A Day in the Life of an IT Pro: Tier 1 Help Desk Specialist

by Emily Matzelle | May 19, 2017

IT-Ready grads at their graduation partyEarlier this year we caught up with Mai Yia Vue, a Creating IT Futures IT-Ready graduate who was offered a position as a help desk specialist for U.S. Bank in Minneapolis after earning CompTIA A+. Nine months into her first IT job, we checked back in with Mai to learn about her job and her plans for the future.

When we first talked to you about your experience with IT-Ready, you were working as a help desk specialist for U.S. Bank – are you still working there?

Yes, I’m still an IT help desk specialist at U.S. Bank. We provide support for internal U.S. Bank employees who have technical issues. I’ve been in this position for about nine months now.

Can you describe what a typical workday looks like for you?

A typical day begins with logging in and setting up all of my programs for the day. As an IT help desk specialist, I am responsible for the support of numerous systems. I always have at least 10 different applications open. Once I’m set up, I’m assigned to take either calls or chats. Both are set up in a way that I’m “on-call” for incoming calls or chats. The work I do daily is pretty broad. Some examples include password resets, how-to’s, break/fix, uninstall/reinstalls or escalations for larger issues as needed.

When you accepted this position, did you have all of that knowledge, or was there some training involved?

Everything isn’t done from scratch or memory. I have access to documentation that helps – a knowledge base of sorts. During training and actually being on the job, it was challenging to apply what I learned in a real scenario. But, it’s part of taking on a new job. You have to know that the hands-on work is going to be a lot different than your training.

What are the most common questions you get from people who call or chat in?

The most common questions come after I help them resolve their issue. Users tend to ask what can they do to prevent the issue from happening again. They are usually very interested in learning about the systems they work with and about computers in general.

I give CompTIA A+ credit for familiarizing me with the terms and understanding critical concepts that are necessary for me to be effective at my job.

You’ve been on the job for about nine months now – what has been the biggest surprise?

My colleagues and I are the first line of defense for issues that happen within the technology side of the company. It’s a huge responsibility, as issues can range from software features not working correctly to whole servers being down, and that can cause the company to lose money. It intimidated me at first, but I’m glad I’m part of this important team.

Setting the initial intimidation of such a huge responsibility aside for a moment – what do you enjoy the most about what you do?

Most definitely, the best part of my day is when, as a Tier 1 specialist, I am able to resolve the issue. That means that the user who called or chatted in is up and running again and they don’t have to wait for a more experienced technician to get involved. It feels great to be able to help a colleague.

You mentioned that you’re a Tier 1 specialist. What challenges did you face as an entry-level IT pro coming into your first job in the field?

The main challenges are all about content. Working in a support center that handles several different applications can be overwhelming. It took time to nail them all down. The learning is continuous. As systems in the company change, new things appear. It’s challenging to keep up.

And, what do you do to keep up?

I always ask questions whenever I don’t understand something. I am lucky that my service center always has a chat open with the other technicians. We use this chat to post questions and help each other out. I reach out to my managers as well and they are always happy to help. As new things come into play I take notes and keep them handy. You really have to make it a priority to stay on top of what’s new while reviewing the standard content.

Mai Vue in the computer lab at IT-Ready

That brings me to your CompTIA A+ certification. Do you use what you learned in this position?

Yes. Having the A+ knowledge definitely helps me. I give CompTIA A+ credit for familiarizing me with the terms and understanding critical concepts that are necessary for me to be effective at my job.

What do you see in your future? What’s the next step in your IT career?

I am very interested in the knowledge base we have at our service center. I would like to be a part of the team that does research and updates the knowledge base so that we’ll have even more resolutions upon the first interaction with the user. I’m still working on becoming an expert at my job so I can help our team work even better together. U.S. Bank has many IT positions that are more specialized. Once I have made myself an expert in this role – who knows? I may want to move into a more specialized field.

Do you have plans to pursue any other CompTIA certifications?

I do plan, in the future, to get more certifications in either networking or servers. As first-level support, I would like to learn more about these critical issues.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone who would like to transition into a career in IT?

The learning process is ongoing – it will take time. My managers told me that it takes six to eight months for one to become familiar and comfortable in my current position. It’s important not to be hard on yourself if you make mistakes, but just learn from them. Do your best and ask for help when needed. And, know that you’re definitely not alone in your questions! Lastly, really put those soft skills you learned in class to use in your first job – they will help a lot!

Ready to take the first step in your IT career? See if CompTIA A+ is right for you.


  • Linden Adams

    Saturday, June 3, 2017

    very helpful, im trying to transitiion myself into an IT field too. i will write my A+ exams within the next two months.

  • Whitney

    Friday, July 14, 2017

    This was a good read! I'm also transitioning into IT.

  • M.E.W.

    Monday, July 31, 2017

    For those of you starting into IT, A+ is a great starting place. And consider CompTIA's other exams as you continue your career. Network+ builds on what A+ starts, and the rest of their certifications are great to build even more knowledge.

  • Tim

    Friday, September 15, 2017

    I am just pass my first year anniversary as an IT helpdesk technician. The hardest lesson I've had to learn to date is how to control my stress. I have a tendency anxiety and stress in all aspects of my life. With the help of some of the senior members of my team I was able to recognize and control that stress. This has improved the quality of my and my life. As stated in this article, the best part of my day is resolving a ticket. Living stress controlled has gotten me a lot more of them

  • Jamar

    Sunday, September 17, 2017

    Currently self studying for my CompTIA A+ and reading this article gives me a lot of hope one day being on that other side of the door. I can't wait, I know I have a long road ahead of me. But I can do it, I've been around computers since Windows '98 and built my first PC in 2001.

  • Shadrack

    Saturday, September 23, 2017

    I am happy for you all guys who are working as IT Professionals, I passed my A+ & N+ in 2007 & 2008 respectively but no relevant job as yet and the age is making it more difficult

  • Welcome

    Monday, November 20, 2017

    I passed my a+ exam last week and looking forward to do n+ lets keep motivating each other

  • Marylynn Velasquez

    Thursday, April 5, 2018

    I am so happy to have read this article. Inwas definitely doubting myself with the career choice I have made but this article definetly motivated me to continue my career in IT which I genuinely enjoy so far with my training. Thank you.

  • Larry

    Tuesday, August 28, 2018

    This article was so good it gave me even confidences on pursuing a IT job. I'm currently transitioning out of my current career and into the IT field. Right now I'm learning the IT Fundamentals and then I'm going to take my A+ and then hopefully land a Tier 1 help desk job as my first job in the IT field.

  • Bob

    Monday, June 24, 2019

    Is 48 years old to late in career life to transition into an IT position ? What is the yearly income at entry level and what is an average top out salary ? Thank you

  • Monday, June 24, 2019

    Hi, Bob! Thanks for your comment. No, 48 years old is not to late to get into IT. If you are driven and have a passion for the field, you can do it. Common entry-level IT positions include help desk technicians and technical support specialists. They earn an average of $50,000/year in the United States. Keep in mind this number may vary depending on your location, the company and the job description. Know that it is possible to move up quickly in IT, so view this as a stepping stone along your journey. Take a look at this article about changing careers at any age to get started: https://certification.comptia.org/career-change/plan/how-to/30-40-50 Good luck!

Leave a Comment

Boost your Career with a Certification

Find out more about our Certifications

How to get Certified

4 Steps to Certification

Already certified? Let us and others know!

Share Your Story