The Geek Gap

By Deborah Rothberg  |  Posted 2006-07-20 Print this article Print

The Geek Gap Authors Bill Pfleging, a computer consultant and "dyed-in-the-wool" geek and Minda Zetlin, a business writer, talk about the long-running discord between business and IT people in their just-released book, "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Dont Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive." They see the gap as less of an attitude problem, and more of a culture one.
"The geek gap is the culture clash between business and IT people in most organizations… Business and tech people dont like each other and dont trust each other. Its very basic to how they do their jobs and their roles in the business," Zetlin told eWEEK.
The authors argue that the divide is all but inevitable; the two groups have different skills and personality types that affect their ability to understand each others goals and priorities. "The tech worker, the geek, is a problem solver; the businessman, the suit, is a people influencer. The geek likes to fix things, the suit relies more on people skills," said Zetlin. Geeks and suits also interact with technology differently; the former are more interested in process while the latter are more consumed with use. "To geeks, a piece of technology is a thing of beauty in its own right, a wonderfully fascinating puzzle. To suits, its a tool that is only worthwhile if it helps them accomplish their objectives. "The moment geeks are likeliest to lose interest in a project is when its running perfectly (Hooray! Now I can stop working on it!). Thats the moment suits are likeliest to start taking interest in the same project (Hooray! Now I can start working with it!)," said Pfleging. Pfleging explains that IT and business people differ in terms of career aspirations and lifelong goals, and relate differently to their workplaces. "Tech people will not identify themselves by where they work but what they do. Its more important to them that they are in the community of, say, Linux programmers or database administrators rather than at the facility where they work. Business people are much more about climbing their companys ladder." The authors feel that not enough people talk about this problem because its so pervasive; its almost part of the landscape. "Every place we go and talk to people, these two things stand out. One, that everyone experiences this; they just nod their head. Its not a mystery. Number two is that its just accepted as part of the landscape, as if theres a hill and well just build a road around it," said Zetlin. Next Page: Bridging the gap.


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