What do I do for a living now? This is a logical question since I’m not currently making a living writing and publishing novels (much though I would like to). The answer provides hints about my qualifications to share my insights about reality and our places in it. It also suggests how I deal with people, stress, and life in general.
I currently work for Time Warner Cable in their Colorado Springs Call Center as what we call a Tier 3 Tech Support agent. If you live in the LA or San Diego area (or a few other places around the west), you might get me when you call in because your wireless internet doesn’t work, or your phone lost its dial tone. I’ve been here for over eleven years, which for me is a surprisingly long time given that the longest previous job I’ve held (also in tech support) was four years. I’m good at what I do, but my one failing is I talk too much. But what can you expect from a writer?
The job calls for a lot of empathy, the ability to assess the level of competence of each customer and work with him or her at that level, and a thorough understanding of the technology we provide and upgrade on an ongoing basis. It’s been absolutely fascinating to watch the increase in speed and capability of the broadband cable modems we use for internet, from simple modems hardly capable of more than 15 megabits per second download speeds to our latest and greatest cable modem gateways capable of up to 300 megabits per second download speeds, plus wired and wireless connections for everything from Smart TVs to smart phones, to tablets, laptops, and desktops. With Google pushing gigabit (1,000 megabits per second) download speeds in several of our cities, naturally we’re doing everything we can to catch up.
Over my eleven years at Time Warner Cable (and Adelphia before them), I’ve also been fascinated to observe how our customers, who range from Millennials demanding everything NOW to members of the Greatest Generation struggling to keep up with whole new ways of doing things that overwhelm them, interact with us customer support professionals. Some things don’t change much, and human nature is one of them. As I see it, my primary purpose is to provide comfort and reassurance that we can solve the problem together, trust in the form of accurate information and workable instructions that help the customer fix the problem, and love in the form of professionalism even when we can’t fix the problem or the customer refuses to be comforted, let alone helped. I’m not always successful, but most of the time I can shrug off the rejection and move on to the next call. Still, I certainly agree that call center work is at least as stressful as air traffic control, if for entirely different reasons.
Many of the insights I hope to share are based on my years in the business world, from call center tech support to managing the office of a small blueprint company here in the Springs. I’ve also worked at a newspaper in Greeley, Colorado (behind the scenes rather than as a reporter), as an intern in my congressman’s office (also in Greeley), as a customer engineer (one of maybe fifty women in the field at the time) and in retail from clothing to cookies back before I got my certificate in computer technology almost 35 years ago.
Life’s been very interesting for me, and I don’t doubt it will go on being interesting.