It pays to be a geek

AT WORK

Computer technician gets to wear a badge, drive a company car and make house calls

December 20, 2006|By NANCY JONES-BONBREST | NANCY JONES-BONBREST,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Jon Aumann

Computer support technician

Geek Squad, Baltimore

Salary --$35,000 a year

Age --20

Years on the job --Two

How he got started --Aumann began working at Best Buy, which owns the Geek Squad, two years ago. He worked on in-house repairs and upgrades at Best Buy's Security Boulevard store. Currently he is a Geek Squad "double agent," meaning he can work in the store or go on house calls. Aumann also is in his junior year at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he is completing a computer engineering degree.

Typical day --Aumann's time is spent on the road making house calls for scheduled computer repairs and upgrades in the Baltimore metropolitan area. He works 10-hour days, Sunday through Wednesday. He finds out his daily schedule by logging onto a computer and getting a list of appointments. He averages four to six service calls each day and works mostly with residential clients. His job is split between repairing problems and upgrading computers. He says he hasn't come across a problem he couldn't fix, but if he gets stuck, there's a corporate support team he can call for help.

Most common calls --Setting up wireless networks and removing viruses.

How things work --Computers come naturally to Aumann, who says he was always interested in taking things apart to figure out how they worked, "much to my parents' chagrin. So I had to learn how to put them back together to make sure they would work again."

Fees --Aumann does not work on commission. Instead clients are charged various flat fees. "The client pays to make sure the job gets done right, not on an hourly basis." Setting up a wireless network would cost $159 and usually takes under two hours. Aumann is also available for hourly training sessions, which cost $159 per hour or $229 for two hours.

The car --A black-and-white Volkswagen Beetle, known as the geek mobile, is provided to Aumann for work only. He has his own car for personal use.

The uniform --Modeled after the "G-men" of the 1950s, it consists of a short sleeve white shirt, black pants, white socks, black shoes, a belt, a clip-on tie and a badge. "Just what we need to set us apart."

The good --"Being a hero." He says computers frustrate most people and he enjoys tackling the various problems. "Not everybody has the greatest level of computer expertise. That's what we are here for. We take care of what they need and get it running better than it was before."

The bad --Rush-hour traffic.

Doesn't mind geek references --"I love it. I finally found someone willing to pay me to be called a geek."

Best advice --Don't assume the computer has antivirus and anti-spyware protection. "The computer manufacturers usually ship with a trial version, which tends to expire within the first 60 days after the computer is started. You want to make sure you have that protection year round."

Philosophy on the job --"I spend nights at home reading the [computer] Web sites and manuals basically so the customer doesn't have to."

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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