What is a Technical Support Engineer?

Bryon Turcotte

A technical support engineer deals with all levels of troubleshooting and problem solving for a given product. Using his technical knowledge, specific background, and overall product experience, this support professional is readily available to provide qualified support to the user of a specific product or service. Since technology fills most homes, schools, and businesses, these qualified individuals are needed to solve problems that may arise on a daily basis.

A technical support engineer deals with all levels of troubleshooting and problem solving for a given product, such as a server.
A technical support engineer deals with all levels of troubleshooting and problem solving for a given product, such as a server.

When technology is used constantly in every area of life, it is logical to assume that problems could happen at any time. A technical support engineer is most often required to be flexible and willing to be available at all hours in case problems develop. Sometimes a technical support engineer will be required to be available 24 hours a day to reflect the demands of both his residential and commercial customers.

A technical support engineer may offer assistance to employees in her own company.
A technical support engineer may offer assistance to employees in her own company.

Stress levels may run high because some users are not technically knowledgeable, and have no understanding of how to troubleshoot an issue. Sometimes a customer thinks, no matter the actual problem, that his issue should always be considered urgent. In some cases, depending on the technology and the complexity of the problem, the engineer cannot resolve the issue immediately. This may cause a user to become frustrated, which forces the support person to exercise patience and understanding to help limit the level of stress on both sides of the problem.

This individual is not only a support tool for the customer, but also is seen as a partner and advocate with the understanding of the specific process the user is exposed to each day. There is a growing need for support professionals who possess specialized industry knowledge and experience. A technical support engineer with a background in multimedia, finance, publishing, broadcasting, or education can prove to be a valuable asset to a company involved in one or more of these fields.

A technical support engineer, through experience, knowledge, and education, has the potential to accelerate success as a technical professional. When employed at a larger company, a technical support engineer may start by working on a less desirable shift or during the evening hours, but as experience builds, opportunities appear. With further training and education, he may be able to move into systems administration, network engineering, or database administration. Sometimes consultation opportunities arise, allowing the engineer to work with clients as an independent contractor, which can prove to be very lucrative, making the boundaries of this technical profession truly endless.

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Discussion Comments


@allenJo - I only have one thing to add. I think people who are in technical support should have some sort of training.

I don’t think it’s too much too ask, but in my company, no such training was provided. It was more or less “sink or swim.” They throw the software at you and some manuals, and then the phone starts ringing. Talk about high stress levels.

I’m not that good at faking my way through a support call, so I had to learn real fast. I did learn eventually, but there is a better way.

Companies who say they don’t have time to train simply won’t make the time in my opinion. When support personnel aren’t trained properly it’s the customers who suffer in the end.


@everetra - For some people, technical support is a career choice. That’s all that they want to do. For others, it’s a path to something better.

That’s the way that it was for me. I started out in technical support, and then started doing database stuff. Eventually I became a programmer.

That’s really what I enjoy doing the most. I like the creative aspects of programming rather than sitting around answering the phone all day.

However, I think as a programmer with technical support experience I am able to see the world through the end user’s perspective. I think all developers should have some support experience so that they can bridge what they know with what the user expects.

Too often programmers over engineer their solutions instead of aiming for the simplest solutions, which is often what end users want.


@David09 - Technical support jobs require a mix of customer service skills and technical proficiency.

Sometimes you find people who have one but not the other. We’ve had people come through our company who had the customer service skills but they didn’t have the technical know-how.

These people were gone within six months. You may be very gregarious on the phone and have an engaging personality, but if you can’t solve the problem you’re of no use.

I think I’m on the other extreme. I have the technical support skills but my soft skills are somewhat lacking. Nonetheless, I still have a job, because customers get answers to their questions, even if they are not entertained with small talk about the weather or the latest sports statistics.


I work as a technical support specialist at a software company, and I can tell you, it’s a job with ups and downs. The most challenging part, as the article says, is when you don’t have answers to a customer’s problem.

We are graded more or less on resolution times. What we want is first call resolution, rather than escalating the problem up to second tier support or even third tier when it becomes critical.

The only way you get the kind of knowledge necessary to really help customers quickly is to become a power user of the software yourself. Simply learning the software manual, even the administrative section, won’t get you there.

You have to pound away at the product, becoming like a software tester, until you uncover bugs and issues and resolve them through on your own. Then you will be able to quickly help your customers when they call.

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