Touch Supports’ growth from our Tech Lead’s perspective

Touch Support team is growing! We have developed new roles, departments, and opened new offices to add talent to our ranks. Our promotion path allows our best-skilled techs to excel in managerial positions, such as Shift Lead, Team Lead, or Tech Lead roles. New roles bring new challenges. Apart from managing teams and projects, our team leads collaborate directly with our clients to provide consultancy and suggest improvements to their workflows and environments.

We asked Boris Jukic, Touch Support’s Tech Lead and a Team Lead for Tier 3 team to tell us more about his experience on the team. Boris helped us launch our Osijek office and is a crucial member of Touch Support’s core management team, focused on cloud technology and helping support unique custom environments.

  • How would you describe your start with Touch Support?

I first started as a Tier 1 technician. The initial contact with the company was in the Zagreb office while the Osijek office was still in preparations. This gave me a chance to meet all the incredible people in Zagreb office who helped me with the initial training, procedures and getting to know the company’s culture.

The onboarding lasted about a month and a half, after which I’ve moved to Osijek along with two other people who were on the training as well.

When we arrived in Osijek, there was a lot to do, setting up the workstations, chairs, tables and general day to day support tasks. I did my best to take care of daily office operations, functions, helped with whatever I could and eventually I became the Osijek Office Manager. I’m not going to lie; it was hard and demanding. I dived into what seemed like an ocean of responsibilities. The first staff that we hired in Osijek in the first month helped me set up new workstations and heavy lifting.

We were like a little family in our new office, doing everything together and bonding over time. This created a healthy and supportive working environment for everyone which we nurture to this day where there are 50 of us currently in the office and still rapidly growing.

  • Why did you choose Touch Support?

This is an easy one. At the time, I was working as Windows System Admin in another company in Zagreb, but my family and everyone close to me was in Osijek. The problem was that Osijek wasn’t the best place to move back to since we didn’t have any companies that offer sysadmin jobs of any kind.

I’ve also decided that I’m going to drop Windows sysadmin role which I’ve been doing for past eight years and switch to Linux completely.

When I saw a job ad for Touch Support and that they were hiring Linux support technicians in Osijek, I immediately applied.

This also meant that I’d have to start from scratch if I’m going to move back to Osijek and start a new career. I was a bit shocked that there is a company out there like Touch Support who would hire someone without practical experience and train them. I felt determined to succeed and willing to take my chances, and I was curious to see if I’m capable of pulling off the Linux transfer.

The rest is history I guess, I just kept on going, learning and progressing. Was it hard? It was incredibly hard since I’ve made myself a task that I’ll be a Linux sysadmin as soon as I can, those are tough goals, trust me. I’ve had help in the process, incredible help and I can’t thank enough to all the people that helped me, pushed me and dedicated their time to me, answering my questions ( and there were thousands of them! ). In the end curiosity, determination, and hard work are what got me where I am now. And the learning never stops!

  • How would you describe your progression path for someone that is aspiring to become a Tier 2 or 3 technicians at Touch Support?

I think each person has its approach and tactics. The usual career path for most people starting on Tier 1 is training, followed by earning the Tier 1 rank afterward – these two steps require a six month minimum for most people. Further progression to Tier 2 and three depends mostly on how much a person invests in the development of his or her career. Linux Tier 3 technicians make up a 3% of the total Linux support teams today.

In the beginning, I thought that the very start was the hardest step that I will encounter in the company, but in the end, it was a transition from Tier 2 to Tier 3 which I will explain later on.

I’ve started like everyone else on Tier 1 training, reading procedures, following the courses designed for Tier 1 on our educational platform, playing around in the test environment, doing chats and phones.

That lasted about a month and a half. I’ve caught up relatively fast on Tier 1 duties, technical demands and procedures. Although I tried to be mindful of my senior colleagues time, and I would bring about my questions only when I couldn’t find answers elsewhere, I still have a feeling that I hogged their time like it’s the end of the days. However, there just isn’t another way if you want to learn more and get all the answers you need.

After that month and a half, I’ve moved up to Tier 2 training which lasted about a month. From that month on, I’ve pushed myself beyond the limits, spending 12+ hours each day learning, coming home and pinging senior staff for help with the issues I didn’t have an answer to.
Sometimes they helped me and sometimes I’d figure it out by myself. It was rough; I won’t lie, however as time passed, I needed less help from senior colleagues.

When my training passed, and this is now two and a half months after I’ve started working in a company, I became a Tier 2 technician. The real job and struggle just began as there was so much work, so many things I had yet to learn Linux-wise, and it took me good seven months to start feeling comfortable doing my job. After seven months, for me, it began to feel like a walk in the park on Tier 2.

That’s when the real and I mean real challenge started, it was time for me to try and move on to Tier 3.

I always thought that it’s just more demanding technical work, but Tier 3 was all about taking charge, making decisions that earn trust with the management, showing the clients that we can anticipate their needs and resolve the most complex issues in their environment before it reflects on their business. The technical part was just a side quest, to be honest. It is a whole different story compared to Tier 1 and Tier 2. On Tier 1 and Tier 2, you’re resolving problems for individual clients, smaller issues and based mostly on one customer alone. When you’re diving into Tier 3 role, there are responsibilities of maintaining entire servers, clusters and each change you make is affecting hundreds or thousands of users.

I had to rise above the general notion of a ticket solver to a step where I can understand the complexity of the business needs of our clients and find ways to meet their requests and suggest improvements.

This was the hardest step for me in the company since I’ve started. It is incredible how much you’re responsible for and how your actions affect clients and end users directly.

The transition to Tier 3 required a different approach to the job, learning not to rush things, start doing things in more detail and getting used to taking more time for task resolution. Tier 3 training lasted about two months for me. I’ve decided to change some of my work habits to increase productivity under new responsibilities and examine my approach to problem-solving, of course, I relied on the help of my outstanding mentors. Thank you all, you know who you are.

The approach to solving more complex issues wasn’t just googling away things you don’t know; it required me to start reading complete documentation on specific product or service. We’re talking about thousands of pages of raw data, fun, fun!

Shortly after I’ve become a Tier 3 technician, due to staff change I got promoted again, this time to Tier 3 Lead.

I won’t go into details how challenging it was, I had tons of sleepless nights :)

After eight months as Tier 3 Lead, I’ve become Technical Lead as my role in the company expanded way beyond of what Tier 3 Lead does.

I’m still an avid student, as it is required of me to be skilled both in technical and in managerial skills today which means again staying after hours to catch up on things that I’ve missed or didn’t know. It is only now that I should know so much considering my role, that I’m aware of how much there is yet to learn.

  • Can you tell us more about your current role at Touch Support? Are there any differences between a Team Lead and a Technical Lead position?

Being a Technical Lead has its challenges. Since I’m also still a Tier 3 Lead, balancing everything is demanding on two fronts. On one, I still have to lead the team of sysadmins and on the other, I dedicate my time on other projects which include AWS, project management, documentation, training and interviewing people with the higher skill set.

The most significant addition to the Technical Lead role is also communication with the owners of the companies we support, which is challenging, finding a balance between technical and management part of me.

With two roles above, I’ve also had to handle office management and technical operations of the office as well up until recently when other people took over and saved me :)

When you’re balancing with so many roles, you get to know all of the people in your office, how they breathe, think and act. I did my best to train and help all the new people in the Linux department and a year after, they’re all at least Tier 2 techs, some of them even Tier 3 techs. I’m incredibly proud of all of them!

Currently, I’m mostly sitting comfortably in the role of Technical Lead and still learning about new things on a daily basis. My Tier 3 team is now doing significant server migrations and is continuously building our cloud competences center around products such as AWS and Azure.

I do have to say that throughout my career here at Touch Support and even to this day I have big support from the management, CEO and CTO without whom I highly doubt I would be where I am.

  • What does your department handle?

We handle multiple aspects regarding the technical part of our client’s environment as well as providing the best possible customer service we can.

One of the primary tasks of the Tier 3 team is to work on migration, I would dare say, of epic proportions. We’re migrating 500+ devices in a custom-written, outdated environment mixed with CentOS, RedHat, and Ubuntu systems to a newly built, secured, and supported environment made to meet our customer’s expectations. Migrations are an ongoing task which in total will last 8-12 months.

The timeline is defined assuming we don’t skip any steps or details. The preparation alone for the migration takes well over six months and includes: planning, building up documentation and specifications for the new environment and of course meticulously documenting their old environment as well.
Any mistake made, can potentially have a big impact on the end users which are counted in thousands, so there is no room for error.

Tier 3 staff is made of incredible team players, the complexity of tasks motivates all of them to bond by collaborating and supporting each other in dealing with challenges on a daily basis.

We also have a big project coming up with very demanding documentation that I’m very much looking forward to since it will be something that the company never did before on such a large scale.

With all of the above, the Tier 3 team is also providing regular day to day support directly for our clients and enhancing their cloud skills, AWS for one, which is in our top focus right now.

We also use our experience and knowledge in mentoring and training of our Tier 2 technicians. As the highest level of expertise among support technicians, we are here to support our Tier 2 colleagues on their progression path. We enable them to get the grasp of their future responsibilities in a much more demanding role, we lead by example and focus on their skill gaps as well as specific requirements of Tier 3 roles within Touch Support.

  • Considering you have had your share of challenges so far – could you point out things that made you proud as well as situations that caught you of a guard?

Since I can’t talk a lot about specific projects we’re doing, I can name a few things that presented a challenge for me.

Setting up Osijek office and getting to know and train people that were coming in is the thing I’m proud of the most. It’s just nice to see all of those people advancing, being promoted and building a successful career.

From a more personal aspect, I would say that becoming Tier 3 Lead was the most challenging part for me. I would never imagine that 18 months after joining the company, that I would be leading big migrations, planning and executing new projects, building competencies around AWS, Azure, etc. Jumping into management, finding a way around it and struggling to change my mindset was hard. I have had tremendous help, and support in this process and my management was understanding when I failed, those were all learning opportunities.
I still fail, learn from it and move on to the next challenge.

  • What would you point out as the essential skill that is perhaps most difficult to find (or cultivate) in newcomers to IT support industry today?

This is an easy one. I would say removing your ego completely when working, understanding that senior staff is here to help you and not laugh at you.

Patience, customer service and being polite and understanding overall is also a must.
I can’t tell you how many people don’t comprehend how much discipline and dedication is needed when working on skills development and improvement, and it’s a barrier for them to advance further.

IT services is an industry where you need to learn fast and not skip details in the process, and you’ll need them later on, trust me.

My advice for anyone starting with the company would be:

Leave the ego at the company doorstep, come in motivated, and set your goals and where you want to see yourself in a year time. Be patient, be curious and ask, ask, ask, I can’t tell you how important it is to ask questions. Be appreciative of the time people provide for you to help you.
And have fun along the way!