Making Support Cool

Today I’ve been thinking a bit about support as a career again and wondering why so many people think of it like a entry or lower position. Besides one of the big reasons that I talked about before I think there are other things that come into play here as well.

One of the huge things is that being able to code has become very cool. In the case of Automattic two of the largest groups of employees we have are developers and support. In the media, and particularly tech media, it’s the people making the products that have become the rock stars. Either making something from scratch, finding a bug and fixing it, or conceiving a new feature and bringing it to life for tonnes of people to use, has to be very satisfying. Come on, that is cool! Why wouldn’t you want to aspire to be able to do that?

Another reason is most of my fellow Happiness Engineers are problem solvers. We want to fix things. If that happens to a bug or an improvement to our products how great would it be to go and fix it on the spot if a customer brings it to our attention. During one conversation someone pointed out to me a typo on one of our support documents. While we were talking I opened another window and fixed it. Even that tiny change impressed them and felt very good to me to have the power to resolve it.

There is no reason though that both developers and support roles can’t both be seen as cool. Support is cool and we should all be rock stars too. How do we turn things around and show the world how awesome support is? With coders they have that almost tangible result of their work. Look, see that? That’s what I made today. Maybe one of our tangibles could be all the hugs we get from users. There are not many days that go by that I don’t receive some sort of amazing feedback from someone I’ve talked with because either I or my colleagues have helped them. That is a powerful gift.

If we are doing our jobs well we could also say things like this: See this change? While talking to a bunch of people I knew there had to be a better way to do this, and after working with our developers here it is. Another scenario could be: While chatting with people it really seemed that this new feature would really help them accomplish their goals. Start that conversation and then become the champion behind it getting built and out there for everyone to use. We might not be the ones actually building or making, but we should be able to point to all kinds of examples where we’ve influenced the products based on our conversations. That to me is cool!

It’s up to us to help show the world that being in support is both awesome, and a viable career option in the right environment. How do we do that? Let’s find ways to show how rewarding and important great support is. If we can do that we can draw even more people into this career. That means more great co-workers and it could convince more companies to invest and make support a more prominent role with them.

The Go-Giver

Recently I was recommended a short book to read called The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. Seeing as I was going to be spending some time on a plane I thought it would likely make a good choice as something to get through quickly while traveling.

The book is written in the form of a parable explaining five laws to stratospheric success. The tag line for the book is “A Little Story About A Powerful Business Idea”, but as far as I’m concerned it can be applied to life in general. It’s not a hard read, but very engaging and it really explains the principles in an easy to grasp and fun way. I won’t give away all the laws but, the main idea is that giving to people without the expectation of anything in return, as the secret to be hugely successful.

Even though I’ve seen some of these things hold true in small ways in my own life I would have still been a little skeptical. However by looking at the concepts and comparing them to Open Source, and WordPress in particular, you can see how it can be true. The whole concept of open source is just that, people contribute to a project because the believe in it or think it is important. In the case of WordPress the project itself, and many people, have become very successful. There is a large number of people who make their living using, building on, or supporting, WordPress. The results of the 2014 WordPress survey had over 7500 people making their living with it.

There are are many other parts of the book that relate as well, but I’ll leave it for you to read, but think value, and influence as a couple others. Even without this I’d recommend the book, I can see me reading it a few more times to really try and absorb it all and trying to live closer to concepts in it.