John Dahlquist didn’t plan to ask Geek Squad’s founder for a job back in 1996, but that spontaneous pitch turned into what’s become a quarter-century career — and counting.
“The rest, as they say, is history,” he said.
Earlier this month, Agent Dahlquist became the first recipient of a Geek Squad 25-year badge. The one-of-a-kind, gold-plated icon was presented to him in a special ceremony, complete with a custom cake and the presence of more than 100 fellow Agents, teammates, leaders and friends.
A trip down memory lane
There’s a lot to share about a career in technology that spans two and a half decades, and Agent Dahlquist obliged our curiosities for a fun and retrospective Q&A.
Can you tell us more about how you got hired?
Agent Dahlquist: My “origin story” goes back to my previous job as an aircraft fueler at the Minneapolis/St Paul International Airport. One of my best friends used to work with me at the airport, but he left there, and after he had a couple of other jobs, he ended up working for Geek Squad around 1995 or so. He and I used to enjoy tinkering around with computers (PCs, Commodore 64s, etc.), and he had mentioned a couple times that I should come work for Geek Squad. One night, we were hanging out in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis, and he took me to the original Geek Squad office in the Colonial Warehouse to check the place out while he worked on a couple of computers that were in the shop. While we were there, the founder of Geek Squad, Robert Stephens, came into the office, and I decided to make an impromptu pitch to Robert to hire me, offering to intern for a while to “learn the ropes.”
What was your first role with Geek Squad?
AD: My job title then was Special Agent (everyone was a Special Agent, except for Robert, who was the Chief Inspector). My initial role was to work on computers that were brought to our office for repair. After several months of doing that, I started doing service calls in homes and businesses.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen over the years?
AD: The biggest change would probably be the scale and scope of products we support now. Back when I started, Geek Squad worked on computers (Windows and Mac), servers for small businesses and small networks. That was it. We now install and support products ranging from backup cameras in vehicles, to home theaters, to smart doorbells, to exercise bikes, to refrigerators. I couldn’t have imagined Geek Squad doing that kind of work back then.
What’s your favorite repair story ever?
AD: My favorite story isn’t about any one job, but about the relationship Agents build with their clients. One of my regular clients in the 90s to early 2000s was a swimming pool supply company. I can’t count the number of times I went to that business to do work. I not only got to know the business owner well, but his family, too. I got to watch his kids grow up and learn the family business. The owner ended up sending a wedding gift to me when I married my wife in 2003. I know I’m not the only one with this kind of client story, either.
What is the focus of your role now?
AD: My current role is on the PC/HT Secret Weapon team. I have been in this role for 11 years, and I really enjoy it. Secret Weapon provides in-the-moment support to Agents around the company, whether they are in homes, stores, businesses, or remote. When Agents run into problems they can’t solve, they contact us. We’re the pros for the pros, if you will. We also write a lot of content for the company knowledge base system, which provides solutions for Agents so they don’t have to contact us directly.
What keeps you at Best Buy?
AD: What keeps me here is a role that allows me to learn something new every day, and to be able to pass that knowledge on to other Agents, new and old. That, and the opportunity I have to keep the flame of the culture of Geek Squad lit for those who have come after me.
Badges of honor
Agent Dahlquist has earned five badges during his time with Geek Squad: The original badge, the Secret Weapon badge, the Agent Defender badge, the 20-year tenure badge and the 25-year tenure badge.
Today, Geek Squad has more than 16,000 Agents, and the badges continue to serve as an important part of the culture. Employees must work for 18 months before they’re eligible to get one, and receiving a badge typically entails a “ceremony” of sorts that’s often a surprise and — like the one for Agent Dahlquist’s 25th anniversary — always special.
To date, Geek Squad has assigned more than 193,000 badge numbers, and no number has ever been assigned twice. Agent Dahlquist’s number will forever be 17.
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