So, is being Mac certified really that big of a deal?
Well, before the interview, Jason slipped me his password for his AppleCare Service Training Course, so I nosed through some of the requirements and course prep myself. I found out that each AppleCare certified tech mush have a thorough, tested knowledge in: Diagnostic, Hardware Tools, Troubleshooting Theory (with an Apple-defined problem solving strategy that the technicians are expected to use), and Recognizing Accidental Damage.
The test also requires extensive knowledge in: Embedded Battery Handling (proper handling in all manner of MacBooks), Electric Static Discharge Precautions, Power Management, LCD Service Issues and Repairs, and Hardware Service Issues. Hardware repairs include best practices for Electric Static Discharge procedures (ESD) – to strap and ground yourself to remove static electricity, as even tiny shocks “from rubbing your feet on the carpet can destroy a logic board, or put a hole in resistor or chips with one little poke,” says Jason.
The Wireless Networking capabilities the Mac Cert Techs are required to have include: setup, troubleshooting and repairs for AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and Time Capsule as well as Bluetooth products. He also has to be able to efficiently troubleshoot and service the iMac, MacBook, ‘Air, and ‘Pro.Jason explained that he must have a full working knowledge of repairing devices under warranty, and of what accidental damage may or may not be covered AppleCare. The course also makes certain that each tech has a clear knowledge of Reference sources, so he will know where to find the answers if he doesn’t know them off the top of his head.
If that’s not enough, the Course Objectives commonly include: Terminology, Underlying Technology, and phrases like “Trained to isolate the issue in 3 minutes or less.” My favorite among these objectives, verbatim, is:
“Given a set of instructions and an external drive, configure a known-good diagnostic drive with install and startup volumes in 25 minutes.”
Next: Break down an AK-47 in under 4 minutes. Really, these guys have to be the Marine Corps of geek. Each of the 30-some sections contains around 10 course objectives just like the (serious) ones above, and the tech in testing must be able to demonstrate any of these skills when called upon.
Jason explains that Apple certified techs can repair any iOS devices: iPad, iPhone, and portable and desktop Macs. They are trained to deal with dropped devices, cracked screens, glass, and housings. He had to learn Hardware and Software–especially the New iOS system, Lion. “It’s going to be very user friendly, I like it,” he commented.
One fascinating element of the training shows just how tough the Macs are and how good the new iOS is, insofar as the hardware so rarely breaks. The course explicitly states the reason it requires certification in not only the hardware, but especially the software:
Technicians might believe that understanding the Mac operating system is secondary when it comes to repairing hardware. This isn’t true. Over 75% of system malfunctions can be traced directly to misused, incorrectly set, or corrupted software.
“There’s so much more on a Mac that’s software related,” says Jason, “Their hardware rarely fails. It’s a different world with a PC.”
He explained that the test covers customer based support issues, such as simple problems with software, and how techs had to be able to talk the customers through how to fix them. Common problems include iTunes issues, update issues, and the iPhone not syncing correctly with a computer.
Not only that, he has to be able to help customers EMOTIONALLY cope with a damaged machine.” (C’mon, we’ve all felt the soul-crushing anguish of a broken device.) Apple doesn’t neglect training its techs to work with customer complaints and objections, reminding the techs that “Denial is very human.”
So not only does he have to be the repair guy, as well as the tech-support guy, he has to be the grief counselor and shrink to overwrought customers.
“I also like long walks on the beach with my Mac. And my wife. Who is beautiful. Sorry, Honey.” Jason adds, as he enumerates his talents. Apple also emphasizes ongoing education, and techs are required to recertify every year. Since becoming Apple Certified, the next step Jason would like to take is to become an Apple consultant.