the only person in my household who could even figure out how to turn the computer on. I was 7 or 8 years old exploring everything I could about computers eventually teaching myself to write small programs in QBasic. My parents took any joy I ever had out of computing when every PC issue would be bestowed upon me and my the vast intellect of an 8 year old from diagnosing issues (limited knowledge LoLz) to installing new software and exchanging hardware. I feel like i rotated between RAM one week, cd-rom the next, sound card the next and probably dial up modems 4th. F me in the ass I still hate computer issues to this day and am instantly annoyed as soon as somebody starts to tell me about their computer. I stopped learning new PC things that surpass common sense or knowledge 20 years ago now.

#358 Way Too Serious on 14, Aug, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Do you have any extra Power Strips; my phone isn’t working.

#359 Rodney on 09, Oct, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Love the article! So true!

I analogize my occupation thusly:

It’s like being the smart kid, who sharpens pencils for all the dumb kids.

#360 10 reasons why it doesn't pay to be "the computer guy". | Joe’s blog about technology, life, and more. on 05, Mar, 2013 at 2:59 pm

[…] sent me this link today from lifeboot, this is great and worth the read. If only non-technical people would read and […]

#361 Johnathan on 07, Aug, 2013 at 9:37 pm

I feel very sorry for you, Rodney.

#362 Ali on 20, Sep, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Nice article. You missed one thing when someone asks you a question and when you give them an answer they cut you off and tell you, “Well my sons cousin’s best friends brother works for such and such company and he is a genius he was saying its not that it is this. Urrgggh why don’t you go ask him then lol.

I no longer work on computers been a while so I just say sorry I don’t work on them any more so I know just as much as you do lol.

#363 Naed on 05, Feb, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Pack a whiners! Get over the whole “why won’t anyone just like me for who I am” bullshit! It’s a profession ffs! Hobbies become jobs as soon as you start doing it for others and/or accept money for your time. Changing brake pads for a mechanic is a piece of piss, but for the average joe and impossible task. So everybody gets the “mechanic guy” they know to do all the tedious jobs they’ve done a thousand times before.
I totally agree with number 7. However, the problem is you all need thicker skin more than a new profession! Everybody gets sick of jobs after a while but the majority of reasons you give for “not wanting to be a computer guy) is that you don’t feel appreciated or look down on people! Get over your selves and stop blaming other people for hating that you know about computers. What seems 2nd nature to you can seem way out of another persons league.

#364 10 Articles That Changed My Life! | WorldofMind on 16, Sep, 2015 at 8:08 am

[…] #10 – My own 10 Reasons It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guy” […]

#365 Bryan on 15, Dec, 2015 at 12:46 pm

I feel you, but I love it. I do it because others are too impatient and un resilient to do it everyday. It pays for me. Bro

#366 Dan on 08, Mar, 2016 at 4:16 pm

i do desktop support and absoluteley hat my fucking job with a passion. I hate stupid idiot users calling constantly asking for help. I dread going to the office everyday and having to deal with this shit. I’m so ready to quit, and only do it for the money. Fuck computers!

#367 Kevin on 03, Apr, 2016 at 11:21 pm

I kind of like being called the computer guy because I make money out of people. They call me when I’m needed but I charge people for what I know and how to do it. Don’t let people take advantage of you and try your best not to be rude.

#368 Minnie on 18, Jun, 2016 at 11:10 am

Computer techs treat users like crap. MOST user doesn’t know as much as a computer tech so you have no business treating us as though WE SHOULD. Techs are rude, vicious, insulting and impatient with users. Please keep in mid that what’s “common sense” to YOU most likely IS NOT “common sense” to the average user. Maybe if you WANT more compassion you should GIVE more compassion. You reap what you sow. I have a hard time feeling sorry for ANY of you knowing you think less of those of us who don’t know as much as you. Just sayin’.

#369 Minnie on 18, Jun, 2016 at 11:11 am

*Most users DON’T not doesn’t

#370 IT Dave on 07, Jul, 2016 at 3:24 pm

I know this is old but…
One thing I get from time to time is requests from users who want me to work on their personal stuff. Pull music off their ipod or figure out what is wrong with their PC. Not sure why you would bring your home stuff into work and expect the IT guy to work on it. On company time.

There are a few things I noticed in the responses that you can add to the list.
Stupid jokes and the assumption you don’t assert yourself.

When walking with a new PC, it is no longer funny to hear “Are you bringing that to me?” or how many times one needs to listen to the story of a CD/DVD drive being used as a coffee holder, or from above “I turned on my firewall and my house burned down”… is not even funny.

The assumption that you don’t assert yourself? If this is what we are doing for a company, we are basically locked into helping the computer user out. It gets more difficult if the company doesn’t have a helpdesk or is understaffed. We assert ourselves by leaving during lunch time so we don’t have to be approached several times about computer issues. I often point out that I am eating lunch and that the user needs to contact the help desk. or in the event that there is no helpdesk, that they email me.

of course when you do assert yourself, I often hear how computer guys are a grumpy sort.

I’m still the IT Guy but I found a job that is staffed pretty well…

#371 Lori on 13, Dec, 2016 at 8:36 pm

Thank you for saying it so succinctly..


#372 GreyTeks on 17, May, 2017 at 3:44 pm

I don’t mind people knowing, i just say yes I fix computers, oh yours is broken, I’d be happy to take a look I charge $75/hr is that ok with you.

#373 PUMABydesign001 on 15, Feb, 2018 at 1:20 am

“People only talk to the computer guy when they need him to fix something. ”

True that. While I would never consider myself an expert in computers, I learned about them the hard way going from the electric typewriter to an IBM System 36 during the mid-80’s which constituted 3 half-days of on the job training.

On the job training which including heightened responsibilities besides my usual duties each time I returned from vacation or a sick day.

Retired now, my final job was at a law firm with a staff of 15. The partners purchased new desktops only to spend three months attempting to have outside techs attempt and fail to customize the desktops to the workings of a law firm.

No disrespect to the techs but you get what you pay for and this lawfirm was cheap. Thus, they would handed the desktops to the staff with a “just get the job done” attitude. Once again, I was one of two people able to get the job done and keep the systems running.

I should note that the tech aspect which became my duties had nothing to do with why I was hired at any of these organizations meaning I am not officially a “tech.”

Now retired, I maintain several devices in my home, my grandchildren’s devices, my nephew’s devices.

The latest, of which, is my niece’s device, a POWERFUL device and thing of beauty that she purchased 18 months ago. The shame is that she never once allowed the laptop to make any kind of updates which netted her the visit of every bad actor on the planet.

I took me eight days AND the flu before I could get the device back to its once beautiful state. I returned it with the following warning: #1, Stop playing games long enough to update and maintain; #2, Don’t stop Windows 10 from updating because you’re playing online with strangers; #3, do not disable the security; #4 pay attention to the alerts and #5, I don’t ever want to see your laptop again.

Returned her laptop to her fixed and in excellent condition on January 2, 2018. Today is February 15th and she’s only called me twice. As for my nephew, well, he hasn’t called me in 8 months.
No compensation. No love.
I’m putting up an out of business sign.

#374 Larry Hawkins on 21, Jun, 2019 at 12:42 pm


it sucks when you get a four year degree and the other techs hate you for it in your support group. This is because most of them have the mentality of an assembly line worker. They don’t talk to you and then try to get you fired from your job. I’ve been in tech support for a long time and it use to be techs know how to talk to be people but not any more. They suck and are just immature that’s why I’m switching to becoming a teach where you are respected for having an education not put down. I wished you couldn’t get a job unless you had a 4 year degree because most techs have the intellect of a rat.

#375 Ezequiel Lage on 08, Jun, 2020 at 9:34 am

This is the best text I ever read!

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