Emerging Tech

Do you know magic?


At some point in their career, every IT professional has been associated with magic of some sort—as in: “Work your magic for me ….” In fact, it's quite common for IT professionals to be portrayed as "wizards" (as in the comic strip Shoe) of their profession. When most of us heard it the first few times, we probably puffed up a little bit and felt proud. After all, we were masters of something so incomprehensible that people referred to our abilities as magical. Being a master magician often turned out to be a good thing. People did not question what you did and took your word for gospel. Not a bad gig being a wizard, eh?

At some point though, wielding magic started to have a deleterious effect—people stopped associating your efforts with WORK and began to assume that everything you did was effortless. After all, you made it look so easy! You, on the other hand, knew different. You were working your tail off and people just took it for granted—after all—it’s magic!

Being magical also led you into situations such as this: “Hey Bob, we need you to work your magic and___." Fill in the blank with some impossible task that needs to be done in 24 hours. So you drop everything you are working on and muster all your available resources to produce a product that should have taken you considerably longer. Yet you deliver it, and the audience for which you just performed applauds your "wizardry."

You and I both know that the above scenario gets old real fast and in the long run does you more harm than good. You also know that you need to say NO to these requests to perform magic, but what if the person asking is your boss? It’s one thing to wean a coworker off of your magical abilities, but it is a tad harder with your boss. After all, deep down inside, we do want to impress our bosses and performing the magic gives us some sort of satisfaction that is often difficult to explain. Yet saying no is something we need to learn how to do. If not, your magical ability will become more of a burden than a gift.

So how do you say no (to your boss or a VIP)? First, don't try to start when they are making the "magic" request. More often then not they are on a deadline, and they are depending on you to pull their rear out of the fire. You need to do it after you have performed the magic and are basking in the glow of success. It is at that time that you need to explain to your boss that performing magic for them means putting off other important tasks and that, in fact, you could have performed even BETTER had the request not required your magic, but just your regular efforts.

Most reasonable bosses will get the message after the first few times. With these bosses, you will come to an understanding with them about the things that can be planned in advance and those inevitable times when they ask for “magic” because it really is important and time is of the essence. You can still work your magic from time to time, and be known as the “go to” guy or gal.

Unfortunately there will be those bosses who can’t seem to take a clue and continue to take advantage of you; because they cannot manage themselves, everything is a priority that requires your “magic.” These bosses are much more difficult to deal with and changing their behavior can be quite the conundrum. For those who can’t seem to take a hint, you may have to just be blunter with them. Again choosing a time when things are not in crisis, you may have to schedule a meeting with your boss where you simply have to say that things cannot continue as they are and that for the benefit of both of you, things are going to have to change. You have to frame this as a win-win to get the most success out of this strategy; otherwise you'll be accused of being a whiner.

For those bosses who are just bad managers, you have a different set of problems. In this case, you may be carrying your boss on your back (so to speak) and any talk of performing differently may cause them great consternation. For these, (if you want to stay where you are), you can try to anticipate your boss by gathering as much information as possible from other sources to see what's coming down the pipeline. In this way, you may be able to get out in front of crises and avert them. For some though, the best method may just be to move on as soon as possible.

Obviously, there are other ways to wean your boss off of your magic, such as actually educating them as to what it you do, rather than let it remain a mystery. This may work with some; others might not have the time or inclination. Another method (although risky) is to make yourself unavailable to perform your magic, thus forcing them to deal with the situation differently or rely on someone else to deal with their problem. This could have negative unintended consequences though—so think it through.

In the final analysis, while the "power" may be addicting, providing magic services to clueless bosses is not a workable strategy for the long term. You will never get the resources or the respect you deserve if you let people abuse your abilities. It’s better to be known as the wise wizard, who can make magic happen in a pinch—but it better be a heck of an emergency! That’s the most satisfying position to be in—knowing you have “the magic” to draw on, but doing it at your discretion.
And you thought you just worked in IT <g>

12 comments
bob.tomsik
bob.tomsik

Boss:You work for this department so do not spend time helping the others as they have other options for support. Boss:You are not to support that software as they have an 800 number for that. Boss:I know I told you not to help, but it seems they have some serious issues (boss has no clue, he needs me to help him with his e-mail 3 times a week) I get this everyday, consistently being caught in the turmoils of all of it. Do I tell them to use the 800 numbers or just fix it and be done?

CodeBubba
CodeBubba

Here's one that I love. The boss calls you in and needs a critical fix to the application. This one he's requesting won't be anything at the user level except a new checkbox on a form somewhere. However, in order to deliver the change you have to modify the GUI, add a new column to the database, deliver the data change through the I/O layer to the critical component that performs the calculation then modify the code (already too complex as it is) to accomodate the change which could have major ramifications on all the calculations being done and/or break something else. One of those Apollo program "move this switch over there" changes. The boss calls you in, tells you what's needed then has the audacity to say "that should only take you a couple of hours - we'll expect it this afternoon". This tends to happen at 4pm and they want it before you go home. But, since you are the "miracle worker" you should be able to give it to them in 2 hours (or stay until you can - which might be very late). I finally got to the point where I would ask the "boss" (who had not written code in 10 years or more and had NEVER written code in this system) "2 hours huh ... and just exactly when was the last time YOU wrote any code let alone in this system?" Fortunately that ass was replaced by someone who had the smarts to ASK how long such a change might take instead of telling the expert how long it SHOULD take. Bosses can be real dunderheads at times! -CB :)

rphill1698
rphill1698

I been through most of that and once I did snap! 'That should only take a few hours.' My retort... 'Neither of us have seen this programming language before (it was some HR system they had just bought - without consulting me!) and you want me to intergrate it into another package - which I do have some epxerience with but you do not. How can you possible know 'it will take just a few hours'"! All of this infront of a student we had for 6 months. Going bright red my boss walked out of the room and hid for a few days in her office. Obviosuly it took me about an hour to do so I did feel a bit guilty but the point was valid. At worst ask 'how long do you recon it would take' from that you can assess accuracy of timings - on systems which will never be used again... Ah bless em!

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

The number one biggest reason why a user can't reproduce a problem while you are there is because they pay closer attention to the things they are supposed to be doing when you're looking over their shoulder. They put distractions to the side, and concentrate on the single task at hand; and then can't figure out why everything is working the way it should.

longball
longball

I guess my mere presence causes unheralded attention to detail. We have an office of users who sometimes (usually Monday mornings) can't log in to their machines until after they call me. Once I arrive in the office, the login that they "tried 3-4 times" suddenly works. No need for me to reset passwords. If I was some sort of "hunk" I could understand it, but I seem to look more like my father everyday.

atroon
atroon

I am similarly blessed/cursed with the 'Magic Aura' phenomenon. My father-in-law swears it's a real and explainable fact, based on positive energy, auras, and other New-Agey sorts of things...anyone else run across that? It seems true that computers behave for me in ways they don't for others, but I am proficient where they may not be. Nevertheless, I have a (VERY tongue in cheek) sign posted outside my workstation that reads 'Your computer will only crash if it knows you're afraid of it'...Truth, or humor?

russ.phillips
russ.phillips

This is how bad it got!! I was asked - by the finance manager - to stand near his computer. I thought 'uh-oh something bad is going to happen' he typed away at his pc for a while - then looked up. 'Thanks you can go now' Most confused I asked 'what just happened'?? His reply - 'It never(some report I wrote) crashes when your around and seems to work faster when you are near my system'! Annoyed? - oh yes!

NewYorkYankee
NewYorkYankee

A man once said to me that if you know 1% more than the person you are talking to about any subject, that makes you an expert. In IT as all professions there will be levels of expertise and ability. The Wizard resides at the top end presumably, while the 'gofor' / apprentice changes ram chips in laptops. Sometimes its crap being God!

Granville
Granville

Maybe it is an age thing, or maybe it is that I came from the ?real? world , or then maybe it is just me but I have never kept secrets from my users. It could be ?old age and low cunning? or plain laziness but I find if I explain to interested users exactly how I identify and fix a problem I get fewer support calls for the routine desktop issues. This frees me up to manage the network, plan future projects, draw up budgets, buy new toys ?for evaluation? and fine tune my skills at ?Spider Solitaire?. ;-) Honestly I find it far easier to explain exactly what and why I do what I do. Users who are comfortable with their PCs are then welcome to try to fix their own problems but, and I emphasis this, I am happy to help them or to do the problem solving myself. I have rules that absolutely no one is allowed to break. Such as restarting a fileserver, one of our software suppliers? favourite ?solutions?, anyone who is asked to do so MUST contact me, or the corporate helpdesk, first. I/they will then make the final decision on whether this is warranted. Also I hammer home the ?if in doubt do NOT touch? rule because if ?you break it, you fix it?. (Not really but that what I tell them. I am a ?softy? really.) So no magic here. Just plain old fashioned hard slog! ;-)

rremsik
rremsik

I do the same thing. For those users that seem interested, I'll explain what I'm looking at, what I find out, and what i do to fix it. I try to keep my systems tight enough so they can't blow it up, but loose enough to play around a bit. I even encourage it, letting them know that I'm available just in case. Occasionally I'll come to the rescue, but I find encouraging these few Apprentice Wizards helps them get past their fear of breaking something and they learn some of the simpler tricks. I believe by doing this, I receive less calls where the solution is clicking a button or rebooting the workstation due to the other Apprentice Wizards doing a little Magic on their own computer, or their neighbors. I don't mind spreading my Wizardry to others. I prefer it! :)

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

The users jobs are described as inspectors or testers. Some I wouldn't allow to plug in a lamp. I usually wind up doing it myself anyway and I hate batting cleanup. Besides, that way I can at least be sure that compatablity isn't an issue.

deepsand
deepsand

"How long is this going to take to explain?" "Why can't you just write it down for me?" "But, can't you do it faster?" "I don't have time for this now." Users seem to have an boundless supply of reasons why it's not practical for them to take any responsibility for maintaining their company provided resources, be it computers, copiers, fax machines, telephones, etal..

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