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 Post subject: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: February 17th, 2021, 10:18 
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Joined: February 17th, 2021, 5:42
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Location: Germany
I have been interested in physical/hardware based data recovery for a very long time, but I still ask myself (and now you) how to professionally become an expert on that topic. Yes, there are a lot of information that you can read here or there, meanwhile there are even products and product-teachings available (e.g. by ACELabs and Cellebrite) but those seem like very small pieces of the puzzle.

Looking at career pages of "looking not so suspicious" companies in Central Europe like Ontrack (Germany) or Seagate Recovery Services (Netherlands) it seems like nobody is ever looking for something like "entry level engineers". When asking data recovery companies for "how to become a data recovery specialist in your company" most companies do not reply at all, which makes me feel like the "many data recovery specialist act like their knowledge/skillset is much higher than it actually is" stereotype is true for many companies in this field.

Having a Background in Computer Science (M.Sc.), Computer Forensics and IT Security and because of personal interest I know quite a few things about file systems, hardware functionality, cryptography and even binary analysis -- all valuable skills in this field -- but I still have no idea how to get into physical data recovery the professional way. It feels like many "upcoming experts" just start their own business and try their best, putting clients data at risk because they don't know better and therefore hide behind a "mysterious skillset". Having worked as a forensic expert some "professionals" were not even willing to show their "lab" to potential partners (the idea of the company that I worked for back then was to outsource hardware recovery but due to this lack of transparency I think the company tells customers that they cannot help them even today.)

So what is your experience, how did you end up being a data recovery professional (if you are)?

Thanks for Reading.


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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: February 23rd, 2021, 8:15 
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Joined: February 17th, 2021, 5:42
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Location: Germany
I got a PM from a user regarding this topic but I cannot find a button to answer the pm (may I am not registred long enough?), so I will answer here instead:

My ideal scenario would be to work at a company where some people care about the non-technical stuff that is needed (accounting, sales, maybe discover replacement part etc.) and some more experienced (data recovery) specialists are around to learn from. I am not sure wheather I would prefer learning "on the job" or in trainings, but I think many aspects that you would usually put in trainings (fundamentals) are already known to me.

I dont feel comfrotable being one of those freelancers that try to learn say "mid-level skills" on my own and on-demand putting customers data at risk.


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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: February 23rd, 2021, 19:20 
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Joined: October 3rd, 2005, 0:40
Posts: 3480
Location: Hungary
people in DR are ugly and envy, they do not like to share info for nothing. Disgusting.
I have a strong urge to throw up because i have to live in one flesh with one.

Education is not free. It looks like you learn for free in schools, but it is not free. Govmnt pays that from all other citizens' taxes. A huge amount of money goes into that. All the info researched by people working in this field takes a loooot of time, and it is not paid by anybody else than paying clients. There are some folks who don't have to worry about money because they are fed from other sources, they don't care about time, but most of us are working hard to get somewhere, feed family, etc. And we don't have yachts, residences at the beach, private planes, just try to keep our business going and keep it up to date. I would be glad to find somebody worth teaching, but it seems like i have too high standards.

pepe

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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: February 24th, 2021, 3:43 
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Joined: August 18th, 2010, 17:35
Posts: 3486
Location: Massachusetts, USA
forensicronny wrote:
So what is your experience, how did you end up being a data recovery professional (if you are)?

Becoming a "data recovery professional" is a journey, just like any other domain.
If you have the know-how, experience and good tools, then you can offer a professional service.

In terms of hiring, most smaller data recovery companies look for people who have hands-on experience with mechanical work, electronics/electrical work, along with specialized knowledge on popular tools used in the industry. Or at least have high aptitude in those areas and is willing to start on the lower side of the salary. Knowledge in the forensic area is more of a bonus.
Obviously, it is tougher to find job openings nowadays, as not that many positions are available, especially given the economic recession and health issues we are dealing with.

Since there is always an issue with finding positions, it is precisely the reason why people start their own data recovery business.

In terms of hiring by hard drive manufacturers or very larger data recovery companies, they often develop people, because the focus is more on low salary, rather than highly knowledgeable people who demand a respectable salary. So, this seems to not be a good fit for you, as you likely fall in this category.

If you want to get in this field and money is not an issue, then the best thing to do is start practicing on damaged drives with investment in some free or lower cost tools in the beginning.
If it is something you like doing, then consider investing in more advanced tools and training to accelerate your knowledge. Ace Labs training is the best all-around choice, but it is recommended to be ready to commit in buying their tools if you take the training. Without the tools, you forget what you were taught during training.

Also, if you strongly want to work for a smaller data recovery company, then work for free for a while. If your skills will be worth investing in, then the company will hire you for the long-term. Otherwise, the only other way is to start your own business.

Overall, this industry does not have a very bright future. The technology is getting increasingly more complex, therefore more difficult and expensive to recover the files. Furthermore, people are getting poorer and poorer, thus difficult to justify their investment in recovering their files. This directly impacts jobs and many companies are trying to stay profitable by replace higher paid employees with lower wage employees, or simply fire/layoff people. So, not really sure it is worth pursuing a career in it.

Perhaps for you, if at your age makes sense, it is best to pursue a career in law enforcement with a forensic focus. The trend is for law enforcement agencies to buy tools and develop staff in house by sending them to Ace Lab training. Why? Because they have decent budgets from government funding based off of public's money (taxes). This is not nice, but that is how the game seems to be played.

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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: March 8th, 2021, 15:58 
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Joined: September 17th, 2016, 16:06
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Location: India
nice one guys...


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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: March 8th, 2021, 19:06 
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Joined: September 8th, 2009, 18:21
Posts: 13117
Location: Australia
ISTM that people in the DR business should consider the lemons that are coming in the future and use them to make lemonade. Now is the time to acquire the skills that will differentiate you from the run-of-the-mill outfits. As the jobs get harder, the lesser skilled competition will disappear. If your shop just sits back and waits for new solutions in your PC3000 update box, then your business deserves to die.

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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: March 8th, 2021, 21:52 
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Joined: September 29th, 2005, 4:10
Posts: 349
Location: Moscow
fzabkar,
And the excavations lose their meaning because of the complexity. By the time you dig it out, there won't be any more orders for such disks. All is well in time. :wink:


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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: March 10th, 2021, 13:14 
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Joined: June 11th, 2013, 17:01
Posts: 1540
Location: Phoenix, AZ USA
fzabkar wrote:
ISTM that people in the DR business should consider the lemons that are coming in the future and use them to make lemonade. Now is the time to acquire the skills that will differentiate you from the run-of-the-mill outfits. As the jobs get harder, the lesser skilled competition will disappear. If your shop just sits back and waits for new solutions in your PC3000 update box, then your business deserves to die.

I think if you spent some time at a data recovery lab you may have a different opinion of us 'pros'. We have one main aim each month and that's to make enough money to run the business, pay ourselves, staff, rent, insurance etc. So we work 6 or 7 days a week recovering drives to make that happen. We have very limited time for R&D.

Ace Labs are totally the opposite. They have a team of highly skilled engineers working 6 or 7 days a week making money by developing 'fixes' as and when new drives and technologies appear. It is symbiotic. They do the development work, we pay for it and use it. I think its unreasonable to expect your average data recovery company to invest in such development. The only way we could do it is to employ someone. Perhaps at a cost of $75,000 per year. Then Ace Labs come out with the same 'fix' the next day and you are out $75,000. Yes we should all be learning new ways to recover data such as understanding electronics as the market changes. But trying to compete with Ace Labs is just not feasible.

There is a faction in data recovery who are doing what you say (Digilab comes to mind). But those guys come from a background of working in the HDD industry so have information and contacts the average 'pro' does not have. As such they develop a totally different business model to just data recovery.

I think you are right that lesser skilled data recovery companies are leaving the market. Perhaps a beter description is 'less committed' to updating knowledge or equipment as the job gets harder, which has made a lot of us even busier, which actually leaves us less time for development.

Perhaps you are right that we may pay the price in the future for not investing in development. Its a tough one.

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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: March 10th, 2021, 17:52 
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Joined: September 8th, 2009, 18:21
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Location: Australia
ddrecovery wrote:
fzabkar wrote:
ISTM that people in the DR business should consider the lemons that are coming in the future and use them to make lemonade. Now is the time to acquire the skills that will differentiate you from the run-of-the-mill outfits. As the jobs get harder, the lesser skilled competition will disappear. If your shop just sits back and waits for new solutions in your PC3000 update box, then your business deserves to die.

I think if you spent some time at a data recovery lab you may have a different opinion of us 'pros'. We have one main aim each month and that's to make enough money to run the business, pay ourselves, staff, rent, insurance etc. So we work 6 or 7 days a week recovering drives to make that happen. We have very limited time for R&D.

Perhaps you should factor "personal development" into your business costs? In fact I notice that you appear to be quite knowledgeable about RAID, so that could be a niche for you.

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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: March 10th, 2021, 18:03 
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Joined: June 11th, 2013, 17:01
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Location: Phoenix, AZ USA
fzabkar wrote:
ddrecovery wrote:
fzabkar wrote:
ISTM that people in the DR business should consider the lemons that are coming in the future and use them to make lemonade. Now is the time to acquire the skills that will differentiate you from the run-of-the-mill outfits. As the jobs get harder, the lesser skilled competition will disappear. If your shop just sits back and waits for new solutions in your PC3000 update box, then your business deserves to die.

I think if you spent some time at a data recovery lab you may have a different opinion of us 'pros'. We have one main aim each month and that's to make enough money to run the business, pay ourselves, staff, rent, insurance etc. So we work 6 or 7 days a week recovering drives to make that happen. We have very limited time for R&D.

Perhaps you should factor "personal development" into your business costs? In fact I notice that you appear to be quite knowledgeable about RAID, so that could be a niche for you.

Believe me I have invested a huge amount into personal development (like most of us have) and yes it is built into the business costs. Lots of training in the USA, Canada and Europe on a regular basis (and RAID in Poland). From my perspective I have to invest in what I need everyday to do my job and be the best I can be.

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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: March 17th, 2021, 9:33 
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Joined: December 4th, 2012, 1:35
Posts: 3705
Location: Adelaide, Australia
fzabkar wrote:
ISTM that people in the DR business should consider the lemons that are coming in the future and use them to make lemonade. Now is the time to acquire the skills that will differentiate you from the run-of-the-mill outfits. As the jobs get harder, the lesser skilled competition will disappear. If your shop just sits back and waits for new solutions in your PC3000 update box, then your business deserves to die.


while it is hard to argue with this, and I agree with the shape up or ship out motto, there are actual roadblocks, such as LDPC in newer flash drives. not sure I have seen any meaningful reversing of it, nor would many in the elite DR field have the required skills IMHO.

with SSD's it has never been easier to create a black box, or some feature that stops you in your tracks.

I think a greater threat to the DR industry includes:

- there are less and less manuals/technical info around than ever before.
- the shitty quality of parts with minute tolerances.. and some crazy schemes so your data can still be read when it is half full of bit errors
- the sheer size of drives.. very time consuming, slow recovery (ecc correction for example), and massive storage needs in house
- much of the data people care about in cloud solutions, iCloud, dropbox, facebook & Instagram even etc.. etc
- data businesses care about have better than ever backup solutions
- people are starting to care less about their data.. when they had 200 photos they were irreplaceable, now they don't seem to care about losing 200,00 of them.

I don't think DR is a lost cause as yet, but I also think anyone coming into it now better have some chops (and a fair amount of $$)


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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: March 18th, 2021, 15:40 
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Joined: March 11th, 2021, 10:13
Posts: 17
Location: Switzerland
HaQue wrote:
fzabkar wrote:
ISTM that people in the DR business should consider the lemons that are coming in the future and use them to make lemonade. Now is the time to acquire the skills that will differentiate you from the run-of-the-mill outfits. As the jobs get harder, the lesser skilled competition will disappear. If your shop just sits back and waits for new solutions in your PC3000 update box, then your business deserves to die.


while it is hard to argue with this, and I agree with the shape up or ship out motto, there are actual roadblocks, such as LDPC in newer flash drives. not sure I have seen any meaningful reversing of it, nor would many in the elite DR field have the required skills IMHO.

with SSD's it has never been easier to create a black box, or some feature that stops you in your tracks.

I think a greater threat to the DR industry includes:

- there are less and less manuals/technical info around than ever before.
- the shitty quality of parts with minute tolerances.. and some crazy schemes so your data can still be read when it is half full of bit errors
- the sheer size of drives.. very time consuming, slow recovery (ecc correction for example), and massive storage needs in house
- much of the data people care about in cloud solutions, iCloud, dropbox, facebook & Instagram even etc.. etc
- data businesses care about have better than ever backup solutions
- people are starting to care less about their data.. when they had 200 photos they were irreplaceable, now they don't seem to care about losing 200,00 of them.

I don't think DR is a lost cause as yet, but I also think anyone coming into it now better have some chops (and a fair amount of $$)

One aspect of DR is now Smartphones and recent MacBook. It's not what I like but it's maybe 30% of requests I get and it's growing quickly. Cloud is not very popular here, people use it until they need to pay. Regarding pics, they have 200'000 but usually they all are on same media, when that media stop working, it's big drama. NAS are more popular than cloud solution and I see dead NAS quite often. Last but not least, Bitcoin, ransomware... I had 3 customers this year with lost wallet.


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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: March 18th, 2021, 16:56 
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Joined: April 3rd, 2011, 0:19
Posts: 1986
Location: Providence, RI
ddrecovery wrote:
I think if you spent some time at a data recovery lab you may have a different opinion of us 'pros'. We have one main aim each month and that's to make enough money to run the business, pay ourselves, staff, rent, insurance etc. So we work 6 or 7 days a week recovering drives to make that happen. We have very limited time for R&D.

Ace Labs are totally the opposite. They have a team of highly skilled engineers working 6 or 7 days a week making money by developing 'fixes' as and when new drives and technologies appear. It is symbiotic. They do the development work, we pay for it and use it. I think its unreasonable to expect your average data recovery company to invest in such development. The only way we could do it is to employ someone. Perhaps at a cost of $75,000 per year. Then Ace Labs come out with the same 'fix' the next day and you are out $75,000. Yes we should all be learning new ways to recover data such as understanding electronics as the market changes. But trying to compete with Ace Labs is just not feasible.

There is a faction in data recovery who are doing what you say (Digilab comes to mind). But those guys come from a background of working in the HDD industry so have information and contacts the average 'pro' does not have. As such they develop a totally different business model to just data recovery.

I think you are right that lesser skilled data recovery companies are leaving the market. Perhaps a beter description is 'less committed' to updating knowledge or equipment as the job gets harder, which has made a lot of us even busier, which actually leaves us less time for development.

Perhaps you are right that we may pay the price in the future for not investing in development. Its a tough one.


^^^ Times 1000. It's a business model and let's face it, 99% of us are in it to make some money. To us, it's not worth spending 90% of your time on R&D for the 2% of cases you can't do with solutions already developed.

I do agree with Fzabkar though on one thing. DR is about to start tossing a whole lot of lemons at us all. Many will leave the business, in fact, I plan to be one of them. Not because of being unwilling to "acquire the skills" but simply because the lemons we are already seeing will eventually make up the majority of cases. Once that happens, the profit will be gutted.

I go to work to make money, plain and simple. If I can enjoy what I do, even better. I'm fine with leaving this industry to get gobbled up by a half dozen bigger firms who can dedicate teams to R&D on all these new encrypted firmware, SMR, HAMR, MAMR, custom XOR, etc. nightmares.

By then, I'll have moved into another profitable tech field and be happy making money in that instead. :D DR wasn't my first career and I don't suspect it'll be my last.

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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: March 18th, 2021, 17:25 
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I'm just an observer, but from my perspective the DR business is dominated by rote learners. That is, people learn what to do without understanding why they do it. It's like someone learning to drive one particular car and then having to relearn how to drive each and every other car. Conversely, someone who learns principles would be able to step into an unfamiliar car and drive away.

So it's not just a case of being dependent on one's tool supplier. You also need to be able to understand the technology.

I've been watching this group for more than 10 years. I still see the same people asking the same questions, which tells me that they haven't learned anything. Why do people still need help locating a read channel? Why can't people find a TVS diode or a fuse? Why can't people locate the power supply test points on an HDD/SSD in a matter of minutes? Why is it so hard for people to locate a dead short?

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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: March 18th, 2021, 18:54 
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fzabkar wrote:
I'm just an observer, but from my perspective the DR business is dominated by rote learners. That is, people learn what to do without understanding why they do it. It's like someone learning to drive one particular car and then having to relearn how to drive each and every other car. Conversely, someone who learns principles would be able to step into an unfamiliar car and drive away.

So it's not just a case of being dependent on one's tool supplier. You also need to be able to understand the technology.

I've been watching this group for more than 10 years. I still see the same people asking the same questions, which tells me that they haven't learned anything. Why do people still need help locating a read channel? Why can't people find a TVS diode or a fuse? Why can't people locate the power supply test points on an HDD/SSD in a matter of minutes? Why is it so hard for people to locate a dead short?

All fair points, but you have to remember that not all members of this forum are from professional data recovery companies. There are a lot of people who are IT specialists and come on here to ask data recovery questions.

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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: March 25th, 2021, 5:56 
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Joined: September 5th, 2010, 12:29
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Location: South Africa
This has been an interesting read. When I first started with zero knowledge of DR in 2010, I bought a 2 port green board PC-3000, having to do a dodgy wire transfer to Russia. I wasn't even sure I'd get what I ordered. After getting it and trying to figure it all out and get to a point where I could do the most basic jobs, the average size of drives I was getting was between 80GB and 160GB I think. Today I had a dropped, clicking 10TB drive come in. Recovering a dropped 10TB versus imaging an 80GB laptop drive with bads is ever so slightly different. Yet, clients still think you're crazy when you want to charge them more than a few bucks to do the job - most of the time anyway.

I fall into the category of not being able to do much R&D myself as I'm a small business. I do all of the recoveries myself and have other people to handle the admin, client interactions etc. When you're one person trying to manage a long list of jobs (and run the business) it's incredibly difficult to even keep up these days. I have, and still do, learn a lot of what I know from others who are willing to share knowledge. If it wasn't for them I'd be nowhere close to as successful as I am today. UK, USA, Greece, China, Ukraine, the list is extensive in terms of where these people come from. I've found that if you're genuinely interested in learning, willing to at least give it a good go yourself and put in the effort, certain very smart people are there to help you grow.

I'm certainly not as profitable as I was a few years ago. I get slightly fewer jobs in now, but the jobs these days are so much more complex and with people opening drives left right and centre, and complaining of cost when they bring in their opened, mangled, dropped Rosewood and expect it to be done basically for free, it doesn't help. Flash, for me anywhere, is another story too.

It's been an amazing journey. Having started it from zero to a business with over 400 really great Google reviews and a fantastic local reputation, I really couldn't have asked for a better 10 or so years. It's made a good load of money as well. The hard work has paid off. What will get my attention next when I choose to scrap this? Who knows.

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 Post subject: Re: How to get into physical data recovery (professionally)?
PostPosted: March 25th, 2021, 12:08 
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Joined: May 13th, 2019, 7:50
Posts: 315
Location: Nederland
ddrecovery wrote:
fzabkar wrote:
I'm just an observer, but from my perspective the DR business is dominated by rote learners. That is, people learn what to do without understanding why they do it. It's like someone learning to drive one particular car and then having to relearn how to drive each and every other car. Conversely, someone who learns principles would be able to step into an unfamiliar car and drive away.

So it's not just a case of being dependent on one's tool supplier. You also need to be able to understand the technology.

I've been watching this group for more than 10 years. I still see the same people asking the same questions, which tells me that they haven't learned anything. Why do people still need help locating a read channel? Why can't people find a TVS diode or a fuse? Why can't people locate the power supply test points on an HDD/SSD in a matter of minutes? Why is it so hard for people to locate a dead short?

All fair points, but you have to remember that not all members of this forum are from professional data recovery companies. There are a lot of people who are IT specialists and come on here to ask data recovery questions.


I also wonder if this isn't true for most fields. In all places I worked there's always the category that just learns tricks. I have seen car mechanics repeating same trick over and over and when the tricks didn't work they were clueless. Even as a hobbyist working on my own old timer VW bus I could tell they failed to miss symptoms or misinterpret them about engine running too rich or lean.
I have worked in 3rd level tech support where I supported the support techs, and it were always the same people who came ask the same thing over and over. When I selected those people and provided them with additional training nothing changed. When I gave them tricks they remembered those but lacked the insights to recognize situations suitable or not suitable for trickery.
Heck, I am not even wondering, I know this to be true for all kinds of businesses etc..

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