Field NotesThe Doctor Is In

Matt Hester

NOT LONG AGO it occurred to me that being an IT pro is somewhat similar to being a doctor. This revelation hit me when I was first using Windows Vista™. At the time I was having networking connectivity issues. After hours of ping, ipconfig, and even a few reboots, I saw a new word that triggered the natural curiosity that we IT pros all share: "diagnose." Typically, when working on an operating system, I see words and phrases like "repair," "status," "task manager," and "send error report" that help me navigate the byways of the operating system. But seeing the word "diagnose" made me think about the similarities in the two professions.

In the first place, both doctors and IT pros have qualifying exams and certifications that allow us to put certain acronyms after our names. These acronyms identify our specializations and hopefully look impressive on the wall or on business cards.

Like doctors, IT pros also have a great many resources that we use to solve problems. Doctors consult with their peers and search for information in professional journals and on the Internet. We IT pros also confer with our peers and do research on the Internet and in technical publications (particularly TechNet Magazine of course!) to help us resolve problems.

Furthermore, doctors and IT pros both rely on trusty tools. Doctors have tried-and-true instruments like the stethoscope; we have ping. They both allow us to listen to what is going on.

The last commonality is social in nature. When doctors and IT pros attend social events, we often find it critical to hide our professional identities. Alas, at a recent party, people somehow found out what I did for a living and suddenly I became extremely popular. But that popularity came at a price: I also lost my identity as a charming human being. I simply became the "PC guy" and, by extension, the unwilling onsite support specialist for all the party guests: "Hey PC guy, why did my computer crash this morning?" "Hey PC guy, where is the Any key?", "Hey PC guy, can you fix my Mac?", The worst part was that I saw a doctor across the room grinning at me with a broad, knowing smile as he continued to dance, uninterrupted.

But back to my connectivity problem: after about three hours of unsuccessful attempts to connect, I clicked the newly discovered Diagnose and Repair button. Imagine my shock and embarrassment when I saw the reply screen shown below:

With my mouth agape and my face burning, I looked around the room to make sure no one was watching. Then I reached around my PC and plugged in the cable. Since that happy day, I have worked further with Windows Vista and used the diagnose capability extensively. It has saved me a huge amount of time in finding the root cause of many issues. It also integrates very well with the Problem Reports and Solutions control panel, which allows you to search for additional information online. Check it out, prior to pulling your hair out.

Later that night as I drifted off to sleep, happy that I had successfully identified and solved my network connectivity problem, I wondered: does this mean I get to play more golf and drive a fancy new sports car?

Matt Hester is a TechNet Presenter on the Microsoft Across America team. Learn more about the presentations he delivers at You can also visit his blog at

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