Throughout my years in the IT industry I’ve held many positions and titles. Some are fairly accurate descriptions of what I was doing, and some were decidedly very un-acurate. Now as I start my own business, I’m stuck with the task of giving myself a title. As it turns out, it’s a little harder than I had anticipated.
Growing Up Geek
When I first fell in love with computers, I was in elementary school. My parents got a big hunky IBM clone (I don’t remember the brand) complete with two fancy 5 1/4 inch floppy drives. I loved to play around and find ways to break or confuse the programs. This started a long love affair with breaking and fixing computers. At that point, and all through school, I was a true computer geek. I used computers for the sheer novelty of it.
Flash forward to my time serving in the US Army. I wanted to flex my computing prowess and volunteered for various computer-centric tasks like creating databases and such. I then got the opportunity to help network a new office from the ground up. After that, I was officially appointed the unit’s assistant IMO (Information Management Officer), and was tasked with helping people in the unit with various computer issues.
I loved that job, and found I really had a knack for troubleshooting. So, after I got out of the army, I took a job as an intern at the Help Desk of a pharmaceutical company. Within 4 years time I was hired on full time, promoted to a Level 2 Analyst, and promoted again to my current position in the computer industry, Enterprise Systems Analyst.
Every time I was presented with a new position and name (Geek, Assistant IMO, Helpdesk Intern, Helpdesk Analyst, Systems Analyst) I was basically doing the same thing, fixing computer problems.
What’s in a Name?
When I had the idea to start my own computer business, it never occurred to me that I would need to define my job title. In fact, it wasn’t until I started writing this blog that I realized I needed to figure out what to call myself. So I came up with a list of names that I’m considering using to refer to my position as an independent computer guy, along with how I feel about each one:
Computer Guy – This one is very casual and works great on this blog and in other less formal situations. If you want to have a very approachable air to your computer business, this may be a good name to use.
Computer Technician – This, I think, swings too much in the opposite direction of “Computer Guy”. It’s too vague and blue-collar sounding for the customers I’m looking to target: upper-class homes and small businesses. This one works better for those who will actually be repairing computers at the component level, like soldering motherboards and installing liquid cooling systems…these are things I will not be doing.
Computer Repair Tech – Along the same vain as Computer Technician, but a little more focused. This takes out the whole modding option and leaves you with the narrow niche of simply fixing things when they are broken. I would avoid using this name.
Computer Service Tech – I think this is the best of the “computer tech” variety of names. It doesn’t pigeon-hole you into only repairs. The word “service” always appears friendly and professional to me.
Network Technician – Use this name if you plan on doing cabling and other types of hands-on networking jobs. A lot of businesses look for networking techs specifically and this will go a long way in getting you the types of jobs you’re looking for.
Computer Consultant – This is the jack-of-all-trades name that seems to be the most popular among independent computer guys. It’s professional and broad enough to cover any type of work you might want to do. Be careful, however, if you plan on dealing with residential customers only. Some folks might interpret this title as someone who deals mainly with business customers. Lets face it, you don’t go to a “hair consultant” to get a trim or to an “auto consultant” to get your oil changed.
Computer Liaison – This one popped into my head as I was writing this article. I think it’s an interesting spin on the title concept and I’ve never seen it used before. Anyone have the guts to try it?
Your Name Here – Of course, you can always avoid the title entirely and simply go by your name. This is more personal and natural, but to me, it’s very unprofessional. If you’re going to be working on computers for a living, you should probably create yourself a proper title.
Information Something or Something Analyst – Anything that uses the word “information” or “analyst” is meant for an enterprise setting. Unless you plan on playing with the big dogs, don’t name yourself using these words. They will only turn off your regular Joe Customer.
So far, I’m leaning toward Computer Consultant, because I eventually plan on targeting small business customers. I’m really tempted to go with Computer Liaison, but I’m too chicken!
A major theme of mine in the coming months is going to be setting customer expectations. What you call yourself in ads, and in person, will shape your customers expectations of you and, in turn, make your job harder or easier. You may even find yourself placing this title on a resume in the future. With that in mind, make sure you put some thought into your title and then be consistent and stick to the name you chose!
What do you refer to yourself as when you do independent computer work?