A recent interview for our tech support position drove a point home for me. Here is the conversation I had with the candidate.

Jeff: Suppose a customer asks how long it would take for Blow Up to enlarge an 8″x10″ photo to billboard size. What would you say?

Candidate: I would look on our web site to see if we have timing information. I’d also use Google to look for info on the web.

Jeff: That’s a good thing to try, but we don’t have that info on our web site and suppose you don’t find it on the web.

Candidate: Then I’d ask people around the office if they know the answer.

Jeff: That’s another good thing to try, but suppose no one in the office knows.

Candidate: Hmm, I would tell the customer that I can’t give an answer because their computer might be a different speed than mine.

Ack! No one has the answer ready for you, so you give up and make excuses? Even after five more minutes of discussion he didn’t come up with a way of even giving the customer a ballpark answer.

The right answer is, “I would try it myself.” The guy who got the job gave that answer. Robert, welcome to the team!

When you need an answer, be a scientist. The essence of science is experimentation. Science is not about just theorizing and reading books in the library. You go into the field, roll up your sleeves, and actually see what works.

Google is a wonderful source of information, but it can make you lazy. If the answer is important (like when a customer is the one asking) then use the Google answer as a starting point. Then go try the thing yourself!