Tech departments are always one of the first places some clueless employees go to with all their questions, no matter how inane. “Why is my screen not on?” and “How come my computer got this taka taka sound?” are just some of the many inquiries that TheSmartLocal’s tech lead, Pearly Choong, has had to field over the years.
In a journey borne out of curiosity, I shadowed her and her team for about a week to see what are some of the weirdest questions they get.
Note: All images used below are for illustrative purposes only, and names have been redacted to protect the dignity of our colleagues.
Asked by: A video editor who was actually working from home that day and not in the office.
While Pearly gets this question more often than not, it used to only be asked when working from the office was still the norm.
“Because we are on Telegram right, a lot of the time people will just message me their WFH problems even though I can’t solve it,” Pearly lamented. Still, she’d try her best to fix someone’s issues even while remotely working.
This week, a colleague who shall not be named had a conundrum that even TSL’s proclaimed Tech Queen could not solve. They got on a video call and she tried to troubleshoot said colleague’s WiFi issues.
From Pearly’s experience, patchy WiFi is usually due to a poorly-positioned router or even spotty network coverage. However, in this specific situation, she actually uncovered a more severe issue with the video editor’s computer that had to be fixed in-person.
Asked by: An intern new to the company and hasn’t learnt about SEO yet.
Many companies share the goal of reigning supreme by appearing at the top of Google search results. And for many of us media folk, our aim is to have our content appear on the first page of Google. But just because you post something on the Internet, it doesn’t mean Google will magically bump it up.
For those not in the know, search engine optimisation (SEO) is what we have to do in order to achieve that and get all the eyeballs from inquisitive Singaporeans. It’s more than just crafting the right title and having a snazzy description, Pearly explained to me as she simultaneously replied to the new intern. Research and strategising is involved, too.
“You can’t expect it to be immediate as the search engine crawlers take time to extract your article’s information and display it,” she said. A few days later, I followed up with her and the intern to see if there was any progress. Alas, there the article was, sitting on page one.
Now the real work begins to maintain that prime position which might take some digital marketing knowledge to do.
Asked by: A writer who searched high and low for the “Search” button
“This one is not exactly a tech problem, but it is something that some writers, especially new ones, will ask me about in their first month,” Pearly lamented.
When the current layout of TheSmartLocal was being designed many moons ago, a search bar was somehow left out of the mobile user interface. So no matter how hard the said writer tried to look, they would have never been able to find the search bar if they’re on their smartphones.
Poor user interface and user experience design isn’t always apparent, only choosing to rear its ugly head in specific instances like this. It’s not limited to just search bars too. Elements like menu categorisation can lead to difficult navigation, leading to users leaving for another site instead.
Asked by: An ex-intern who texted Pearly out of the blue in the middle of the night.
“Just because I’m from the tech team, it doesn’t mean that I’m tech support, okay?” Pearly told me exasperatedly after she received a random text from a former intern asking for help with their hacked Instagram account. “This is always why I tell everyone to set up their 2FA security.”
For those unfamiliar with the term, 2FA stands for two-factor authentication. Many sites from Instagram to Amazon use this to protect their users with two layers of security; think of it like your bank’s OTP to verify your identity. It is but one way to protect yourself against threats like hacking.
Pearly also explains that folks like you and I with zero IT background can also learn more about cybersecurity – with the added bonus of it being a high in-demand job nowadays. “For example,” she said, “you’ll get to learn things like malware analysis, online privacy, and even basic programming and algorithms.”
Asked by: A senior editor who entered the wrong URL into their web browser.
One thing we take for granted is how easy it is to click on a link and get taken to the website you want, be it the latest TSL article or your favourite shopping portal. However, sometimes things can still go wrong, and our final destination is a dead end. On the Internet, this is also known as a 404 where there’s nothing on the page you went to.
An editor who is not as tech-savvy chanced upon this issue late into the week after publishing their article, and in a fit of panic called Pearly to figure out what was going on. I wasn’t there to witness the full conversation, but essentially these errors came down to either:
In a series of unfortunate events, the editor was using both an older browser and had entered the wrong link anyway, so there was no way they would have been able to read anything anyway.
Even though it seems like Pearly’s day-to-day is spent fielding the most random and repetitive questions from her colleagues, there’s a lot more to her job scope of being TheSmartLocal’s lead of the Technical Team.
What many people don’t see is the many hours spent developing our company websites, our in-house HR system, and a campaign report generator. That’s not including the plethora of other projects in-progress that have to be kept hush-hush for now.
All of this took her years of experience and training, but it’s not as intimidating as it seems. With the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) initiative, those who want to upskill themselves to be more technologically savvy and literate can also join her in the same path.
The TeSA initiative counts Workforce Singapore, SkillsFuture Singapore, and many other industry collaborators and companies like Grab, IBM, and PayPal as their partners for the jobs and training opportunities.
No matter if you’re a newbie seeking out a tech role or you’re a lao jiao and want a mid-career switch, there’s a TeSA programme out there for you.
And to my fellow colleagues at TSL: Perhaps after you’ve learnt more about HTML, 2FA, and the magic behind SEO, you might be able to troubleshoot your problems and answer your own questions, freeing up Pearly and her team’s time to work on other projects. Who knows, they might be going through a TeSA programme of their own too.
This post was brought to you by Infocomm Media Development Authority.
Photography by Milim Tay.
Cover image adapted from: Instagram, WordPress
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