12 Secrets of Your Company's IT People

Anyone who works in an office has probably sent their fair share of emails to the Help Desk. But where do those emails go? How does your office IT person decide whose problem is worth addressing first? And why, oh why can’t they display a shred of urgency about your sticky E key?

We talked to a few IT pros about what the view’s like from behind the Help Desk.


Not because they can access them, but because you’ve made them painfully obvious. “You don’t know how many people who, if they’re not forced to, won’t change their password from the default 1234,” says Laurie, an IT worker for 15 years in New York. “There are still so many people that use combos of birthdays, their kids’ names, but they’re just really easy to crack.”

And they’ve found passwords written down in the strangest places, including on crumpled up pieces of paper hidden in the furniture, Laurie says. 

“One guy had taped to the back of his mousepad a list of probably 20 different usernames and passwords for websites he was using for personal reasons,” says Mark Z, a tech support employee in Indiana.

It’s no wonder humans are the cause of more than half of all computer security breaches.


If you want to do your IT department a favor, turn your computer off and on again before you even think about calling them. Despite being a cliche, a good reboot really does fix a lot of problems. “At least 50% of my job is restarting things,” says Lewis, who has worked in IT for three years. “Whether it be the entire PC or closing the browser. A lot of times I'll say, ‘let's start with closing the browser,’ and they'll say, ‘I DID THAT, SEE?’ and I'll say, ‘Ok cool, that's the right idea. That's actually just one tab though, so let's close the whole browser.’ And then it'll work.”


“At least half of all incoming help tickets can be chalked up to human error,” says Cris, an IT worker for six years, “and at least half of all IT work is just trying to interpret the help requests of people who don't natively speak ‘computer.’”

You’ll know if your IT person doesn’t think you get computers when they start using metaphors to explain things to you. “Take networking, for example,” says Keith, who works in IT in Oklahoma. “People who don't understand how NAT (Network Address Translation) works get an explanation of how they can have a four wheeler or a dirt-bike and they can ride all around their house. Upside down, sideways, slantways, etc., but can't take it on the freeway legally without putting it on a trailer first.”



“Discovering how little people who were running the company understood the technology they were using was surprising,” says Michael who worked in IT for an advertising agency for two years. “People who made seven or eight times what I was making and had been in the industry for many years didn’t know how to reset their password or check their voicemail. There was a point where these people had everything done for them and they stopped learning about the technology.”

Still, when it comes to the boss' computer, no request is too big. “The president of the company I worked at had his laptop run over by a semi-truck,” Mark says. “But we got his data back.”


If your office IT department is made up of just one person and your issues take forever to get resolved, it’s probably because he or she is exhausted and overworked. In that case, it’s in everyone’s best interest to petition to get the lone employee some help. “A lot of organizations want the IT department to be as lean as humanly possible so overhead is low,” says Tom Bridge, an IT expert in Washington, D.C., “but nothing is worse than a burned-out IT person. They make mistakes and that’s where systems fall apart.”


It’s all about making a case for why your problem should become their priority. “Tell me why I need to stop what I’m doing right now and fix your problem,” says Bridge. “Mention deadlines. Mention who you’re working for. If you’re working on a project for CEO with a 5 p.m. deadline, that’s clearly more important than something else. But be honest.”

Also, be descriptive. Simply complaining that something isn’t working is a quick way to get ignored. “Include as much information as possible,” says Laurie. What steps have you taken so far to fix the problem? Have you rebooted? What browser are you using? “The more info you give me, the faster I can help you,” she says.


“Pretty much anything to do with printers” goes right to the bottom of the to-do list, according to Keith. Not just because it’s boring, but because it’s such an easy fix and they don’t like embarrassing people who couldn’t figure it out for themselves. “The very simple stuff … the kind of issues that make people feel really stupid when you finish it. We just got a part-time PC tech. He gets those tickets.”


You should be nice to your IT team, because it’s the right thing to do. But also because they’ll always prioritize a ticket for someone they like. When it comes to grumpy coworkers, Laurie says she tries not to be vengeful but admits they “might get put further down on the list of things I have to accomplish that day.”

Sometimes they’ll take bribes. Mark recalls a previous job where his boss’ attention could be bought with a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew. “Candy’s the way to my heart,” he says. If you’re mean, “I’m not gonna erase your files or infect you with a virus but you might also just have to deal with your broken computer for a day or two.”

Adds Bridge, “What it comes down to is treat your IT guy like a person.”


When you drop your phone down a flight of stairs for the third time or spill coffee on your keyboard, it can be tempting to stretch the truth or blame it on the kids. But “a good IT guy isn’t judging you,” says Bridge. “They just wanna fix your problem. We don’t care how you got into that predicament.”

The sooner you come clean, the faster they can help. Also, they’ve probably seen worse. “I've seen pretty much every variety of food and beverage spilled on laptop keyboards, including tea, coffee, a fruit smoothie, and corned beef and cabbage,” says Cris. And Laurie says she once found Fruit Leather stuck in a computer’s CD drive.

“We once had somebody say, ‘My computer died. I don’t know what happened,’” says Mark, “and you could smell the vanilla latte in the keyboard. It was fragrant.”


In 2010,  the Nielsen company found that roughly 21 million Americans access porn sites on their work computers each month. The IT department knows this better than anyone.

“If there’s one thing I could just pass along, it’s that your IT guy knows more about your porn habits than your spouse does,” says Bridge. It’s their job to be on the lookout for questionable sites or downloads that could lead to a virus or external attack on the company’s server. “Not every company does this but a lot of the smart ones do. It’s not that we want to know, but it’s our job.”


A good rule of thumb is to assume anything you do on your work computer can be read by someone else. “We don’t want to read your history,” says Bridge. “We probably can if we’re asked to by management. But seriously, do you think we have time to read your email?”


“I have heard the phrase, ‘the best place to hide a body is the second page of Google because no one will look there,’” says Keith. “If that's the case, we would be solving a lot of murder cases. I think I might have made it to the 35th page of a Google search before I gave up. The trick is to pull various sources of information together to gain a better understanding of what the actual problem is.”

According to Mark, a favorite joke in the IT world is “the reason the IT guy knows more about computers than you is because he’s better at Google than you are.”

All photos courtesy of iStock unless otherwise noted

Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”


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