I recently gave my list of the unique challenges that come with working in IT. TechRepublic members responded with a few items that should be added to the list. So, by popular demand, here are five more.
When I wrote Five things that suck about working in IT a couple weeks ago, members of the TechRepublic audience were kind enough to point out that I missed a few items that should definitely be on the list. As a result, I decided to take the best responses from the community and use them to beef up the list with five more things.
5. There's often a bad inheritance
This item comes courtesy of TechRepublic member ken.mccrohan of Virginia. He described it as "Previous CIO/Net Admin/Developer chose a vendor [or] spec'd a system [or] wrote some code, then leaves, and you are tasked with fixing their mess or worse, explaining their choices." This is so common it's practically a cliche.
I know lots of IT pros who have been faced with cleaning up a bad situation left by a predecessor. Sometimes it's just a matter of the new techie having a different approach than the old new. Other times it can be a situation where the previous techie was disgruntled or disengaged and didn't perform very well in the final months before leaving the company. And sometimes, there's a reason why the previous IT manager is no longer with the company, and cleanup is simply part of your mandate.
4.You have to repeatedly prove yourself
You can say this about a lot of jobs, but the situation is especially acute in IT because IT usually involves keeping systems up and running 24/7/365 as well as a lot of project work. Member Locrian_Lyric stated, "You are only as good as your last project. As soon as that's done, you have to prove your worth all over again, if not constantly." He also added, "Your value lasts only as long as the current management. If there is a new CIO, CTO, or other higher up with a 'new vision' update your resume, you are going to need it."
3. You can work yourself out of a job
Since IT is primarily about streamlining business processes, if you do it well enough by implementing and developing the right technologies then you can eventually decrease the headcount of the IT department -- and sometimes even make your own job obsolete. The problem is that some IT managers realize this and so they make decisions based on their own self-preservation rather than what's good for the business. However, the best IT managers will always do what's best for the business, even if it makes their own job obsolete. They know that producing great results will help redefine their role in the company or provide a strong resume-booster to land another job, if needed.
Another similar challenge is when the IT department is so good and so well organized that the company's IT infrastructure runs smoothly and people in the company start to wonder if it could run itself and they question whether they really need so many IT pros to run it.
Along those lines, member langbobr wrote, "It has always seemed to me that if you (as an IT professional) are doing the job right... nobody even knows what you do. If everything [in] IT is working, people wonder why you're there."
Member talawrence added, "I've worked for places that think you don't do anything because nothing ever breaks. They do not understand all the good work being done to prevent meltdowns. I get frustrated when people also refer to the Y2K problem as over hyped. I know I worked many 18 hour days leading up to Y2K."
2. It's tough to find good help
If you're a CIO or an IT leader, the most challenging part of running an IT department is finding good people to hire. Some IT folks scoff at this idea because there have been plenty of IT pros laid off since 2001 and so there are still unemployed IT workers looking for new jobs. Nevertheless, we repeatedly hear from IT leaders and their recruiters that they have a very difficult time finding IT workers to meet their requirements.
TechRepublic member Michelle wrote: "It's been a challenge to find great IT people who are easy to work with, don't have an ego the size of our mother earth, can read & follow instructions, & can communicate well via e-mail & IM."
One CTO in the San Francisco Bay Area recently told me that he can easily find mediocre developers but it's tough to find really good ones. And, he noted, "One good developer is worth as much as three mediocre developers." That's because the good ones know how to get things done while the mediocre ones require a lot of management, hand-holding, and code-fixing.
1. Users confuse IT with magic
TechRepublic member Eric from Colorado pointed to the problem of "Wildly unreasonable expectations, i.e. IT=magic." He wrote, "Non-technical end users think you are a graduate of Hogwarts instead of some place in the real world. Typical end-user expectation: 'I would like access to the last 10 years of my email, with all attachments, instantly searchable and with no performance lag - and I expect you to make this happen on my Pentium II... Anything less means you're an utter incompetent.'"
Member msims added, "Users tend to ... see the department as just one big computer system and forget that there are human beings who work there day and night weekends and on call who only have one head, two hands and two legs who can only do as much as they can."
Member MavMin2 advised IT professionals not to get too caught up in the things that make it tough to work in IT. He said, "When all else fails, say [to yourself], 'It beats unemployment and soup lines.'" He also added, "In the military we had a saying that a griping soldier was a happy soldier and there are a lot of happy soldiers on [TechRepublic]."
Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks.