Thursday, 24 March 2011

For those who don't want to be in 'The IT Crowd'

There's a cliched stereotype of IT workers that paints them as socially inept, introverted, boring, Vitamin D deficient strands of humanity. So when I heard about 'The IT Crowd', a sit-com about an IT department, I thought it would be the chance to do something fresh that was brought out the humour of IT work.

Oh no. 'Why do something fresh if we can follow the tired cliche?' thought the writers. Roll out the nerds with the glasses, awkward fashion sense, dodgy hair and geek-speak. This isn't good. When I'm meeting people and I say I work in IT, I fear somewhere behind the uninterested nod, there's a brief image of guys in a small room, eyes glued to screens with Warhammer 40K pieces strewn over the tables.

So if, like myself, you would rather not be associated with 'The IT Crowd', here are some pointers.

1. Get some style

Let's face it, it's a superficial world so looks count. Guys, if you're working with clients get yourself some good shirts, an over-sized watch (they're all the range these days) and a haircut. Ladies, "you're worth it" so crack out a mean suit and prepare to dazzle. And sort out the shoes. Apparently this is just as important for men as it is for women, so there's no slacking on either side.

2. Don't tell people exactly what you do

We work in a specialist area and the general public have little to no knowledge of what it takes to make IT systems work. So instead tell them how you fit in to the bigger picture.

Example: "I work in IT Operations for a company that makes interactive voice response systems. I deploy, maintain, and help to fix the software. It's mostly Java based..." At this point you will have to dash forward to catch the individual. They have just succumbed to an intense narcoleptic style wave of sleep, and they are falling backwards while dreaming of coffee made from Java beans...

This would be better: "Have you ever called up your bank or a cinema, and had to speak to an automated system? I keep those system running."

It's not exactly what you do, but they haven't had a chance to fall asleep and you've related it to something in the real world that they can understand. They will now be convinced that you are in fact a human being and not some weird species of techie.

3. Kill the Jargon

IT is chock full of jargon. And we try and make up new ones all the time to confuse the people who actually work in IT. Java, server, TCP/IP, virtualisation, shell script, deployment - are all examples of words we cannot use to engage the non-technical. It's actually hard to hard to do this but it's well worth trying. Master it and you'll be able to woo clients, managers and general business folk and they will all worship you. Sort of.

4. Engage in non-computer related activities that involve other people

Dancing, football, Martial Arts, learning a new language - activities like these will increase you exposure to the non-technical and you will learn more about how to fit in with their kind. Also, engaging in people without a computer interface will help you build a 'life'. You'll need that when you get older...

I hope these tips have been helpful. I must return to my character in World of Warcraft. Logging off.

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