Every now and then Esquire, one of the world’s oldest and most venerable men’s magazines, tries to create its own poster child. This month’s issue provides a perfect example. “The American Man, 2005,” the cover proclaims, but what we see are a series of mug shots including Donald Rumsfeld, Shaquille O’Neal, Howard Stern and Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush. No single individual, it appears, can encapsulate the diverse qualities of modern-day masculinity, or the role men play in the world. If they think that’s hard, they should try doing the same thing with IT professionals.In an online ad campaign we ran a few months ago, Microsoft tried to make heroes out of its customers by showing how their achievements made them popular with their co-workers. The IT manager would start out as a shadowy silhouette, an anonymous “computer guy” who worked in a little room somewhere. As the results of their integration projects flickered over the banner, their smiling features came into focus, along with their proper name and, in quotes, the whiz-bang nickname they’d been given by grateful colleagues. Like Esquire’s American Man (or men), these are not necessarily typical IT managers but ideals to which we are supposed to aspire.
Since there aren’t too many IT managers who would qualify as legitimate celebrities, the industry tends to offer them trophies. That’s part of the rationale, for example, behind Computing Canada’s IT Leadership Awards, which will be based directly on your nominations.
Joe Kraus, the president of an application development company called JotSpot, gives us another way to identify valued leadership qualities through what he calls “engineer interview triage.” In a recent post on his blog, he lists the three questions he asks prospective programmers, none of which are pass or fail but do give him some sense of what keeps them coding. He asks, for instance, if they keep a blog, because doing so may suggest some ability to communicate ideas. He asks them what their home page is, knowing that few developers start their morning at Yahoo! or Amazon, and that making their own page indicates a useful tendency to tinker. Finally, he asks them if they have ever contributed to an open source project, because that says something about the kind of passion they have for their job.
There are probably many software engineers who could answer “yes” to all three of those questions, but the nature of their answers would probably give you the portrait of a pretty interesting human being. You’ll notice, too, that the focus of this questionnaire is not about how much money the engineer had saved in previous jobs, or how they managed to do more with less. It’s about how they express themselves and apply their creative talents.
If we really want to know who the IT Manager is in 2005, we’ve got to do the same thing. We have to stop asking them what keeps them up at night, and instead what gets them up in the morning.

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