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 dont 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
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. Thats not to say that as the organization
gets larger your position wont 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
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
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
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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