Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The 2 faces of an IT pro.

So after my first post you've probably concluded I'm an arrogant SOB with an attitude problem.

Well, I'll fight you tooth and nail about the arrogant part but the attitude problem I'll fully embrace. :)

Over my career thus far I've seen two primary types of IT people; I like to call them the Fundamentalists and the Frauds.

Wow, that sounds like some kind of profound observation there!  Actually, I'm just pleased that I found another word that starts with "F" to go along with "Fraud".

Now I'm not saying that there's a bunch of IT people who sacrifice Xbox consoles to some giant, flame encircled Proliant server somewhere.  Nor do I suggest the other group is running bot nets and stealing PIN codes from your local ATM.

No, what I'm getting at has more to do with an IT person's motivation for doing the job.

Fundamentalists (from my point of view) are those whose motivation stems from a deeply rooted desire to leverage technology for the benefit of their organization.  There's no room for BS in this definition and the status quo is nothing more than a starting point.  Force a fundamentalist into a badly managed IT organization and you'll soon have a full scale revolt (of 1) on your hands.

We'd all like to believe we fit that definition wouldn't we...

Maybe, maybe not.  A devout fundamentalist strives for the ideal to exclusion of all else.  That can be a problem.  I've met brilliant IT people who couldn't hold up their end of a conversation to the point of almost social retardation.  Unless you're writing code for Face book your career opportunities will be few and far between. 

Now, the Frauds (again from my point of view).  Frauds aren't necessarily bad IT people.  They're not the laziest or least dedicated.  In fact the very thing that makes them frauds is the elaborate construct they painstakingly maintain just to appear valuable to their organization.  At some point the Fraud settles for the status quo and tries not to be the squeaky wheel.  Only high profile projects that support their construct are given priority and all available resources are marshaled to support it.   Frauds aren't born, they're made and we've all been one or will be at some point in our career.  Here's why...

At some point many IT people tire of running headlong into the brick wall that is senior IT management that many enterprises employ.  Instead of constant frustration they learn to game the system by only involving themselves in projects where their supposed herculean efforts can be easily seen. 

If there isn't a high profile project available they'll often create one.  They'll work innumerable hours, sacrifice personal life and family just to maintain the construct.  Unfortunately, all this time and effort maintaining their image leaves little time for dealing with...wait for it...Yes! the fundamentals of their job.  Maintenance of the infrastructure and upgrading of skills fall by the wayside with more work being assigned to lower level IT people and heavier reliance on outside consultants to perform tasks that should be basic to their job.  "Ah, but if senior management sees my great deeds and supposed dedication I'll be just fine!"  Yes, for awhile you will...

I've run into both types in varying degrees.  Maybe it's the former clerk who happened to be the techie person in the office and is suddenly the network administrator.  Being an expert in Excel and clearing paper jams in the printer is a poor foundation for dealing with network issues.  Still it was probably a bump in pay and how hard could this computer stuff be anyway.

It could be the grizzled veteran who just got sick of hearing the word "No".  So he/she gets the lay of the land and figures out what it takes to make the executive suites happy with the minimal amount of effort. 

The key difference here is the divergence of motivations.  The fundamentalist motivation is rooted in accomplishment with or without the laurels.  The Fraud is more concerned with self preservation.

Stay in a badly managed organization long enough, however, and even a fundamentalist can become a fraud.  The lesson here: Get out when you don't care anymore.

There is no black and white steadfast rule.  Life is about shades or grey.  We're IT and we have to deal with people so a degree of self-preservation is of course a good thing from a financial point of view at least.  Still the motivation has to be (or should be) more fundamentalist than Fraud.  Let's give it a ratio of 80/20 nodding toward the fundamentalist. 

Anything less and your just wasting time and making yourself miserable.  How much fun can it be to constantly be watching your back anyway?

  
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