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Career Story: Technical Consultant For A Software Company

Technical Consultant For A Software Company

Job Title: Technical Consultant

Type of Company: My company makes software for the airline industry. Our software is the technology behind most airline shopping web sites. It looks at all sorts of combinations of flights and fares to get you to your destination conveniently and for the lowest cost.

Education: BS, Computer Science/Music, Union College •• SM, Media Arts and Sciences, MIT

Previous Experience: I worked as a software engineer at MIT and a long series of start-ups. I worked for my current company's engineering department as a contractor for 18 months. When they announced that they were letting all their contractors go, I applied for a full-time job in the customer relations department and got it.

Job Tasks: Our customers are businesses like web sites and airlines. Their clients (the "end users") are people who want to travel by plane. They visit our customers' web sites to shop for cheap and convenient airline tickets. When one of our customers has a question or a problem with our software, they contact the customer relations department at my company. Our software is incredibly complicated, so sometimes it is hard to figure out what is going wrong and how to make it work better.

That's where my team comes in. First we look carefully at the problem. We call this "triaging," just like at a hospital emergency room. Once we understand what's wrong, we either recommend solutions to the customer, or if it is a "bug," we pass the problem along to the engineering department so they can fix it. Another thing we do is to analyze whether the server farms (big rooms full of computers) are big enough to serve our clients' needs. Let's say a client is going to launch a TV ad campaign next month, and they expect lots of new visitors to their web site. We make sure their server array can handle the new traffic.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is that I get to work with a lot of nice people. I also get to see up-close all the different ways that our customers use our software, and I hear about what is important to them. Like our software, the airline industry is very complicated behind the scenes, and I like to learn about how it works.

Job Tips: The people on my team come from a lot of different backgrounds. Many of us studied computer science in college, but one of my colleagues is a math whiz, and another is an expert at making transportation systems more efficient, like figuring out how a bus company can run more buses with the same number of drivers. The other part of my job is being good with customers. Almost any job in retail is good training for that. While you are on the job, think about ways of making the business work better and how to keep the customers happy.

Additional Thoughts: I learned a lot about engineering as a kid by always being interested in how things work inside, and by taking things apart. I didn't wait until I got to college to learn about computers and how to program them. I was already writing software when I was in high school. Back then the web didn't exist. Now there are a lot of software projects that you can take part in without being a professional programmer. Google "open source" and SourceForge to find out about projects that you can contribute to as a volunteer.

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