Kelly Chessen | Survival Guide: Perspectives from the field

Interview with Kelly Chessen, data crisis counselor, DriveSavers Data Recovery Inc.

Kelly Chessen, data crisis counselor, DriveSavers Data Recovery Inc.


It can make you cry, it can make you scream, it can even make you insane. But Kelly Chessen of DriveSavers Data Recovery Inc. tries to ensure that won't happen even though your hard drive bit the dust. The Novato, Calif., company helps people whose computer drives have been lost, damaged or destroyed. Chessen spoke with Staff Writer Roseanne Gerin about lending a comforting ear to the panic-stricken, and how her five years at a California suicide-prevention hotline helped prepare her for the task.

WT: What are the most typical calls you get?

Chessen: It's always somebody has lost data. Whether it's a hard drive or a floppy or a memory card, that depends upon who calls in. Most of the calls are hard-drive failures. You're dealing with anybody from corporate clients who are going to lose their jobs if they don't get files off the drive or who have a big presentation next week that is only on the drive, to moms calling because they've lost all of their baby's pictures from the last three years.

WT:What are some of your more memorable calls?

Chessen:Universities where they have drives in facilities that are doing research on animals, and they've been flooded. Now you have a drive that's been contaminated not only by the floodwater itself, but also by what's inside the flooded research facility. It is definitely not a nice recovery to deal with.

Typically, when you find extreme cases, with corporate clients, it's usually somebody with high prestige within the corporation who has lost files and something is on the line ? whether it's a job or a big presentation. What you find with corporate clients is they just didn't back up their data on the server.

WT: What is the strangest case of hard-drive damage that you've ever heard?

Chessen: A company called about a hard drive in a liquid-cooled system that had failed when the coolant leaked onto the drive. You had this drive that not only failed, but also was hazardous material because now it had coolant all over it.

WT: What about calls from federal government clients?

Chessen: For the most part, they're the same as dealing with corporate clients. When it comes to the government, it's just somebody in the office who has lost files and needs to get them back. Occasionally, we will see a drive that is extremely confidential come through the office, and we do have government clearance to deal with these.

WT:Is there a certain formula to handling these callers?

Chessen:You could say there's a formula that's based on working in the crisis hotline field. The main thing to do is give the person space and time to talk about the problem. Callers that are extremely upset need time and space to get the problem out. I ask them a lot of questions about what happened with the drive and the situation to let them know I'm here. What I'm trying to do is establish rapport and trust with these people. Then I help them deal with their feelings and emotions. This involves techniques such as active listening or mirroring, or validating their issues, problems and feelings.

WT:How did your previous work as a suicide prevention hotline specialist prepare you for this job?
Chessen:Dealing with people in an extreme crisis is not something any of us is trained to do on a daily basis. So being able to listen to people over the phone, hear what they're saying, help them deal with their issues and emotions, and see that there is a possible solution to their problems is valuable training that I got on the suicide-prevention crisis hotline. Working here at DriveSavers was an easy transition. Both involve people who are upset and angry.

WT:What is different about the two sets of callers?

Chessen:The main difference is that when you're working on a crisis line, you can get calls from somebody who lost a job, whose child has died or whose husband is having an affair. Whereas here,
it's the same story over and over again.
At DriveSavers, it's all data loss. It's a little easier here, because you know what's going to happen when you pick up the phone.

WT:Any desire to go back to your old job?

Chessen:No, thank you.

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