Hello From the Other Side (Of the Techline)

by Matt Farrell

I’ve never considered myself to be much of a “tech guy”. When I joined the Phired Up team in 2017, none of the reasons I came to work here involved technology. I wasn’t passionate about it or great at it. When I’m traveling for training days, I still feel lucky when I set the projector up right on the first try.

However, I’ve recently found myself starting this year in a new role with shifts covering on our “techline” as part of the on-call TechniPhi support team.

Chances are you or a someone you know has called the techline. There’s someone on it 24/7 for recruitment season ready to help with CampusDirector, MyVote, or ChapterBuilder. I’ll be honest, I knew nothing about how this worked even being at the company for a full year. From what I could gather from my colleagues, I was visualizing an invisible hot potato jumping from person to person through hectic recruitment weekends.

Now that I’ve made it a month, here’s some discoveries from the other side of the line.

1. Objective results:

Over the past few years, it has amazed me at how much of fraternity & sorority work is subjective. We are trying to help members grow as better humans, but most outcomes are based on individual interpretation. Any advisor or professional can create something and find a way to measure it, but how do we know for sure who to put the onus on? We ultimately have to hope our students care enough to listen, and if they don’t it’s easy to put the blame on them instead of us.

The opposite is true for the techline, because every question we get is purely objective: Where is this button? What setting do I need to turn off? How do I get back into my account? There is usually only one clear outcome. It’s still taking some getting used to, but I find it refreshing for our field.

2. Long days don’t seem so long anymore:

It’s no secret that workdays in student affairs can get lengthy, especially with evenings and weekends. Luckily, we love what we do. This combination produces a phenomenon I like to call “bragplaining” where folks share the amount of hours they work as if it’s a trophy. Well if that’s the case, this crew gets the trophy! You can’t beat a 24 hour workday on the techline (unless it’s with our roughly 60 hour weekend shifts).

In all seriousness, sunrise to sunrise shifts are long but have helped me realize how much more I can get done on an “average” workday. It also is a grounding experience to push aside the daily to-do list to help whatever unexpected troubles from others come your way.

3. Developers are awesome:

I didn’t really know any of the developers on our team before this. Erik, Taylor, Gerrit and Patrick are all super cool dudes with a passion for bettering fraternity, sorority, and humanity. Not to mention, they are purely solution-oriented all the time. Even while they’re working with people like me that have never touched a line of code, they never get frustrated and always have their mind on the fix.

I think it’s so cool that Gerrit and Taylor didn’t have a fraternity experience, but have grown to appreciate it through this work. It shows the potential we have not just for our own members, but for everyone we touch.

4. It’s All Connected:

Like I said before, I’m not a tech wiz, and may never be. That’s fine. The best part is simply knowing enough to realize how it fits into everything else. Technology, education and strategy are so connected in the ways our students want to (and need to) grow. Every headquarters and campus needs a growth system—that could not feel like more of a reality to me after traveling for my HQ and as a Phired Up educator. I feel that my time in technology hasn’t pulled my mind away from education and strategy much at all. If anything, it’s given me a realization that technology is the first step of the system. Once everyone is connected, we can do some awesome stuff.

5. Sometimes you don’t have the answer:

This has been the toughest, but most important, realization for me.

Before the techline, anytime I got a recruitment question I could take my best shot at it or send a resource over later. Whether you call this BSing, sharing perspective, or stalling—the asker still gets what they asked for.

But now being in the objective world of technology, not having the answer comes with the territory. It is tough not always being able to solve a problem off the top of my head. I’m still new to this, and I’m constantly asking my colleagues for help. But I suppose these are valuable truths of life that I wouldn’t have understood before this experience.

By now, you’ve probably realized benefits of recruitment technology you never would’ve otherwise thought of. Sometimes, those lead to random issues no one could ever expect—hence the existence of the techline.

But whether it’s a quick email or a middle of the night phone call—I can say one thing for sure: we’re here to listen.