100,000 is a big number no matter how you look at it. In just over 9 years I have addressed over 100,000 inquires over the phone.
I am done. I cannot do it any more. It’s time to cut the cord. Now or never!
Phone work is difficult because it’s mentally and physically demanding. You have to simultaneously talk, write, use multiple tools, solve the problem, explain the solution in a few minutes and then take a breath and do it all over again. All day, 6, 7, 8 hours a day depending where you work. Most days I get home and collapse on the couch exhausted. More often than not, I am in bed at 930pm on a Friday night after a week of never-ending queue of inquiries.
The sad reality of phone work is that you have to deal with a lot of stupid people. My friend Jairo explains that he does not mind the stupid people because they provide him with a well-paying job. This is a perfectly (and very healthy) attitude to adopt. For me, as I get older, I started to think of my life’s work, my legacy. Given the opportunity, I would rather wake up in 14 years at the ripe old age of 60 and have my legacy be “helped promote literacy” instead of “explained the difference between log off and restart 64,934 times.”
I fell into billing and tech support in 2003 after Nortel and all the other Nortel dependent companies crashed and burned. No money, debt and a call on a Thursday afternoon with the question “Can you start on Monday?” got me a $10/hr job with benefits and paid vacation and even a few paid sick days. I stayed there for 5 years and then moved on to other opportunities all in an inbound call centre environment. Not what I wanted to do, but what I had to do.
I never felt comfortable in my tech support role mainly because while technology can be great, it just isn’t my passion. It certainly is not my passion when someone is screaming at me on the phone at 1am to fix something in 30 seconds. Tech is about:
more and fast
I am about:
less and slow
The dirty secret of tech support is that it encourages learned helplessness. It’s so easy to ignore the plethora of information out there to fix the problem yourself when you can call someone day or night who will jump through hoops, no matter how rude and obnoxious you are, and help you. As a person who strongly values self reliance, every day on the phones created a simmering resentment towards people (and unfortunately there are a lot of them) who take advantage of tech support to help them manage their personal and professional lives.
My 100,000 inquiry stint wasn’t all bad, I made some very good friends and I admire them all. Sadly the call centre industry is grossly misunderstood and the general public has no idea of the demands of the job.
In the last 5 1/2 years I have lived below my means and saved and saved and saved. I spent some money on three incredible trips (Holland, England and Australia) and banked the rest. I now have a nest egg that allows me to leave my current job. People, no doubt, must think I am insane to leave a well-paying, government job for, well, the unknown, but for me it’s the right choice. I worked very hard, under extremely difficult conditions to be able to leave my job. I have earned the right to not earn. At least for a little while.
So today was my last day at my well paid, but passionless tech support job. I am excited at one moment, and then a couple of minutes later I feel the same nervous queasiness I got the first time I jumped off the high diving board at the pool.
I now have the choice to do something else. It’s foolish and brave all at the same time. I suppose I’d rather be brave and fail rather than foolish and succeed.