Home > career > The Myths of IT – Part 2

The Myths of IT – Part 2

Let’s get right into it…..

4. More bandwidth will solve all your problems. – Bandwidth isn’t always the cure for traffic problems. You can add bandwidth all day long to a circuit, but if the problem is latency, you are wasting your money. One of those pesky laws of physics is that light can only travel so fast. Sometimes a better solution is to take care of the latency. That involves really understanding what the problem is before implementing solutions. An ever growing amount of traffic on the wires these days is of the real-time nature(ie voice and video) so it is going to be especially critical in the coming years to understand the latency needs of your customers. Many larger corporations and content providers deal with this problem by using multiple data centers across the country or world.

You can extend this myth to the wireless side as well. Simply adding more AP’s to a network will not necessarily make things better. In some cases, it will make things worse! As with anything, before you can provide a working solution, you have to fully understand the problem.

5. Everyone in IT must have business skills. – No. No. No. No. No. I can’t say no enough. I am paid to perform a highly technical function. In the course of providing that function to my employer, I have to deal with associated costs. I do have to understand what the capital expenses and operational expenses are, but other than that, I don’t care about the financial end. MY job is to provide solutions. I am not an accountant. I do not look at spreadsheets all day and try to figure out how to align my technology solutions with the vision of the various MBA’s and marketing people running the company. IT exists to provide solutions. Those solutions are based on requirements given from the business side. Tell me what you want to do and I will design a solution to implement that. It is hard enough to stay current with all of the various technology vendors out there. The last thing I need is to worry about how it affects the bottom line. I am reminded of an old joke when it comes to technology.

Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick 2. You can’t have all 3.

Are there people within the average IT department that NEED business skills? Yes. They’re called managers. Does someone providing front line support on a help desk need business skills? Nope. How about that engineer doing wireless installs? Nope. Maybe that systems architect designing your virtual infrastructure? Nope. Again, tell me what you want to do from the business perspective. I will provide you a solution. You may not like the solution because it costs a lot of money, but then again, I am not designing a dress(No offense fashion fans!). In the case of the network side of things, I am designing a conduit to move information around. That doesn’t come cheap. I think the problem behind the whole “IT people need business skills” mantra is that the business side of the house doesn’t always articulate what it is they are trying to accomplish. Additionally, the IT side of the house doesn’t ask all the appropriate questions to extract the information they need to design a proper solution. I keep reading about these IT executives who claim they only want to hire IT people with business skills. Good luck with that. People with business skills continually run companies into the ground. Are you sure you want your IT department to contribute to that? It’s better to let them take care of the nerdy things.

6. All IT people can fix your computer. – There was a time when I was somewhat in tune with computers. I knew a little about graphics cards, sound cards, memory, etc. That was back when I was running DOS and really just wanted to play computer games. Those days are long gone. I know next to nothing about PC’s and laptops. That goes for the operating systems as well. I work on all the gear that facilitates communication between the PC’s(ie routers, switches). I don’t have enough capacity in my brain to memorize how many cores the CPU should have and which graphics chipset will give you the best performance for World of Warcraft. I am not alone. Many of my fellow IT professionals are in the same boat. We take phone calls from family and friends on a regular basis. They need help with this or that thing on their home computer. Maybe it is infected with spyware or a virus. Maybe they need to upgrade their 10 year old computer and need our help figuring out which new one to buy. Guess what? I’m winging it. I’m taking a semi-educated guess on what computer you need to buy or how to fix your existing computer that runs like an old 286. Odds are I am using Google to figure out what to do.

7. IT people change jobs all the time because all they care about is making more money. – As with any career field, there is a certain percentage of people that will constantly change jobs to make more money. However, IT people tend to change jobs for different reasons. First, you have to understand that IT is a profession in which career development is generally up to the individual. The more they learn and the more they get exposed to, the better the options. Quite a few jobs in the IT world can be grown out of. After a year or two in certain positions, there is nothing more to learn. Nothing new to experience. Your job is simply to serve as a caretaker of the network and look at logs all day long. Most people can’t deal with that. They need something new and exciting. They need opportunities to grow their technical skillset. This happens a lot faster than other career fields. At some point in your career, you learn enough and have enough experience to get that coveted position at company XYZ that you have been looking for. Generally, it takes several years. We all have to pay our dues and work up the technical ladder. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that companies can do to stop this transition from occurring. It’s just part of IT. You can’t hold on to your engineers forever.

The second reason, and perhaps the most common one, is that IT people tend to get burned out at companies after a year or two. Let me paint a picture of corporate IT for those of you who aren’t familiar with it. Your typical company is understaffed when it comes to the IT department. The people that they do employ tend to work a lot to make up for this fact. Chances are, you are fast asleep when they are doing their real work. You see, the business can’t afford to have any part of their network down during business hours, so any maintenance will be done real late at night. If you happen to have any sort of Internet presence, the maintenance windows will get even tighter. Of course, anyone who gets into IT expecting to work a 40 hour week from 8am to 5pm is not living in the real world. You work the odd maintenance hours but you still have to respond to issues that come up when everyone shows up for work the next day. Unlike many other departments within a company, you can’t sit on any hot issues. The network is what the business runs on. Failure to get it fixed means the business loses money. When people do call you, it is generally because they have a problem. Nobody ever calls you with good news. When you propose designs for projects, everybody second guesses you. Even if they have no idea what equipment it is that you have included in the design. If a project is over budget, IT usually gets trimmed down. Nevermind the fact that your new facility is buying some hideous sculpture that costs more than your house. Forget the fact that the company is buying everyone a $500 chair. The solution to the money problems are to cut out that pair of core switches you needed and go with the collapsed core model. Then, when the network sucks because you don’t have enough capacity, it’s your fault. Well, at least you have a pretty sculpture to look at as you make your way to your $500 chair at your desk. Issues like that happen time and time again and IT people get fed up with it. They move to another company that feels new and different. At least for a year or two. Then, the cycle repeats. Now I don’t want to be completely negative and say that all companies are like this. They aren’t.

To add on to the reasons behind burnout, most companies simply pay lip service to training. They want their engineers to do a million different things, but have no interest in providing training or even aiding them in their technical development. They want all the benefits of a highly skilled engineer, but don’t want to invest anything in making that happen. Loyalty is a two way street. Don’t expect any sort of loyalty from your IT staff if you don’t show any to them. Demand for skilled IT practitioners is high. Even in down economies, there is still a large demand. When people have options, their tolerance for corporate nonsense is a lot lower than someone who is just grateful to have a job and doesn’t want to rock the boat. They WILL leave.

That’s all I got folks. A total of 7 IT myths. Maybe you agree with some, none, or all of them. I’ve taken these from my experiences and from conversations from many of my peers. As always, if you disagree or have something else to add, leave me a comment below.

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  1. Sh4d0w
    December 9, 2010 at 12:00 AM

    amen to that, brother

  2. Stink Fleaman
    December 9, 2010 at 7:38 AM

    Absolutely agree with them all, but #7 is so freakin bang on it’s scary…..

  3. Fed-up
    December 9, 2010 at 9:29 PM

    Sh4d0w stole my comment. The company I work for bought a building in July. Didn’t tell anyone until after the deal was done and since then Accounting has been running the show. A cluster of major proportions. We (IT) put in a PO for new ESX servers that were ALREADY in the approved budget for 2010 and when the PO comes back from Accounting, we are missing 1 virtual host. WTF? we say, “Can’t afford it”. It was already approved and it’s going to cause performance problems. “Too bad, need to save some money”. But we have enough $$ to buy 7 new big screen TV’s for the new building that IT will be busting their humps moving into between Christmas and New Year’s while everyone else is advised to take PTO.

  4. Daniel
    December 10, 2010 at 2:23 AM

    Great article, very good read.

  5. December 10, 2010 at 8:06 AM

    “Demand for skilled IT practitioners is high. Even in down economies, there is still a large demand. When people have options, their tolerance for corporate nonsense is a lot lower than someone who is just grateful to have a job and doesn’t want to rock the boat. They WILL leave.”

    Cut out of the budget the equipment I said we needed, then whine at me a year later when the network won’t scale to support all the incoming packet generators. Tell me I can’t have the headcount I need to keep projects moving, but then add them after I leave the company. Add meaningless process that makes it close to impossible to get my job done without wanting to eat a gun. Insist on meeting with people who have no idea what’s going on so that they can make decisions about when and how I execute the job I’m paid to do. Insist I rate an employee as an under-performer who really isn’t (killing his bonus), just because an arbitrary HR metric has to be met.

    Oh, yes…we will indeed leave.

  6. regisu
    December 10, 2010 at 9:01 AM

    Very nice article!

  7. Gentleman
    December 12, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    I would agree on that. Especially the certification part I worked with so many CCNP guys that had trouble understanding why do you start with the biggest subnet when using VLSM. Starting with a /30 not the smartest thing to do.

    Also one more thing you forgot to mention that most of IT projects get their budget cut in half half way through deployment….

    Excellent article.

  8. Joel
    December 15, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    Posted on my bulletin board at work.

  9. khaled azrak
    December 24, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    6. All IT people can fix your computer.

    I agree one neednt to be a guru about all the new hardware, graphical card , CPU etc which are replaced every 6 month by the way, but even in big entity where you are tasked to only network stuff, knowing about hardware, ram, CPU can be useful when for example you are installing a multi role server for your script, conf saving application, network application with a database, SNMP etc with this knowledge you can adequaly choose devices are the more adequate

  10. December 28, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    #6 – add to that “cell phone, printer, Linksys or Netgear router, change time on your car stereo clock, hook up your new HD TV and home entertainment system, sell your crap on eBay or find you hookers on craigslist”

  11. James
    December 29, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    This blog truly describes what we IT guys go through. I am in my 40’s and there are moments that I wonder how long I want to continue in this career track. Don’t get me wrong I have been very blessed and grateful for what this career has been able to provide for me and my family and even for the companies that I have worked for. As I am debating on moving on next year I am spending more time looking inside myself to see what it really is that I am looking for. I work for medium size company that all in all is not a bad place to work but there are times when I feel very frustrated because I am expected to manage so many different systems. Quite honestly, I feel as if I am foot deep and a mile wide in skills and experience. One regret that I have always had is that I have never had a mentor in this field. There never was that CCIE or guy or gal who knew their stuff about networking that I could learn and grow from. This is something that one can only get from an enterprise environment. Those of us in the SMB are too busy setting up routers and users iPhones, and home networks and anything else thrown at us.
    And yes, my next move will be about money.

    • December 29, 2010 at 11:12 AM

      James,

      I’ve been where you are at, so I can REALLY relate to what you are saying. My suggestion would be to find a local user group centered around networking. If there isn’t one, you can start one. For Cisco focused groups, look here. Getting together with your peers will help you in any number of ways. Whether it is for job prospects, learning about technologies, or just talking to other people who do what you do, user groups are a great resource. Additionally, at some point you will want to find a job at a larger company that will allow you to focus on one area like networking. I know that’s easier said than done. Some people like the “jack of all trades” jobs. I did that for a number of years, but wanted more depth in networking, so I took jobs that allowed me to focus on that. If there is one thing that I can encourage you with, it is the fact that your “foot deep and mile wide” skillset will serve you well if you decide to just focus on something like networking. My Unix/Windows background has helped me out on many occasions even though I haven’t lived in that world for several years. If you truly love technology, I would say don’t give up just yet. We need more people in IT that actually LIKE this stuff!

  12. January 9, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    IT pros do need business skills. IT is about modeling a business and it’s process. Whether you are shifting ethernet packets or storing bits on spinning tin. It all costs money. The business owner does not have the knowledge to choose a paticular solution based on his business needs. most of the time they will go for the cheapest solution. That Asda hub he got free with a tank of petrol might not be the best solution. If you understand his business you can speak to him in his language why it might not be the best solution.

    Otherwise you will just look like a tech guy who only likes to play with flash kit.

    • January 9, 2011 at 10:45 PM

      Jason,

      Thanks for your comments. At what level does an IT pro need these business skills? The premise of my argument was not that the entire IT department should be devoid of anyone with business skills. Rather, the point I was trying to make was that only managers need business skills. I don’t see what the benefit is of people who do purely technical jobs to have business skills. Other than knowing what things cost on the IT side and how that gets paid for, I don’t really care what the internals of the business are. I leave that up to the CIO, CTO, and management within IT to bridge the gap between me and the non-IT side of the business.

      Of course, I speak about things from a corporate IT perspective and not as a consultant dealing with the small business market.

  13. March 7, 2011 at 1:07 AM

    “….Odds are I am using Google to figure out what to do.”

    Haha, couldn’t agree more with that comment!

  1. December 9, 2010 at 12:27 AM
  2. December 9, 2010 at 1:54 AM
  3. December 11, 2010 at 12:26 PM
  4. December 19, 2010 at 8:32 AM
  5. December 20, 2010 at 1:57 PM
  6. December 28, 2010 at 7:03 AM

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