Thursday, January 26, 2012

Module 4

            Although there are a myriad of jobs that are connected to computers, there is a unique skillset in being able to fix any computer problem that arises.  I couldn’t find a specific job with “the responsibility of fixing all possible computer problems” listed in the job description, but, ironically, there is a high demand for such a skillset.
            A person with this skillset, and the person I decided to interview, is my brother-in-law, Aaron.  He is an information technology specialist for the Utah Highway Patrol.  I have known for a while that he dealt with computers, but I never talked to him about what he did until I interviewed him for this Module.  He actually started as a normal Utah Highway Patrol State Trooper, but it didn’t take long for his co-workers to discover his talent with computers.  He became the go-to guy for computer problems.  He said that there is a huge level of satisfaction in relieving other people’s headaches.
            Over the course of a several years, his career slowly faded from pulling speeders over to working more and more on computers.  Today, he doesn’t do any traffic enforcement.  He is basically a traveling IT specialist.  He travels from patrol car to patrol car.  He also fixes computers in 911 dispatch centers and even computers in the Highway Patrol State Offices.  The transition was almost comical.  I was on a ride-along with him about eight years ago, and as we were patrolling I-15, he got a call over the radio from dispatch.  I can’t reiterate the exact conversation, but the dispatcher said “we have a huge problem.”  When I heard the dispatcher say that, I thought ‘Yes, I get to see some real police action!’  He flipped his lights and sirens on and started driving as fast as he could.  The anticipation built as I was envisioning experiencing something like a runaway bank robber or a drug-dealer sting operation.  My hopes were abated, however, when we pulled into the dispatch station so that Aaron could fix a critical computer that had gone down.  After Aaron fixed the computer, I said to him “We drove that fast so that you could fix a computer?”  He responded by saying “without that computer operating, dispatchers can’t act as quickly, and seconds can make the difference between life and death in this line of work.”
            As soon as he said that, I realized his job of maintaining information systems was just as important as anything he could have been doing out in a given community, if not more so.  Information systems are critical to everything that police officers do.  Each police car has a laptop with wireless internet so that officers can connect to different databases, such as the DMV database.  Dispatch centers are also incredibly computerized, as are Highway Patrol offices.  If the computers used by the Highway Patrol go down, law enforcement is basically incapacitated.  
            The most interesting thing about being a computer-repair professional is that having actual knowledge is more important than having formal schooling.  Aaron has no schooling beyond high-school.  He is just a computer junkie, and he is now one of the lead computer specialists in the department.  The information technology field changes so rapidly that having a degree isn’t enough.  Continual updating and learning is required more so in the IT field than in any other field.  For some people, it takes work to keep themselves updated, but for people like Aaron, it takes very little effort because it is so much fun to them!  That was the impression I got when I interviewed Aaron about what he did – that this was something he just loved.


  1. Love the story and enjoyed reading your post. It was very entertaining. I hadn't realized the importance of a computer-repair professional in the Sheriff Department. I'm guessing there are a lot of fields out there that require someone like your brother in law, but are often not thought of by individuals uninvolved in the area. I too realized that knowledge matters more than your formal schooling does after my interview.

  2. This was a very informative and interesting post. It would seem that technology has influenced considerably law enforcement and first responders. It is amazing how computers and technology have influenced so many jobs and industries.

  3. Did your brother-in-law receive any additional training to fix computers as well as highway patrol? What a great example of being able to do something in a job that didn't exactly start out that way. I have never really put much thought into the fact that the highway patrol would rely on computers working properly, but it seems common sense. I also wrote about my brother-in-law who is serving in the Navy. Another career field that I wouldn't have thought there would be a hug need for IT work.