Tools – What you don’t need

Opinion, Professional Development No Comments on Tools – What you don’t need 1998

I’m always so amazed when I see what people invest in when they deal with their profession. I just went through the purchase of another one of my local competitors (topic for another post), and I inherited an absolute armada of tools. Everything from diagnostic tools to power tools to electrical tools to hand tools. Network testers to voltage meters to screw drivers.

Now don’t get me wrong, certain tools have usefulness. Network cable testers, for example, can be very handy. They tell you if an Ethernet cable is terminated properly and can even certify what speeds it can carry data at. If you do any type of cabling work, these devices are a must. But aside from these very specialized and specific tools, you really don’t need anything out of the ordinary. I’ve seen IT students going through courses talking about the “thousands of dollars” they’ll need to spend on tools and equipment before they can “get into the field”. Now I can somewhat understand this as these people are inexperienced and just don’t know any better in a lot of cases. But even people working in the industry can get into this mindset too. Case in point, I just inherited a 12 drawer toolbox full of tools. Tap and die sets. About 2 million bit sets. Every screw driver you can think of. A full set of metric AND imperial sockets and drivers. Ohm meters. Voltage meters. Etc, etc, etc. I estimate that if I went and purchased all these tools right now, not including the toolbox itself, it would cost about $10,000.00.

So what’s my favourite tool out of the bunch ? The one I use the most, both on-site and off ? Well, I purchased it about 3 years ago and it cost me ~$40.00. Here it is:
Yep, a Swiss Army credit card size tool kit. In all seriousness, I have used this tool inside and outside the office more than any other tool I own. For the sake of it, let’s go through it. There is a square shaped flat screwdriver that has 4 bit ends, two Phillips and two flat head. There is a built-in flashlight. There is a fairly sharp knife, which I’ve used to cut and strip cabling with. The scissors come in handy when you run into those annoying zap-straps that you have to cut in order to free some cabling. I can’t begin to count how many computers I’ve opened with this kit. I recall one time, about 3 years ago, I had to open a Dell 1U server to figure out why it wasn’t getting any power (turned out the motherboard was dead). One other time I had to cut and terminate an Ethernet cable into an RJ-45 end. I achieved that by using the knife to push down in each individual pin connector on the RJ-45, one pin at a time. This is an excellent, versatile tool, and most importantly, it fits in my pocket and goes everywhere I go. It’d be great to take a tool case with me everywhere, but let’s be honest, that’s just not going to happen for the majority of us.

The point of this example is that you don’t need thousands of dollars of tools to start in this profession. I’m not saying that additional tools can’t be helpful, but I often find that people use this as an excuse on why they aren’t moving their careers, businesses and start-ups forward. “I’ll start doing tech work when I can afford the tools” is a simply a scape-goat. There no excuse not to get out there and start building your dream.


Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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