Tips for Problem Solving

Tips for Problem Solving

For my entire career, troubleshooting has been there at every turn. It was something that came naturally to me. I always seemed to find myself in sticky situations and was often too stubborn to give up and throw in the towel.

I was eager to make things work which in turn led me to make mistakes. It was these mistakes which helped me learn, made me more knowledgeable and gave me the experience I have today. One of my favourite quotes:

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”
Albert Einstein

Lets rewind the clock. My first job I was an 18 year old trainee and I found myself being asked to configure IP addresses for a small office. After watching how my boss had configured the interface, I proceeded to copy exactly what I had seen. In about 10 minutes, there was a holler from the other side of the room. “Scott, have you accidently configured a PC with the same IP?”. In my head i was thinking “I don’t know!!” Not knowing any better, I had not only put a duplicate IP onto the network. I had configured every PC with the same address.

It is simple mistakes like that, which makes your IT career an interesting journey. Gone are the days where you had to terminate the last device on a SCSI cable or set up an external CD-ROM in order to install your Operating System.

It is a given. Things will go wrong in the IT industry. Some may be simple, complex or may seem complex.

When I am faced with a problem, I follow 4 main steps(in no particular order):

  1. Isolate the problem
    1. Use a known good
    2. Remove unnecessary components
  2. Find any error messages/alerts
    1. Look through log files
    2. Watch the console
    3. Listen for Beep codes
  3. Keep it simple
    1. Most issues are from something simple which has a greater effect on the rest.
  4. Replicate the issue
    1. If you can reproduce the issue and work out how you can make it happen then you can fix what is going wrong

For the most part. Google is your friend. But without the knowledge of what you are looking for, it can be merely a jungle of information. You need to be able to decide what is relevant, what is current and what is rubbish. More importantly to choosing the right result, is making sure you ask the right question. There have been many occasion where i have changed the way I ask the question only to find the result I was looking for. Some people like to refer this searching ability as their “Google Foo”. The higher the foo, to quicker the answer.

Google only goes so far, a lot of being an efficient IT person is experience. You sometimes need to understand the fundamentals of a particular system in order to diagnose the issues. Without this understanding, you can be left chasing your tail.

In order to be a truly great problem solver, you will need to have of made at least one mistake.