Anybody outside of the IT field always seems to have a very similar opinion of the people working in the IT department – IT employees are commonly looked down upon.
It’s generally thought that the IT department guys are just computer nerds who sit idly by until an issue occurs that they have to fix. It is also commonly thought that someone working in the IT field should automatically know every issue that comes up immediately when it involves computers. What most people don’t understand is the amount of preventative maintenance that is needed to sustain operations of just about any company with a delegated IT department, and also that people in IT are just like anyone else and don’t have the capacity to just know everything immediately. There are tons of things that can go wrong with technology and it is impossible for anyone to know everything about an entire area of expertise.
Being in the IT field is very stressful. On top of all the day-to-day troubleshooting, IT staff are responsible for keeping the company’s network running smoothly, protecting the company’s network from malicious activity, and making sure all the company’s data is backed up and not lost. All of this requires the knowledge of how to accomplish these said tasks. That includes knowing the software being used, the procedures to follow to implement those tasks, and the dependency to make sure it is all completed on a daily basis. Regardless of the responsibility that weighs heavily on your typical IT employee, most people see those employees as someone who sits around all day waiting for something to happen. Most people don’t realize the amount of effort that goes into keeping the ship afloat. This often leads to a sort of hostility towards IT employees, and it is a hard impression to change.
In addition to the day-to-day fires and procedures that have to be followed, IT employees have to keep up with the latest in the field on a constant basis. Obtaining IT certifications is almost expected now, and most people don’t realize how much effort outside of the workplace that takes. Every technology that is put into place, whether it be a new OS, new backup system, new network firewall, or the latest in mobile technology has to have a more-than-basic understanding by the people in charge of keeping it functional. This all takes time, as well as pulling those employees off of other needed projects, which seem to constantly be piled on. You’d be hard pressed to find an IT employee who is completely caught up and asking for more work.
Another reason to try and see IT specialists in a different light is trust. Most people, upper management especially, need to realize that your IT staff are the keepers of all the company’s data. In most situations, nothing is off-limits to the IT employees since they are the ones that have to keep it safe. IT staff can normally access every bit of hardware the company implements whether physically or through virtual means such as remote desktop or other remote software. Most of the time there’s also no one to police the IT staff which gives them free reign over access to the company’s data. That trust between the company and the IT department needs to be high, and if it’s not, then measures need to be put in place to secure their access as well. Finding IT employees that your business can trust is one of the hardest things to do, and if you do trust them, then that’s a quality unto itself.
The stigma of being an IT employee will never fully go away. There may need to be more transparency by the IT department to show those that need to know their effort how vital they really are. A kinder attitude when reporting problems can also go a long way to better the rapport between staff and IT. Remember that working in IT is mostly a 24-hour-a-day job.
A little compassion towards those fighting the good IT fight will go a long way.