How IT Help Desk Technicians Narrow the Distance Between Colleagues in Pandemic Times

By RC Dirkes

How can IT help desk technicians close the distance between colleagues that's created by pandemic precautions, such as working remotely?

By balancing sharp technical skills with business acumen, says Priyanka Neupane, a senior IT supervisor for Medtronic, an international medical technology company.

Priyanka recruits, hires and trains help desk specialists for Medtronic’s U.S. IT support center in Minneapolis, where about 120 technologists take between 20 to 25 calls during a typical eight-hour shift.

“Throughout the day, they're talking to employees from all over the U.S., who are involved in building pacemakers, building PillCams* and all of these different devices that [Medtronic] builds,” Priyanka tells host R.C. “Bob” Dirkes in a recent episode of the award-winning Technologist Talk podcast.

“Our technicians are helping them with the technical issues related to their day to day job,” she explains. “We are troubleshooting hardware, software issues. We're talking to people from different departments within Medtronic and helping get them back to their work as soon as they can.”

At Medtronic, the switch from operating in offices to working remotely happened quickly in response to the pandemic’s rise, which meant more potential technical issues for co-workers new to the routine, Priyanka says.

“Our main focus was being available for whatever needs that we may get from our users,” she elaborates. “Because they are the ones that are actually going out there and doing the heavy work by being able to still build the equipment, being able to still produce and manufacture all the equipment that the people still need even though there is a pandemic.”

But empathy between colleagues has been important, too.

“Sometimes people are just at home by themselves working and they just call us,” she says. “And we're probably the only human interaction they're getting through the whole day. So, we're just staying available, being there for them, and supporting the [Medtronic] mission that way.”


Where does Medtronic find its talent for their IT help desk?

One of Priyanka’s trusted talent pipelines is the IT-Ready Technical Support program from CompTIA Tech Career Academy, which she says delivers graduates prepared for the full range of help desk services from glitches in gadgets to reassuring colleagues in the field. Medtronic has hired nearly 30 IT-Ready graduates, and Priyanka often speaks to students to let them know what an IT help desk job can be like.

“The thing that I like the most about [IT-Ready graduates] is not only do they have the technical part down – the basics of the technology that's needed to do the job – they also have the professional skills that are needed for them to be able to come in and go through our eight-week training program and start working going forward,” she says. “I don't have to teach them the value of being five minutes early to work, because they're already used to that going through the IT-Ready program.”

Many IT-Ready graduates entered the training program as a way to change careers, Priyanka observes, “So, I see a lot of diversity, not just in terms of race, but in terms of the backgrounds, the professionalism, the previous experience – not in IT, but in other experiences that they bring, the customer service skills.”

Among the more than 100 people working on Medtronic’s U.S. IT support team, Priyanka estimates perhaps a dozen hold degrees in computer science or studied IT in college. Most, she says, bring rich experiences from other fields to their work:

“I went to school for public health. There are people who went to school for sociology degrees, psychology degrees. So, there's a big diversity of knowledge from non-IT fields. But what matters more is what experiences they have held. And it does not just have to be IT experience…In my opinion, that holds more value than just the education.”


IT-Ready curriculum gives graduates both hard technical skills and soft skills

One aspect of IT-Ready training Priyanka values most is the balance of hard technical skills and oft-called “business soft skills” students learn.

Because the coursework prepares students to take CompTIA certification exams (most notably the foundational A+ certification) Priyanka says, “They already have the [technical] basics down. Then, they also learn the soft skills…They already know phone presence, how to talk to people. So, that part is down. It's really a good mix of both that they bring.”

“We have a preschool teacher who had zero IT experience before she joined Medtronic,” she continues. “And now she's a full-time employee, and she's come such a long way. If someone has good mix of both, I think that person adds more value than one or the other. You can't just have one group of people. Because when you're thinking about the people that call us, we talk to different personalities.”

If you or someone you know is considering changing careers, if you are a recent high school or college graduate aiming to launch a career, consider CompTIA Tech. 2021 classes are opening for applications soon. Apply and you could be launching a new career working with technology in the New Year.

Meantime, to hear the rest of the conversation with Priyanka, listen here:

Episode 36 – Talking Tech Careers:
How IT Help Desk Technicians Narrow the Distance Between Colleagues in Pandemic Times

* Editor’s Note: The Medtronic PillCam™ enables doctors and qualified medical personnel to see inside a patient’s small bowel for monitoring lesions that may be related to Crohn’s disease, iron deficiency anemia and other conditions.


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