When it comes to superheroes, I’m
as old-school as they come. To me, Superman is George Reeves in black and
white, Batman is Adam West in spandex, and I guess that makes me a sucker for
the legends as originally written – right down to Lois Lane’s inane inability
to penetrate Clark Kent’s cunning disguise.
The modern sensibility, of course
– advanced in TV’s “Smallville” and the film franchise reboot, Man
of Steel – is that Superman’s secret identity isn’t much of a secret to
begin with, and Lois is in on it now. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m on board –
I’m no Sheldon Cooper, I’m a sucker for just about any incarnation of my oldest
friends! – but this new fast-and-loose identity freedom is an adjustment for
The mystique is gone, you see!
That phone-booth moment, the ripping-off-the-glasses and
tearing-open-the-shirt, the transformation of Clark Kent to Superman –
that was a big deal to me! And now, well, everybody around him – Pete, Lana,
Lois – they all just sort of wink. The times, they are a-changin’ …
And they’ve changed for us IT
We used to enjoy that same
Kal-El-ish mystique – goofy, clumsy nerds in a corner, who became gods in the crunch,
when big machines came crashing down and ominous threats endangered helpless
data. We had our moment, we transformed … and the indifference of very
attractive others in the lunchroom became awe, when we stepped in and flexed
our IT muscle.
Think about that for a moment: we
made a difference because only we could make that difference. That makes
us attractive, not just as co-workers, but as people. At all levels of
human interaction, people take note of that which is rare and unique. IT skills
have always given its practitioners that quality.
Until now. In recent years, our
glasses have come off. Our mystique, however contrived and silly it may have
been, has begun to dissipate. Why? Because empowerment is the new industry
trend, and it’s a trend that isn’t going away. Collaborative platforms,
do-it-yourself website creation and administration, open source – embodied by
SharePoint and other trendy technologies – have given everybody
superpowers. Lana has superpowers. Chloe has superpowers.
Increasingly, the phones in IT
ring less and less with calls for mighty mighty greatness, and more and more
for help rescuing cats from trees.
Less and less are we the ones
bending steel; users are doing that for themselves now. A few years ago, I
remember that we complained about this – all that power, in the wrong hands
…! But then we realized we were getting pestered a lot less. Our role
changed. We ceased to be the guardians of all code, and became the stewards of
the metropolis itself.
IT today is more about
architecture, scalable design, and resource optimization than it is about
propping up monolithic assemblies and fusing broken tracks together. We are
more environmental, and we have to be: SharePoint and her sister technologies
consume lots of resource, and everything has to connect to everything, so the
environment as a whole has to be more efficient, more robust, more skillfully
integrated than ever.
And my argument is that this makes
those of us in IT even mightier in the end. Sure, we lose our theatricality,
but we have to be more proficient, more creative, more forward-thinking, more
self-critical than ever, in order to empower the mortals around us. They can
only do the cool things they’re now doing if we move on to bigger things, and
do them better than ever. And it is our meteor rocks, remember, that gave them
their new powers.
True, we no longer leap tall
buildings, we no longer bend steel – but damn, we’re still the ones
changing the course of mighty rivers.
Scott Robinson is a 20-year IT veteran
with extensive experience in business intelligence and systems integration. An
enterprise architect with a background in social psychology, he frequently
consults and lectures on analytics, business intelligence and social
informatics, primarily in the health care and HR industries.