The technology pro's greatest enemies

How to spot -- and take down -- the six most nefarious adversaries of IT

By , InfoWorld |  IT Management, career advice, leadership

IT enemy No. 5: The Freeloader

If you know anything about technology, you've surely encountered this time- and patience-sapping foe. A "simple" question about computers morphs into demands for free 24/7 tech help when you have actual paying customers to support.

"The absolute worst offenders are people who assume that they can pick up the phone and call you anytime they have even the most minor computer problems," says Dan Nainan, a comedian and "computer genius" whose acting credits include an "I'm a Mac" commercial [video] (he's the guy in the bubble wrap). "Having been a senior engineer with Intel and a computer nerd for my entire adult life, I am beset on all sides by people who think they can just pick up the phone and call me anytime with a computer question. Haven't these people ever heard of Google?"

Clueless and greedy users are the No. 1 enemy, agrees Howard Sherman, founder of on-demand tech support site RoyalGeeks. "They don't have a clue, don't want a clue, and don't even know what a clue is, yet they expect you to answer each and every question they have at work, on the golf course, at a dinner party, the bar, or a bar mitzvah. They shamelessly suck the knowledge out of you, in addition to your will to live."

Recognizing the enemy: When they find out what you do for a living they immediately (a) ask for your card, (b) start flirting shamelessly, or (c) launch into a tale of technical woe.

Your best defense: If possible, retreat. "When you spot a user like this just start running down the hall screaming," suggests Sherman.

Unfortunately, since you're often related to these people, you will eventually run into them at weddings and funerals. Dan Nainan keeps a short list of those who deserve tier-one support -- like his agent or the superintendent of his NYC apartment building. The rest he sends to voice mail or redirects to actual tech support lines. "I find if you wait 24 hours the problem solves itself -- or they've found some other sucker to fix it for them," he says.

IT enemy No. 6: You/Me/Us

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