Leadership

10 things I love about IT


If you're reading this, chances are you're pretty involved with the IT industry. It's sometimes easy to forget why we got into this business or why we stay in it, particularly when the scope is creeping, the customers are demanding customization to the product, and the boss' hair is pointy. Well, time to remind ourselves why we keep suiting up and showing up. Here's my list of 10 things I love about IT.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: The people

The people in IT are an amazing group. IT is a diverse industry, and the people who work in it tend to have a high level of passion for the job. Sure, there are a few mercenaries who are in it just for the money, but they are thankfully relatively rare. Overall, I cannot say enough good things about the people in this industry, and I love working with, around, and for them.

#2: The energy

The only industry with nearly as much raw energy as IT is marketing, and I don't find branded pens terribly interesting. IT people are excited about their jobs and excited about the work they are doing. IT as an industry offers enough variety and choices of employers and projects so that there's no reason for those who love IT to be doing work they hate, once they get past entry level in their career. And it shows in the passion that IT workers bring to the office. Accountants don't argue about "EBIDTA vs. pro forma" in quite the same way that programmers get worked up over "Java vs. VB.NET."

#3: The education requirement

A minority of people in IT have degrees in an IT-related major (computer science, computer engineering, etc.). In fact, a significant portion of people in IT do not have degrees at all. Like the dress code, there is an unwritten assumption throughout much of IT: Experience counts for an awful lot. Sure, there are a few niches in IT where that science and math background is needed. But for average business-level usage, it is not necessary. Add in the fact that the technology becomes obsolete so quickly and the fact that the industry is obviously working just fine without the requirement of a degree, and you have a field that is very welcoming. I challenge you to find another job where people with a high school diploma, some self-taught knowledge, and a good attitude have such a good chance to do well for themselves.

#4: The dress code

One of the great things about IT is that it grew up in the corporate basement. Way back when, the business folks liked to lock us up in the dungeon and occasionally throw down a bowl of gruel for the nerds. As a result, they didn't care if we had long hair or beards or pizza stains on our ratty, hardware-vendor T-shirts. Granted, this has changed significantly at most shops. There are now some dress code standards for IT workers. But they don't seem to be as strictly enforced as they are for the rest of the company. There is an underground, unspoken conspiracy among IT managers that a loosened dress code is practically part of the standard compensation. Sure, if programmers or system administrators really want to come in dressed to the nines, they are welcome to, and no one will knock them for being too GQ. But if your idea of style is less refined, IT as an industry doesn't mind.

#5: The environment

Much like the dress code, the environment in most IT shops is fairly informal compared to the typical office. Posters for anime films, books all over the place, whiteboards with goofy cartoon drawings, Nerf ball fights... only when you put a dozen nerds together in the same room with a geek boss (or a boss who "gets" geeks) could this be called a work environment. Yet despite all of that, IT workers tend to put in just as many hours, if not more, than most office employees. We just have a lot more fun with it.

#6: The adaptable learning curve

In the IT industry, you can do the same tasks day after day if you want to, or you can take a job that is constantly evolving. It is really up to you! Some programmers are still using COBOL after 10 years, and others have used 10 languages in 10 years. Unlike most industries, some areas of IT move slowly enough for those who are not comfortable with regular upheavals, while much of the industry moves quickly enough for those who like a more rapid pace. When you are in IT, you can find a job that fits your style.

#7: Flexible work conditions

IT is amenable to "flextime" workers and telecommuting. It's also relaxed about the working hours. IT pros may work a few more hours than the average worker, but that extra time is traded off with some flexibility in when they put in those hours. Indeed, much of IT work occurs after business hours, and there is an unwritten rule in most shops that the workers who do a lot of nighttime/weekend work get some slack on clock-in, clock-out, and lunch times. Most other professions seem to be stuck on 8:00 to 5:00, with a one-hour lunch. If you like a flexible schedule, or prefer to not be in the office on a periodic (or even ad hoc) basis, IT is a great industry to be in. In fact, IT is so flexible, it's quite possible to run a business you're your home, dorm room, or garage. Just look at Apple and Dell!

#8: Variety in pacing

Most IT work jobs are cyclical. They all have a different rhythm, but it is there. They go from being insane, 60-hour-a-week jobs for two months at the end of the project to "in-the-office vacations" at other times in the project cycle. Some IT pros get the constant rush like in any other profession, but most of us get a pace that swings between insanely busy and snoozefest. This keeps the job from getting boring. The caveat here is that some employees are stuck in high gear with few pauses, which leads to burnout. But I would rather fight being overworked than struggle with having nothing to do.

#9: Geography

IT is not an industry dominated by a particular city, region, or country. The U.S. IT market has a lot of workers from other countries. On the flip side, if you want to see the world, IT can be your ticket. Even if you are domestically minded, IT has a strong presence in many hip, cool towns like New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Austin, and Atlanta. If you're looking to move off the farm and into the Big City, IT can do that for you. But the demand is widespread enough so that if you want to work in a less urban area, there is plenty of opportunity to do so as well.

#10: Pay day

Hey, let's be real. Despite the grumbling, IT pros are well compensated, especially after taking into account the high percentage of them without college degrees or even certifications. Would I work in IT if it paid like other professions? I sure would. Nevertheless, it is awesome to be paid pretty well to do work you love surrounded by great people.


What do you love most about working in IT? Can you add any items to this list?

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

36 comments
Madsmaddad
Madsmaddad

4) Yes, dress code can be really slack, but I like to think that because we stopped wearing ties so that they would not be a safety risk close to fans and stuff, now the rest of the world has relaxed dress codes. 9) There is more to the world than the United States of America. One of the fun bits a few years ago was connecting the universal 64Kb/s ISDN to the US standard which was 56Kb/s. Also of the group of programmers that I used to work with here in the UK, they are scattered all over the world now.

Rob73!
Rob73!

Having worked acorss the IT industry for the past 12 years, I can safely say that I don't agree with the majority of the points raised in this article. I'll happily admit that ive been fortuante enough to work with some amazingly talented people who are far more knowldegable than I. However i've also worked with some uuterly reprehensible people as well, which I think you'll find in any industry\workign envrionment. I've also never worked in an IT office that in any way resembles the set of the IT crowd. I have however worked in an IT office in a hospital int eh basement next to the mortuary! I wonder if the writer of this article has watched too many episodes of the IT crowd? Almost all of the places I have wotked have had rigid dress codes (bar one, where you could wear t-shirt and shorts in the summer months) of shirt and tie and a dress down friday culture. IT isn't in my experience, a forgiving environment to work in; expectations from senior managers, boardroom and customers are often unrealsitic and place incredible stress and pressure on IT staff (most IT deptartments are also lacking in adequate staffing levels), so burnout and dropout rates are high and getting higher. Equally, while I know and work with some talented people, I know no-one who does IT soley for the love of it. It may not be romantic, but everyone is in it soley for the money, it's just that some people get to extend their hobby into a professional job.

cd613
cd613

many are there... just watch big bang theory

cbmorton
cbmorton

I am one of those said 'min-qualified' pro's. Throughout my 10 year career my employers overlooked the fact that I dont have some fancy-smanshy degree or whatever and have taken me on face value and experience over my career. One of the things I enjoy most about IT is the freedom of creative expression I have with code. Since the inception of my career in IT I have written software from scratch, that is architect, developer and tester all rolled in to one, allowing me the freedom to change the implementation of the scope as I see fit. Conversely one of the worst experiences I have had in IT was being forced to maintain poorly written code, maintaining ridiculous architecture and follow idiotic naming conventions (clearly the staff at Intermap had no clue before I arrived) by force from an incompetent 'Senior Developer/Development Manager' who probably got her position by being in the right 'position' for the boss. Like any industry we do have sub-standard managers at times, but right now, having earned my right of passage, I am now in charge of my own code, and am not dictated to (from a technical side) by some idiot. Currently my bosses are great...they simply ask 'can you do this?' and 99% of the time it's possible. My worst part of my job at the moment is running out of coffee and trying to satisfy the extremely tight deadlines I have to meet on our current project...

Odipides
Odipides

If these points are representative then, despite thirty years behind the CRT, it looks like I'm not in IT after all.

jasonahoughton
jasonahoughton

if you think 1-5 is real, id like to have what you are on. I have worked in quite a few top 100 companies and it was a grind fest, with burnout everywhere. the people were worked like slaves, and didnt have any good things per your list items 1 through 5. I find myself at a different position, and it does relate to crazy working hours, and then slacks off, but thats about it. maybe things have changed in the last 10 years, but i doubt it.

christinekristy
christinekristy

I enjoy the unity in my office. Though we all play different roles, each of us is able to step in for the other if he/she is not around, unlike it is in other department. We all care about each other and cover up for one another in case of anything.

ITnewby
ITnewby

I server in church in malaysia as It assistant.By God grace he bless me a mentor to guide me for hardware and software troubleshoot with skill.But i lack of knowledge of server and networking,Anybody willing to help me upgrade my it knowledge so i can server God well? I am alone in It now.My mentor have resign.I need to take care this whole church system.What a GREAT TASK!Anyone willing to guide me or help me?WHat should i need to learn to survive in IT.Thx For u all who willing guide me.GOd Bless

morris.levy
morris.levy

This article stinks out loud. I didn't even get half-way through it before I had to yell at the author. Obviously this is not from a real IT professional who is 'married' to the job. I don't believe much of this article at all, and it is CERTAINLY not true. I work for an Ivy League school and this is vastly untrue, and this article makes the job seem overrated. I overwhelmingly disagree with the author.

Aneldinho
Aneldinho

Wow i never feld like home before like in the IT industry! each and every day its a new day, and theirs nothing that is so wonderful like doing something for the first time and you come right at it! and i liked that statement that said people in IT are so welcoming! I'm saying that because I'm still new in the industry and still learning and theirs a lot of challenges along the way and wow i really have one of the best bosses ever so patient and understanding!

PolarCityBlues
PolarCityBlues

Beats me - those are all great reasons and I agree with most of 'em, but I keep not getting jobs because of a supposed lack of qualifications/having taken a break (during which I started a degree)/not having a skill-set that matches... Welcome to the dole queue I said I'd never go back to when I escaped it after the 80's, because I'm blowed if I know what job is as cool as working in IT.

IT_Goddess
IT_Goddess

they really like/love their jobs? so many people I know, outside of IT, dread going into work. most IT folk I know love their jobs, as long as they are getting fairly compensated for what they actually do. I also am self taught... was a bean counter for many years. my month was laid out with deadlines that had to be met. the only change would be if a deadline hit on the weekend. day in and day out, week to week, I knew what had to be done. in IT, every day is a challenge. you think you have your day planned out well then something unexpected happens, throwing your schedule into the abyss... that is what I love. so I have to add my #11 - the diversity and challenges that present themselves daily. every day is different than the last. and #12 would have to be making fun of end users doing stupid things! heheheh

Fregeus
Fregeus

With all the negative feelings around the office i've been having lately, i'd forgotten why i love this job in the first place. I really needed that. TCB

smatteson
smatteson

"I challenge you to find another job where people with a high school diploma, some self-taught knowledge, and a good attitude have such a good chance to do well for themselves." I would have to say this statement represents my favorite thing about IT: if you are motivated and get hold of manuals, pdfs and product documentation, you can teach yourself almost anything in this field. Imagine wanting to teach yourself medicine by reading "Grey's Anatomy" and then trying to get a job without a diploma from an accredited university. :-) I did two years at college before having to drop out for financial reasons; I was basically on my own and had a stack of bills to pay off which took several years. During that time frame continuing my college studies would have been difficult to impossible as I still owed my university money before my transcript could be released. I built my career in IT during my twenties after being lucky enough to take what was essentially a typing job in an organization that needed some computer support. I'd always liked computers as a kid (Atari 400, Tandy 1000 SX) and so I filled the void, then eventually got into certifications and system administration. If I hadn't been lucky enough to gravitate to maybe the one field in corporate America where you can be self-taught, I don't know if I would own a house or have kids today. Had I desired to work in finance, for instance, or graphic design, my lack of a degree would have probably killed that outright. We all have bad days in IT - uncooperative systems, resentful users, too much workload - but I always think about where else I might be that pays so well and offers meaningful work.

Andre_Nick
Andre_Nick

Mostly agree with author. But you forget to say we all silently hate one another. We are like spiders in a jar. We are calm and friendly only when we next to our lovely PCs. Take our boxes from us or turn off the electricity in office for while and very soon we will broke skulls to one another smashing keyboards on our heads. Say me I'm wrong... :)

dr.phil
dr.phil

When I started in IT (then Data Processing) I was lucky enough to be mentored by some very serious engineers and Doctors that dealt with hard science. It was magic of a sort; I had no idea what they were talking about and they didn't know what I was talking about until a fresh, ego-less learning environment happened. An open mind-meld if you will. We taught each other starting at a rudimentary level and quickly accelerated to a scientific blend of IT/DP and hard science knowledge. These users were rocket scientists, physics doctors, mathemeticians, human factors scientists, fuel scientists, structural and electrical engineers. I've been very lucky in my career to interface with some of the smartest people on Earth by realizing "we don't know what we don't know" and then applying a collaborative spin on the problem at hand by using formula of "consider this". Using "consider this" means that there are no ego's, no stupid ideas and no arrogance. You check that sh1t at the door. We were working on very sophisticated weapons that kill people and we held onto that thought by realizing that we're going to put this in the hands of a soldier and it better work or there would be no home-coming for that soldier. Sure, serious stuff. I later went from building killing machines to building living machines by getting into medical/clinical systems. Building killing machines can really take a mental toll on you after a while once it sinks of what you were doing for a living. I've been working with the top Doctors and Clinicians all over the world for the last 15 years and have learned so much about the human machine that I never thought of because of being a computer weenie. Having to help come up with solutions on both sides enabled me to use almost every computer language and hardware ever produced. Now I think that was cool...and still is. Along the way I've built up a cadre of friends that were co-workers that are each in their own right the very smartest in their field. In short we've all learned probably something that we would have never learned without this process. Doctors and scientists will "let you in the club" once they realize that you are very smart in what you know and do and since they are hypothesis makers (continious learners) that lead to a scientific breakthru...they GET IT. Right here is where work turns into learning by play. Each of us have SO much to learn from each other but our human-side most often hinders our learning and progress. Peace out ~dr.phil

asgr86
asgr86

These things are so true..., they can make an depressed IT proffessional pumped up and ready to go . . . . GREAT ARTICLE

Justin James
Justin James

To be honest, it refreshed *my* attitude a bit to write it and remember the things I like about this work! J.Ja

rhomp2002
rhomp2002

My first manager back in the dark ages (1962) is a good case in point. She came to DC in 1938 as a clerk typist/file clerk. When computers first started her then boss sent her to school so she would learn how to work with the programmers. She ended up as the best in the class and got hired as a programmer. With a high school education only she was a GS-15 and assistant manager of the department. She was also a self-taught artist who had paintings hanging in the Corcoran Gallery and the manager of a women's softball team as well. Quite a woman. I learned so much from her and she was great to work with so long as you did not lie to her. One of the best bosses I ever had. In what other field could she have come even close to what she accomplished.

MikeGall
MikeGall

Good to hear things work out for most people that are self thought after all :) I'm a physicist by background. I did a bunch of comp-sci/eng courses while in university. I'm interested in both science and tech and have been working as an IT admin for the last year and a half. The trick seems to be getting in the door. It took me 2 years out of school to find a company that would take a chance on my. Now I'm going to be moving to a new company (I only have 1.5 years experience). During the application stage I had ~20% success rate (ie. I got at least one interview for every 5 places I applied for). I had two offers on the table before picking one. I guess where I'm going with it is that IT can be hard to get in, but then after that your judged by your success which I love. I also love the diversity of people and projects. You can definitely get your interests meet in the field. If you like people than you can spend time with end users trying to train or find out how to help them with their problems. You can know more about the business than most managers(your the one that ran the report you know where the data is how it gets entered what can effect its accuracy etc). Finally: I think the field has some of the most passionate people in it. You don't see accountants going home and reading tax manuals in their spare time. But IT geeks go home and play with their home computer, read software manuals, code for FOSS projects etc. People that actually like what they do, not do what they do because it pays well. There's a concept :)

Justin James
Justin James

"If I hadn't been lucky enough to gravitate to maybe the one field in corporate America where you can be self-taught, I don't know if I would own a house or have kids today. Had I desired to work in finance, for instance, or graphic design, my lack of a degree would have probably killed that outright." I double-majored in "can't-get-a-job-o-logy", two majors traditionally known for producing either High School teachers or college professors or burger flippers. Yet here I am. :) "If I hadn't been lucky enough to gravitate to maybe the one field in corporate America where you can be self-taught, I don't know if I would own a house or have kids today. Had I desired to work in finance, for instance, or graphic design, my lack of a degree would have probably killed that outright." I just had my first child and I will probably be buying my first house in a year or so. I know *exactly* what you mean. I look at the struggles that a lot of people I knew in high school have gone through, most of them are barely paying rent and the choice is children & ramen or no kids and hamburger meat. I am so grateful that I got passionate about IT at an early age and not, say, writing short stories or painting abstract art. The starving artist routine has a certain appeal to it, and some women find it attractive, but when you have a family to take care of (or want a family), it is plain irresponsible. I am glad that I do not have to choose between family and my dreams! J.Ja

Daniel.Muzrall
Daniel.Muzrall

I'm right there with you. I've always had a great love of nature and environmental sciences. In HS, I focused on my science workload, but also spent a lot of time working and playing with the school's computers. After that, I went to college, and got a BS in environmental policy/management. Being you're typicaly less-than-wealthy college student, I took a work-study job with the campus IT department...it seemed a natural fit. Well, I ended up working the help desk, and 4 years later I graduated with my BS, plus a wealth of self-taught/OTJ IT knowledge. After graduating I worked for a financial company doing desktop application support, until I was hired by an environmental company several months later. Funny how things happen...my supervisor at my new job was also the IT guy. I got some side projects from him in addition to my environmental responsibilities. When he left, I got the role of LAN Admin. Spent the next 7 years splitting my time between IT and environmental field work, up until last April when I transferred to a different office to be the full-time LAN Admin. I still get to do the environmental work, so I"m happy on both fronts. Moral of the story: I enjoy learning, and because I did a lot of learning on my own, I'm very successful in a job I love, with a great company. OH...and one other reason I love IT: the blinking lights! :)

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

.. I have experienced that sort of environment, but it should not be the norm. When I started life as a software engineer, I had a very bad attitude of 'don't disturb me, I'm using a computer'. I've learnt from experience that that is no way to treat your peers. If that's how you feel about your co-workers you need to adopt a different attitude or move. I work in a very friendly environment, and yes, I have encountered some hostile situations, but we always work on resolving these issues, until we are friends. Les.

Jessie
Jessie

Cut the power to my building and once I've made sure the battery backups are performing and the servers are shutting down gracefully, it's time for some OFFICE HIDE-N-SEEK in the dark! The thing I love MOST about IT is the chance on a regular basis to learn something new... and I would never get as many opportunities for new knowledge without LISTENING to my peers. EVERYONE brings some new and interesting piece of information to the table, from the janitor to the CIO, and hating any of these people puts a large wall between you and knowledge.

helpdeskdude
helpdeskdude

Is opening up all boxes of goodies that we recieve in. I get to open them up and play with all the new toys and technology. It like Christmas everyday! WOOOHOOO!!! Merry IT!!!

philgman
philgman

(Get's on the bandwagon) I've been through many professions so far (chef, film maker, Barrista)and now I've been lucky enough to take a lot of hard won self training and weekends reading heavy tech manuals and turn it into a job I luv/hate. As a hobby I found that after a while I seemed to know more than the other geeks i knew. Then they started asking me to help them, then their bosses asked me to help maintain their business systems. Then the people i knew who had training were asking me for help. So I applied to a small repair shop and got the job. They found out I knew more than the lead tech and gave me his job when he moved on. I did that for 2 years and now i'm working at a mid sized college as a lab coordinator. My boss is great, he has degrees and certifications and i learn "the approved way" from him, and he learns "the quick way" from me. Everybody in my department is willing to take the time and show me whatever i need to know. If i don't know something, somebody will take the time and show me and make sure that i've got it down. Oh yeah, my school is also 78% mid-20's women. Somedays I reeeaaaly like my job.

Jessie
Jessie

I have an associates degree in electronics (which really has nothing to do with computers) and after I graduated I worked for 6 months for a company fixing copiers (BORING). I was actually relieved when they laid me off, but had to get another job quick! Right at that time, Gateway 2000 had just opened a large phone center in my area so I applied for a job, literally knowing NOTHING about computers. Gateway had their own training to get people onto the phones, but it was really just basic stuff. The BEST thing they had was a tech lab where you could go and just fiddle around with things. I worked a 4x10 shift and spent my 5th day in the lab teaching myself networks and hardware/software. Within 6 months I was a 2nd level tech. Worked for Gateway for another year and a half after that, then went on to other companies that offered more money and opportunitites for more hands-on, less over the phone.

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

Is that played in the same manner as Nude Twister in the dark?

cupcake
cupcake

I have been able to tell people when asked "what do you do for work?", I can tell them, I don't "work", I "play" and someone pays me quite well to do it! I love IT!

Justin James
Justin James

... is putting together a server, when you use multiple vendors and/or have multiple ship dates for all of the parts. That stretches things out for a few extra days, and you hit "Refresh" on the UPS or Fed Ex or DHL tracker all day long every 10 minutes. :) J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

It is always nice to hear of success stories like this, let's me know that the recruiters and MBA types haven't destroyed the industry yet. :) J.Ja

Jessie
Jessie

There's no plastic mat, so lube is not as dangerous.

maecuff
maecuff

I can't agree with this at all. I've been doing this for nearly 20 years and I KNOW I don't know it all. I don't mind if others in my department know more than I do, or have a skill that I don't have. In fact, I'm grateful when I have someone I can turn to for help. And, conversely, I am always happy to help a collegue if I have something THEY need. I'm a competetive person by nature, but not at work. I'm happy with what I do and I want to to work toward a common goal. Keeping the systems up and running, feeling confident in the integrity of our data and helping the users do their job. That's not to say that I don't dream of smashing skulls from time to time, but NOT because they have something that I want. Learning how to play nicely with each other starts in the playground. After 20 years, you should have mastered that skill. :)

Jessie
Jessie

...there are one or two who think they are the Wizard of Oz... and they're generally idiots... and I LOVE exposing the man behind the curtain. ]:) Someone who truly knows what they're doing is happy to share their knowledge with others... even if only for the purpose of beating the idiots over the head. :D

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