In the foxhole
The most interesting and challenging part about being a bench technician is the wide variety of computer systems and problems you encounter on a daily basis. Repair technicians for large OEMs only need to know their own system configurations and they usually have the tools and database information already laid out for them. As a result, very little tech trouble-shooting is necessary. Most of the time, the answer is already present in a book or training manual.
On the other hand, when you work for an independent service shop, you get to see a bit of everything, almost every day. Reference materials are worth their weight in gold. The more books and OEM partnerships you have in your possession, the better equipped you are to fight the wars to come.
After working as a bench technician for several years, I can honestly say that I have probably seen nearly every imaginable problem an end user can have with his or her computer. As I stated before, one of the major challenges a general bench tech has to face is the sheer number of hardware and software configurations floating around out there.
Fire in the Hole!
Being a general bench technician usually means that you have to deal directly with a wide variety of customers. Sometimes the customer is a very nice person, and other times the customer is less than nice. You need to have the ability to deal with both types of people. As the saying goes, "The customer is always right." This is frequently not the case, however, but it's your best interest to always treat the customer as if they are right.
You don't have to like everyone you meet, but when you work in the service business, it's all about keeping repeat customers. If the customer likes you, they will buy equipment from you, or, in this case, leave their computer for service. The customers that begin to think of you as a friend will become your best customers (this can sometimes make for a sticky business relationship since "friends" will sometimes expect unreasonable extras).
Don't I get a purple heart for this?
I've compiled together some of the more interesting repair jobs and customers I've come across during my years as a bench technician. Note that many of the technical difficulties were a result of my own inexperience. For better or worse, many times I've ended up coming out of the battle with scars (some physical due to poorly designed computer cases).