I’ve been reading articles lately that are aimed at executives. I’m shocked — shocked! — to discover that IT personnel are have a tendency to burn out. I know that I did, some eight or ten years ago. After 30 years in the game, man and boy, I couldn’t stand it any more.
I’m still in IT. However, I make certain demands of my hours on which I will no longer compromise. As one might expect in a highly-competitive field like IT, this makes me nearly unemployable.
Most articles are aimed at executives. All play a game of softball, alluding to but never really telling the truth.
They don’t call me “The Jackelope Of Truth” for nothing.
I’m here to tell managers and executives exactly how it is. I will mince no words, because the situation is far too dire for that.
The “problem” with IT — the things that burn us out more-or-less permanently — boils down to two major issues:
1. Stop Making Obviously Stupid Business Decisions
Nothing bothers IT workers more than seeing the business make endless stupid decisions. They know from experience when something is stupid and will negatively affect both the business and their jobs.
Speaking of which:
Stop Allowing Marketing To Drive Your Business.
I have seen this over and over. When Marketing runs things, it’s only a matter of time.
Marketing people are just salesmen. They over-sell everything. They promise things from IT next week that we couldn’t deliver in three months. Furthermore, I’ve heard other departments grumble, so Marketing is like this with everyone.
You may love Marketing, but believe me, they will kill your business.
You don’t put salesmen in charge of your business. In the immortal words of Bill Hicks:
Obviously stupid business decisions particularly applies to IT, since the vast majority of managers — including IT managers — are completely ignorant of IT. They don’t have the necessary knowledge nor skills to make informed IT decisions.
IT tends to see two kinds of managers: those on their way up, and those on their way down.
Those on the way up have usually been put there because it’s an open spot on the org chart a bit higher-up. It doesn’t matter what part of the business they happen to come from. I’ve worked for managers that came out of marketing.
The people on their way up use IT as a stepping stone. Those on the way down have already reached their Peter Principle point. Upper management has put them in charge of IT because it’s easier than firing them.
This is made worse by the fact that it’s impossible to educate them. Managers assume that simply holding the job title qualifies them as IT experts, which is almost never the case. They will rarely if ever listen to their subordinates. They see their jobs as furthering the business goals — even if that means working their subordinates to exhaustion.
This leads to extraordinary frustration among IT workers who correctly see that their company’s promotion practices favor those with the least qualifications.
Stupid business decisions also lead to half-finished or completely failed projects. Statistics aren’t available, but experience suggests that in general, less than 50% of all projects as seen to completion.
IT personnel can also see when stupid business decisions means it’s only a matter of time until its failure. Then the IT worker will be out of a job, and all the work we did there completely pointless.
We will have wasted our time — for years. We knew that it wasn’t necessary. Nobody once asked us. Even if they did, we’d probably be afraid to speak out (see Stop Treating IT Workers As Slaves, below).
However, if you can convince me I won’t lose my job when I tell you just how much you’re obviously screwing up, I’ll tell you.
2. Stop Treating IT Workers As Slaves.
Doctors think they have it bad? Fuck doctors.
Do doctors get put on call 24x7x365 for twenty years straight?
Doctors often complain of being responsible for a patient’s life. Innumerable IT professionals have held the lives of entire hospitals filled with patients in their hands.
Have doctors routinely consulted from Disney World, rural South Dakota, and literally everywhere in between? Have they routinely been away from their families during holidays?
Are Doctors pushed so hard that even though they earn three weeks of vacation, they don’t have time to take it?
Have doctors routinely sat up until 2am in a deserted data center waiting for the telco to show up?
Do doctors work three days straight with no sleep because they’re the only one with a line on solving a crippling business issue costing $278K every minute it’s down (and know it because a dozen managers keep telling them every five minutes)?
Have those same managers then pressed to have the doctor punished because they didn’t resolve a highly-complex problem within the first fifteen minutes or less?
I have; and in a long career, so will most IT people.
If you get married, make sure your fiance knows she’s marrying an IT person. Our phones will wake her every other night. Alarms will go off that require us to get up and drive to the data center.
A fiance cannot be sure that we will be available to do anything, neither with her nor our children nor families. We are always and forever on call, expected to drop whatever we’re doing and instantly respond.
Why do we put up with it? Largely because the H-1B visa program has created a huge glut of us on the market. It’s put about 250,000 American citizens out of work.
One mis-step, and we’re gone, replaced by a cheap H-1B. Speaking of which:
I’m dead serious. Look at the conditions in which you make them work. It registers a 9.2 on my Stop-Treating-IT-Workers-Like-Slaves-O-Meter. Look at what happens if they fail to perform.
Sounds like Indentured to me.
Stop pretending to yourselves. You have Indentures because you don’t want to pay the market value of 250,000 less people in the workforce.
I entirely understand the financial gain, but it’s still indentured servitude.
Send them home. It’s the only ethical thing to do, and everyone will be better off.
IT is responsible for police, fire, and any other public service. Street lights, billboards … everything you use in modern life is tended by an IT person.
That phone in your pocket? IT on so many levels. Not just the phone, but the entire network that makes global telecommunications possible.
We are literally responsible for keeping the lights on in our modern technological civilization.
In the last fifty years, what has been the fastest-growing, most-impactive technology? IT — absolutely, hands-down IT. No other field has grown to be absolutely indispensable to every single business. Take us away, and modern civilization would collapse. The skills for almost every job function have been lost, replaced with IT.
Despite being on-call 24x7x365 and being responsible for hundreds if not thousands of lives, IT personnel are consistently treated like slaves. No other sector of any business spends more time maintaining the business than IT. We are literally responsible for the success of every business extent, yet managers and executives continue to treat us as second-class employees.
This isn’t entirely surprising when paired with Stupid Business Decisions above. Since most managers and executives will never understand IT, they can’t understand the pressures faced by IT personnel. They simply work them to the bone with no comprehension of neither the hours not the responsibility involved.
Unfortunately, this problem is not soluble without a massive shift in attitude among all managers and executives throughout the nation if not the world.
And that will never happen.
Thanks for reading this article. We’re preaching to the choir and know it. No one who matters will ever read this article.