Being a Geek Means Sometimes Having To Explain Yourself
Got an interesting phone call this morning from a company that sells Voice over IP (VOIP) hardware and accessories on a Business to Business basis. They had my name in their customer database and were quite confused as the company name I had listed was simply “Jonathan Westfall”. The conversation went something like this:
Sales Rep: Hi, this is X from Y, and I was wondering if your previous voice over IP hardware purchases were for yourself or a company
Me: Uh… OK
SR: Yes, I know it’s an odd question, but you’re in our database and your company is just listed as “Jonathan Westfall”, and we were wondering if you had purchased the equipment for a company.
Me (realizing the purchases they are referring to): Oh yea… I think you’re talking about some Voice over IP equipment I purchased last year… it was for personal use.
Now at this point I probably should explain myself. About 2 years ago I read an article talking about Asterisk, and thought “Hey, that sounds kinda cool”. I had been interested in phone/computer interactions for a long time (ever since trying to turn a computer into an answering machine, with software I never got working quite as well as I’d liked). So I did a bit of research on Asterisk and decided to teach myself how to set it up and, by extension, how Voice over IP worked. I took some of my geek “fun money” and spent about $200 on various hardware (that I still have in case I need to wire up an office worth of phones) and devoted an old machine to be my Asterisk box. I put phones in practically every room of a small ranch house (connected over wireless bridges as I didn’t have Ethernet hookups in the rooms), built custom equipment boxes that packed a wireless bridge, voice over IP box, and power strip into a compact package, and hooked up my Asterisk box to the outside world using a service called CallWithUs. After around 3 months I realized that the setup wasn’t exactly needed in a household of 2 people and a cat, and the bandwidth on my Sprint wireless card (which I was using for internet) wasn’t sufficient to run VoIP with any good quality. So I packed up my equipment and decommissioned the server. It was a great experience – I learned far more about VoIP than I knew before (and thus could wire up an office if I felt like it now…), and had a lot of fun for $200. Haven’t played around with it much lately so that’s why it wasn’t on the top of my mind when this sales rep called. So back to the conversation:
SR: Uh… so the purchases were…
Me: Yea, just for me. I’m a geek, and I got interested in VoIP a few years ago and decided to teach myself how it worked. So those are the purchases you’re seeing, they were just personal use.
SR: Well.. that’s actually pretty cool. You have no idea how valuable those skills you learned are going to be!
Me: Yes, I hope so. So I’ll keep your company in mind if I ever need anything, thanks for calling.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that this geek was also a psychologist who was quite happily working in a profession quite far away from VoIP phones (Other than the fact I have a VoIP phone in my desk drawer at work right now… just for fun).