Wanted: Students who love a good challenge to work at the Help Desk, former student employee Bryan Beck answers the call

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photo of former student Bryan Beck at Simplylive home office

A phone rings at the LTS Help Desk. What will it be? A question about library hours? A print job gone awry? A failure to connect to the Internet? Could be easy, could be not. It rings again and you pick up.

Hello, this is the LTS Help Desk. How can I help you?

Some of the most challenging -- and rewarding -- work experience that Lehigh students can get comes from working on the Help Desk in the Fairchild-Martindale Library. Difficult for some, sheer terror for others, and the thought of doing it all exclusively by phone? Forget it.

Bryan Beck sees it differently.

“Solving problems is all about communication,” said Beck, a recent Lehigh electrical engineering graduate and LTS Help Desk veteran.

Beck ‘18, who has taken hundreds of calls from faculty, staff, and students in his four years working as a student consultant on the desk, says the ability to connect with the caller makes problem-solving easier, particularly for technical issues.

“It starts with gauging the caller’s level of expertise and determining how in depth I needed to get with instructions, then try and replicate what the user was doing in parallel,” he said. “It was always helpful if I could tell them what they should expect to see, whether by phone, in-person, or by remote session.”

Beck said his time on the Help Desk exposed him to all types of service calls, everything from anxious parents whose children need hardware help to misbehaving wireless connections to students who need to find books in the library catalog.

He says it prepared him well for his post-Lehigh job as support and maintenance engineer for Simplylive, an international tech company serving the broadcast and digital industries, where he provides technical support, mostly remotely, for its flagship live all-in-one production system.

“Because you can’t solve every problem via email, the ability to communicate well verbally is so important.”

Andy Januszak, senior computing consultant and student supervisor, who hires up to 30 students at the Help Desk each year, said that call desk support offers students plenty of opportunity to hone their communication skills. He noted that without the benefit of callers’ visual cues and body language, students need to recognize subtle hints in the client’s voice, like impatience, anxiety, urgency, and hopefully, satisfaction.

Stacey Kimmel-Smith, assistant director for client services, added: “When clients are not native English speakers, students may need to adjust their own language and questioning to communicate effectively. It's real-world experience that will be invaluable later."

Collaboration: It takes a village

A Kresgeville, Pa. native, Beck started working at the Help Desk as a first year student, already packing some technical chops from summers spent installing wireless networks for IntegraONE, working mostly independently. One of the biggest benefits to working at the Help Desk, he said, was working collaboratively with other LTS teams and using a ticket-tracking system that follows calls from first contact through resolution.

“You may not be able to solve a problem immediately yourself, so it’s important to collect enough information and effectively communicate it to others, so that everyone can work toward a solution,” he said.

Beck’s experience working with other staff on the Help Desk and with cross-functional teams would prove mutually beneficial. Last year Beck was invited to a meeting of the LUapps implementation team, where his experience as both an undergraduate student and student consultant offered the team unique insights. Beck explained common student preferences and practices for storing and accessing work files, which helped the team make informed decisions on the design of LUapps.

”It was eye-opening for a lot of people in that room because he could not only give feedback in “LTS speak,” but also articulate the student experience,” Januszak said. “He was always thinking critically about computing and LTS services and how we could do things better.”

Mastering multitasking

Some students like Beck, who hold down more than one job on campus, might find it challenging to keep up with their demanding work schedules and course loads. Januszak said Beck’s ability to juggle his rigorous academic, work, and extracurricular pursuits “really spoke volumes about his time management skills.”

Beck’s typical schedule included 4-6 hours a week on the Help Desk, a few more with LTS STARS, a stint as a TA for an introductory engineering class, and still more hours with Lehigh’s Emergency Medical Services (LUEMS), where he volunteered as an EMT.

Beck is quick to credit his LTS supervisors for giving him the support he needed to fit other things into his schedule. “I liked that LTS gave me the flexibility to do other things I’m passionate about,” he said.

Januszak said in addition to honing communication and time-management skills, student consultants get a hands-on opportunity to gain and improve professional skills in teamwork, conflict resolution, leadership, and problem-solving. “These are key skills that all employers look for when hiring new college graduates,” he said.

Beck’s advice for students considering working at the Help Desk? “Give it a try, don’t be worried if you don’t think you're capable,” he said. “There are plenty of people to help you and get you where you need to be. The support network behind you is great!”

Interested in working for LTS? We often have openings on the following teams: Help Desk (contact Andy Januszak, 610-758-5459, anj214@lehigh.edu) or STARS (contact Bruce Eisenhard, 610-758-4054, bae2@lehigh.edu).