Andrew Rosenstein started his company, TechPort, in 2009 and it seems like every week since has brought some new technological advance to computers. His company, which just moved into a new spot on Temple Street in Portland, is an authorized Apple service provider and helps local companies and customers with their PCs and Macs and other IT-related devices.
Rosenstein, who has degrees from Connecticut College and Columbia University, wrote fiction and did medical writing before turning to computers.
Q: How did you transition from writer to IT specialist? Seems like that’s a real left brain/right brain divide.
A: I’d always been involved with tech and there comes a point where you cross a line, where you are everybody’s help desk for the family and before you know it, people are hiring you. I’m largely self-taught. It became something that just grew, but very slowly at first. As Apple has added interesting new devices, my plate kind of expanded to include many of those. It went from helping family members to replacing logic boards for friends, and then you get a couple of referrals from friends of friends and the business grows.
Now we have three employees in Portland, two in Orono at the University of Maine. They run the tech service center at the University of Maine.
Q: Apple just released a host of new devices. How do you stay in front of those?
A: Apple makes it very easy for techs to train using their training program. You can become quite knowledgeable by being a good student of Apple.
Q: What kind of commitment is that?
A: All the techs here, including myself, are always training. We are now an Apple authorized service provider, so we have access to all of Apple’s training and we can talk to Apple’s engineers. That keeps us current. We offer warranty service, so we have to be up there with what’s coming through the door. A good technician is never done, so we’re always very excited when something new comes out. It presents new challenges, but it’s exciting.
Q: What are you training on now?
A: The newest versions of the MacBook that came out this past winter. It requires that we have specialized equipment that we purchase from Apple to analyze machines and make repairs.
Q: Is it difficult to balance the need for training and the need to be out in the field working for clients who pay the bills?
A: Like any business, you have to make continual investments. It really does have a huge payback. While it costs something to spend time training, the benefit is that very few people can repair these machines, so you’re one of the elite who can fix these things.
It is unrelenting, but I can’t say enough about the people who work with me. We’re all good at filtering things that are truly important, so we can focus less on the “wow” factor (of new equipment) and more on the “how is this working” factor.
Q: What about that timing? You started a new business in the depths of the recession.
A: It was hard scrambling for the next job as a writer and because of the economic crash, I was owed money that never materialized. So I needed a steadier stream of income and because I already had some talent at the tech work, I kept at it.
Q: And what about market trends? Don’t a lot of companies opt to replace computers rather than repair them?
A: It’s much more affordable for most small companies to continue to keep the machines they have in service than go out and buy new ones. The smart ones maintain their equipment until they absolutely have to upgrade. That’s where people like me come in handy; we can save them a lot of money by coming in to upgrade systems.