Have you tried switching it off and then back on again?

Switching it off and then back on again, and other IT stereotypes…

I must confess, I am getting a bit fed up of hearing, when I mention to people that I work in IT, that all my job involves is telling people to “try switching it off and then back on again”. It’s become a huge simplification of what IT represents, and is most often heard (by me at any rate) by people seeking to disguise their own lack of technical competency.

Similarly, there seems to be an assumption that if you work in IT you must be a geek. Perhaps we have the IT Crowd to thank for that, but I do feel that I shouldn’t have to explain that:

  • I’m not completely devoid of social skills
  • I do have a life outside of IT
  • I just happen to enjoy working in an area that is strategic, challenging and fundamental to the successful operation of the organisation.

Do other professional areas suffer in the same way, I asked myself. Solicitors do, to some extent, and accountants surely must get annoyed at being labelled boring (though, to be fair, most of…..no, let’s not go there).

Estate agents probably get the worst of it, but I suppose if you are in a role where you’re dealing with high expectations and lots of money at stake, people are always going to be upset and disappointed, and I suspect that estate agents could probably do a bit more to improve their image.

Other professions seem to do much better; tell someone you are a doctor, or an architect, and there’s a good chance they will be very impressed.

I mentioned this to a (non-IT, but sensible) colleague of mine and he said that one of the things that he found annoying was the use of technical jargon and the acronyms that were used. Perhaps that’s not unreasonable; when I speak to a legal person, for instance, I expect to them to communicate to me in plain English, and maybe there are times when we forget to translate from technical to vernacular.

That said, IT, like law, does have its own professional “language”, and it’s pretty much impossible to have a technical conversation without the use of specialised terms. It’s all about knowing your audience, I suppose.

I’m not sure what the solution is to improving the image of IT staff. Perhaps as a new generation of IT-savvy people come into the workforce, they will see technology as something normal, rather than a form of arcane magic.

In the meantime, it’s probably best to explain gently that while rebooting does actually clear a broad range of minor PC issues, there is a tiny bit more to it than that.