CXO

Government IT Boring? Not!

I was reading a comment the other day on one of my blogs

when I noticed someone mentioned “boring government work”. This struck a cord with me because I have

never found government IT work to be boring at all. I don’t think I am some weirdo or glutton for punishment

regarding the workplace, so there must be something regarding government IT

that makes me feel that way. Actually

there are several things that make government IT quite exciting and I thought I

would share them with you.

The first is variety in the nature of the business

itself. Depending on the size of

government you work for, your customers business can include Police, Fire, EMS,

Health and Human Services, Public Works, Public Safety, Education, Animal

Control, Armed Services, Defense and many others besides your typical Finance

and Administration type of work. This

makes for an interesting and challenging range of customers to satisfy and work

for. To me, one of the most interesting

parts of IT is learning the business of your customers. With so many that fall under the umbrella of

government, there is always something new to learn.

The second is size.

Governments span the gamut from itty-bitty to huge and monolithic. The smaller governments tend to be local

government, while the larger tend to be state and federal. So there are organization sizes to meet

everyone’s tastes.

Related to size is span of control and interaction, but it

is not just size dependent. In

government, your position tends to be less specialized than in the private

sector and you tend to wear more hats than your typical private sector

counterpart. This is partly due to size

and partly due to budget. There are

usually not enough IT positions to go around in government and therefore each

position has to do more and be more involved in different areas. That’s not to say that as the organization

gets larger your position won’t be more specialized, but even in the largest

state governments and at the federal level, you will find areas where IT staff

are generalists as opposed to purists.

Also related to size somewhat but again not completely

dependent, is the ability to make a difference. If you have the initiative you usually can find a way to make a

real impact in your organization and to the community/constituency the

government supports.

Third is meaningfulness.

Not taking anything away from the private sector, because I as much as

anyone else appreciates the goods and services I can purchase, but I get a

sense of satisfaction knowing that I work for the “people”. The work I do and have done in the past does

and has made a difference to the community that I live in or even state or

nation wide.

Fourth is forced creativity. Most government IT shops do not have the resources that can be

brought to bear on a problem or opportunity that a private sector organization

can. That being said, the good IT

practitioners in government find ways to get things done that are often times

extremely innovative and clever. Always

having to do more with less can make you a much sharper individual than always

having the tool at hand to do the job.

Fifth is opportunity.

Because government IT jobs tend to pay less than in the private sector

they are more willing to give you the chance to prove yourself than perhaps

your private sector counterpart. Having

been on the hiring side of the table for many years, I know that there were

qualified candidates that I could only dream of acquiring due to salary

restrictions and I therefore had to go with someone with less experience or

expertise and let them grow in the position.

Speaking of growing in positions, it is not uncommon to find

senior management that started at the lowest level position in the organization

and worked their way up. This often

corresponds with the organization investing in the employee through training

and/or letting them learn on the fly.

You get more chances to experiment and make mistakes in government than

you do in the private sector.

Lastly, for everything I have said here, EVERY job in any organization can be boring or have

its boring moments. Much of it has to

do with your own personal initiative, the management of your organization, and

your workplace and organizational culture.

I know people who hate their government jobs and I know people who hate

their private sector jobs. I have

worked in the most wonderful environments and I have worked in miserable

environments. Obviously one makes a choice

what to do in those situations, and the choice is a personal one. However, there is nothing inherently boring about government

IT. It is a reputation that is largely

undeserved.

I encourage anyone looking for a new opportunity to

consider government work. You just may

find that all those horror stories that you have heard or read are just

exaggerations of common workplace ills.

I know I have never regretted my decision to come to work for government

many years ago and I am still with government.

Just in a different place and with a different mission than before -

More new stuff to learn and more opportunities to make a difference. Boring?

Not a chance.

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