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  • Writer's pictureAndy Jonak

The Wonderful and Thankless Job of Being in IT

This month I was thinking back to the cruise that our family took to the Bahamas back in August. It was a wonderful time for all, and I appreciate you asking. As my kids start to get older, my wife and I are worried that each year might be one of the last big trips we all take together before our kids start to make their way (and positive impact) out into the world. As a parent, I am so proud as supportive of them. Because of this, each and every trip we all take together is memorable for us and hopefully, build memories or a lifetime For those of you who know me or have been reading my blogs and following me throughout the years (some six years and around 75 posts later), you pretty much know that I don’t tend to bring personal stuff in my posts. So why did I mention it this month? It’s odd actually, and it does relate to IT. Want to know more? Read on.

The family and I have been many cruises (and lots of other trips), throughout the years, as it’s a type of vacation that we all enjoy to together. While on the boat this past August I took note of how efficiently things are run overall. How things get done when they need to and even when the schedule or circumstances throw a monkey wrench in the plans and mess up that schedule, there are plans in place to ensure moving along. As on a cruise, for those of you that have taken them, you know cruise customers can be very demanding. So efficiency rules the day, out of necessity; otherwise, you have upset customers. Well isn’t that sort of what IT is all about?

My title mentions how IT is both wonderful and yet thankless at the same time, in what I feel is just about the most important business function out there, which is why I've been in it for 25 years. Can both of those be simultaneously true? You betcha.

On the cruise, everything just works, at least from an end-user customer’s perspective, which in this case was my family and. The ship leaves on time, food is served on time and most of the time it all just works. Moreover, you know what? When things are working as they are supposed to, like it or not, people don’t generally notice, which is how it’s supposed to be. You are paying for something and expect something in return.

Isn’t that the same with the IT environments we put in place and manage? There are just expectations that they will work. When it does work, that’s how it’s supposed to be, and no one really notices. BUT, when things don’t work in IT, you get much more than just a customer on a cruise line who can’t get to their meal, drink or show, you have unproductive users, which is not OK.

IT infrastructure and people being productive in using that infrastructure is how things are supposed to be. It’s what IT is expected to provide and, like it or not when they do, no one notices. That’s both the wonderful and thankless part of the job. Things work, people are happy, and they leave IT alone. However, when things do go wrong, and productivity suffers, the finger very much gets pointed back at IT, and rightfully so. IT is there to provide services to the users or customers (in many cases the same thing), and if it does not fulfill that obligation, productivity suffers, and it needs to be to resolved—quickly.

There is also a flip side that most end users don’t see nor appreciate. IT departments have plans in place for when productivity suffers or when systems go down to make sure that said users/customers have their productivity restored. In some cases, the IT service can be restarted, or in some cases it might have to bring a DR or cloud system up to ensure that a critical application continues to serve the needs of the business. IT departments and people have to deal with issues like this all the time, where they fix things, and no one generally knows. That’s part of the thankless role of the job.

A cruise analogy to what I describe above: We were at Grand Bahama Island on a Wednesday and due back in the Port of Palm Beach in Florida at 8am, Thursday the next morning. We were supposed to leave Grand Bahama Island at 5pm on Wednesday to make our 8am Thursday morning port call. Well something happened where we weren’t able to leave Grand Bahama Island until 9pm Wednesday night, 4 hours late. You would think that would be a big problem, leaving 4 hours late. However, the next morning, we pulled into the Port of Palm Beach at 7:50am, ahead of schedule. Somehow we made up the time. Don’t know how they did it: going faster, a more direct route, time warp, etc., but honestly I don’t care. As long as we made it back by our 8am port of call, I was happy, as we had plans that were contingent upon us being back on time.

The ship had a plan to rectify the situation and delay, even when things went wrong, they couldn’t just wing it. They knew precisely what they needed to do to fix things. Well isn’t your IT department just like that? Whether end-users know it or not, they are. When things go wrong they will get it taken care of and, in most cases, end-users don’t even notice. IT just gets it done. You know what? It’s is a comforting thought, which means they have it, which is what their job is in the first place.

So the IT world we all live in is both wonderful and, at times, thankless. Wonderful in that IT is so important and has such an impact on what happens in our businesses. That makes all of us in IT very happy because you see the fruits of your labor first hand. It’s also thankless as people expect to IT to always just work, so when it doesn’t it effects them, and they aren’t happy. However, those same people/users/customers don’t see all of things that IT does in the background that no one knows about to keep things going and to resolve and mitigate problems, sometimes before anyone knows or before they even become problems. So do problems exist even when people don’t know about them? Hmm…

Those are my thoughts for this month, presented in a bit of a different way. My cruise got my thinking about efficiencies overall, which got me thinking about IT, which led me to write this post. Kind of strange journey, but that’s where it led me this month. IT working and being efficient is so essential to what we all do, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. Let’s not forget that.


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