Jason Anderson, Technical Specialist
Technical specialist, Canadian Tire Corporation
When a senior exec has a tech issue it must be fixed stat; tech detectives work round the clock to solve their IT mysteries.
Senior executives and CEOs of large corporations depend on smart phones to communicate with their teams. But what happens when phone operating systems need company-wide updates? Or their networks crash and executives lose access to email and contacts? These issues stall business and drive people crazy. It’s the job of technical specialists like Jason to work behind the scenes in order to prevent problems before they happen and seamlessly fix them when they do.
Jason has had to provide backend system upgrades to as many as 1,000 BlackBerrys without a minute of down time or interruptions. The users have to be able to do their jobs without noticing the upgrade is happening. Jason did it smoothly, efficiently, and ahead of schedule without needing to access his preplanned emergency methods. This feat earned Jason an award of excellence.
Jason’s job has four parts: system checks, ticket solving, special projects, and training. Systems are the beating heart of corporate communications, so Jason checks them three times a day to ensure they’re in top shape and running well. He fixes any problems he comes across on the intranet (internal Internet for employees only), servers or web-based applications so employees can work smoothly.
Tickets are issued when a user has a problem with email, Internet/Intranet, smart phones or the internal messaging system (similar to MSN). Jason typically solves 10 problems a day – from helping executives locate old, archived emails to solving BlackBerry problems. He also trains service desk employees on troubleshooting techniques. Jason works mainly on the needs of high-up execs and issues that require deep security access.
A day in the life
Jason typically works on five projects at a time and this is where the fun comes in. He installs special applications, handles system upgrade issues and takes on special assignments. Many of Canadian Tire’s internal apps are bought from third party companies such as Microsoft, Dell, IBM and BlackBerry. Jason installs these applications and customizes them to suit the company’s needs. He has also implemented a crisis management application to be remotely installed on smart phones just like system upgrades.
“My part in the project is to test, implement and package the application. I go in and install it wirelessly so the user has no interaction. Say the network goes down. This application is meant to alleviate that down time so the user has constant, reliable connection with major contacts,” he says.
Jason also pays a key role in security threat awareness and prevention. He has to make sure the company does not get infected with viruses or blasted with spam. “A big part of my job is to ensure all our systems are protected and safe. This is accomplished by online research, installing hotfixes (software patches) and being aware of what is happening in the online world,” he says.
Tech support for major corporations like Canadian Tire happens 24/7. “My day is never over. We have a rotating on call schedule for a month at a time. I could be sleeping and get woken up at 2 am and go back to work. It’s the nature of the beast and comes with the territory, especially in backend IT.” Thankfully due to the nature of his job he gets to work from home – at first it was one or two days a week, but now he works remotely almost always.
Why this job rocks
- The technology – Jason gets first access to demo products before anyone else in the company. He gets to test them, play with them and then brag about them!
- The gratification – “Any time I help an end user (person with the tech problem), I feel good about it and take a lot of pride in my work even if it’s as small as a password reset on a BlackBerry.”
- Friends in high places – “Its nice to help out a senior vice president, for example. If you do a great job they remember you and you’ll never break those connections.”
- Room to grow – “I’ve loved what I’ve done ever since I started. With the stepping stones along the way, that passion has just grown more and more. It’s getting more technical and challenging. I’m not complacent or stuck in a rut. I’ve had an opportunity to move around. The company offers lots of opportunities if you’re willing to put yourself out and go above and beyond.”
- Jason was working at a Canadian Tire store and studying computer science and network technology at Centennial College. He met someone from the corporate office who encouraged him to apply for a role in IT. Previously, Jason only considered tech jobs at big tech companies and didn’t realize there were so many opportunities at a company like Canadian Tire. He took the advice and applied.
- He landed a co-op term and started in client services dealing with end user support for typical and minor tech problems. He was asked if he wanted to complete another co-op term. It was time to return to school, but he didn’t want to miss the opportunity. He rearranged his semester and began a placement in a programming position at the Canadian Tire distribution centre in Brampton.
- When he finished school he got an assignment in Toronto as a technical specialist. He worked his way up to his current position and now trains new tech specialists.
- Keeping up with tech – New systems and software upgrades can be complex and vary greatly from previous versions so Jason has to relearn the program. “The challenge is learning this new technology, the programming of it and getting it under my belt in order to move on and do my job better,” he says.
- Training – One of the biggest challenges stems from knowledge transfer. The help desk is 24/7 and support specialists work varying hours. Jason finds innovative ways to train the various support teams below him. He needs to walk them through the processes, teach them how to install applications remotely and fix bugs.
Tips for success
- Try co-op/internships – Jason's co-op placement opened his eyes to the career potential and allowed him to secure a job when he finished school. “In corporations there’s a lot of opportunity to move around and grow. The best way to do that is through internships and co-ops,” he says.
- Network – Get to know as many people as you can in the industry. You always start small. “When I was younger I thought I could jump right into a senior role, but that’s not the case,” Jason says. Networking introduced him to people who help his career grow.
- Don’t get ahead of yourself – Take small steps, build relationships, a social network and a foundation to grow on. “That foundation needs to support you in your future roles.”
- Study –Technology is constantly developing and evolving. You need to stay on top of your skills. “If you’re the type of person who likes certifications and exams, you have to keep on top of it because those things will expire. Ten years ago it was a completely different architecture. If this is what you want to do you need to realize and understand it’s an ongoing battle,” he says. “You always have to stay on top of your skills either through certifications or self education and learning things on your own.”