Working in IT - Where have all the positive stories gone?

By James West

During one of our regular editorial discussions, the team here at Sunrise talked about its desire to publish a positive story about a career in IT.

Our thinking was inspired by the string of negative press reports emanating from the major IT news sources; dominated as it is by failed IT projects, staff downsizing and IT departments being outsourced. I made a promise to find some positive information about working in IT to base this article around, and what follows is the result of my efforts.

Nothing.

Go on. Have a look yourself. You find a positive story about working in IT. Please let me know when you get one.

My first instinct is to blame the tendency of the media to favour the tragic over the positive, but we’re not talking about the tabloid, popular press here. We are looking at niche IT coverage; written by people who surely have a vested interest in the continuing success and development of the IT profession. When IT stutters, budgets are reduced and less is spent in IT – the Y2K fiasco was proof of this phenomenon. Well, as much as the IT companies suffered post 2000, the publications and web sites that support it were hit also for obvious reasons – with little money spent on IT, there is little budget for advertising, which is the mainstay of IT press. Given this dynamic, shouldn’t we best assume that the IT press would be overtly positive about IT in an attempt to inflate the industry? Whatever the thinking, the negative publishing slant just makes no sense, and rather than answering the question as to why there are few positive stories, this theory simply muddies the issue further.

Perhaps IT is an inherently negative industry, reacting as it does to problems. This thought points us towards the right answer to the conundrum, but not in the way that we might first assume. Yes, much of IT is negative, with the requirement to troubleshoot and deal with angry customers. But it needn’t be that way, and it is in fact this negative attitude that causes IT to be written and talked about in such pessimistic terms.

IT has a confidence problem. It doesn’t believe or understand its own importance, and instead is driven by pessimistic criticism. The issue is likely to be that IT workers don’t think that what they are doing is really important. And perhaps it isn’t, but who’s job is meaningful? Unless your profession falls within the domain of protecting and caring for people – doctors, firefighter, or charity worker – then it is really not important in the global sense of the word. But in that respect, IT workers are no different to accountants, lawyers, journalists, HR professionals. The difference within other fields of work is that they don’t suffer from a lack of self belief.

How can we boost the confidence of IT staff? Let’s for a change focus on the good that IT can do. As it has enriched our personal lives, it has similarly transformed the way we do business. It has banished many of the process, number crunching professions that many millions would have been forced to populate, and instead has allowed us to focus on the face-to-face people elements of business that are far more enjoyable and rewarding. We all have a responsibility to get positive stories out there, so get a case study written, nominate your people for awards and generally give more focus to the positive side of what you do. There’s enough negativity out there already.

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