In the last two posts, we’ve considered two of the characteristics of great technical artists; Situational Awareness and People Skills. Today, we’ll cover another trait that I’m finding sadly lacking in many of the younger techs I encounter (if I’m being honest, and it’s my column, so I can be).
Characteristic Three: Troubleshooting Skills
It seems fairly obvious but apparently it’s not; technical artists work with some pretty complex equipment and systems. Sometimes (and sometimes too often), things go wrong. Cables are unplugged, or plugged in the wrong spot. The wrong file gets loaded, a patch is changed in a console, or a piece of hardware fails outright. If you do this for any length of time, you will run into situations that require troubleshooting.
I’ve written an entire post dedicated to developing troubleshooting skills, and I’m not going into that much detail here. However, it is imperative that you learn how to figure out what to do when something goes wrong. Because something will go wrong. Not if, but when.
It should be noted that becoming a great troubleshooter takes time. A lot of time. One of the reasons I’m so good at it is because I’ve been doing it for a long time (almost 30 years). That big chunk of time gives me a huge database of troubleshooting situations I’ve been in that I can cross-reference against any new trouble I have.
My troubleshooting career spans many disciplines as well; I can usually come up with a solution to just about anything because I’m not at all afraid to taking things apart when they break. But I said I wasn’t going to go into how to troubleshoot. Really I want to talk about why.
If you are a technical artist, you are in that role to make technical equipment work. Your senior pastor probably has no idea how to get sound of your digital console. It’s unlikely that your worship leader can program your lighting board. And let’s be honest, they shouldn’t need to know that—that’s why you have a job (whether you get paid for it or not is inconsequential).
Your job is to make that stuff work. Your leadership needs someone in that role who can “figure it out.” Yes, we all know things break, but the true test of a technical artist is how they pull the service off even when something is broken. Thankfully, for most of us, full-blown hardware failures are rare. Most of the time, the problem is fixable, and great techs can get things fixed quickly and get everyone back in operation with minimal downtime.
This trait is especially important if you are a leader of a technical team. Standing in the booth with your hands in the air while your team looks on does not inspire confidence. Figure it out! Start at one end of the chain and figure out where it’s broken. Get something working. Don’t give up. Developing troubleshooting skills takes time. But like investing for retirement, the earlier you get started, the more you have to work with as life goes on.
A great technical artist knows how to troubleshoot their system and get things back up and running quickly when things go awry. Combined with Situational Awareness and People Skills, and we have the makings of a top tech. Next time, we’ll look at a trait that often get overlooked, musical ability (or at least a passion for music).