What Is the Nature of an IT Worker?

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2008-09-22 Print this article Print

office-space.jpg It wasn't that I had watched Office Space for the 700th time this past weekend. Actually, I read this this InfoWorld article delving in to the issue of angry IT workers and the havoc that can happen that got me thinking.

Is there something about the nature of IT workers that causes some to engineer disruption in systems, rebellion and acts of revenge when pushed to the edge?

I realize that the fairness of that question might be put more to the folks who created the complicated credit default swap market that's caused a gargantuan disruption to the global economy right now. The issue there is that it can be summed up in one word: Avarice. [For those financial folks looking for work, the New York Times had a post last week about start-ups who want and need you.]

The issue about the nature of IT workers seems to be very different. I'm not talking about hacking or the wildly destructive things going on the Internet here either. The security world has its own set of ego-trip and underbelly that deserves a different kind of examination, some which has been covered in depth. For an excellent feature on the rise of Internet trolling, see the New York Times article The Trolls Among Us.

I'm talking more about the majority of you who enjoy working in an office with systems, using and creating technologies and like being well-paid for them. The large majority of you are law abiding, hard-working and support what's being asked of you from the business.

I've worked with and know quite a few folks who are IT pros in everything from sys and network admins, security engineers, Web and application developers, database admins. I've noticed a thread of breaking point (and not criminality) in some that generally stems from being totally overworked with less resources than other corporate departments, of having to have their lives constantly interrupted outside of normal business hours and with getting fed up with being told they don't understand business when business people don't operate as smart as they could.

In some IT people, I've noticed a streak of intellectual and scientific curiosity, a natural inclination for having to know how things work, and an innate ability for seeing the world as a logical set of systems. The more socially-adept IT workers I have met are generous with their knowledge and like to share it, especially when they are validated as having knowledge expertise. But, I've also ran in to some who use it as an unfortunate crutch to prove they are simply smarter than everyone in the room, and expect to be left alone to do their 'genius' work.

This isn't some justification for snapping in judgment and turning to criminal acts that some misguided workers have engaged in... No way, no how. I'm simply curious about getting under the geeks versus suits argument. I think the kinds of generalization we read about in the careers industry tends to lump everyone together. Paul Venezia over at Info World has done a really nice in-depth look at the Terry Childs case in San Francisco from the worker's perspective. Terry Childs wouldn't give over the log-in info to the city's network, and the city was a bit upset about this and jailed him.

I'm interested in finding out the nuances of what got you in to this field in the first place, and the kinds of things beyond a good salary that motivate you to work with technology, and if you were running your company, what you do differently?

Let us know.

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