IT Employment

General discussion


Real Value of IT Work?

By Packratt ·
Recently I've been pondering a lot about the real true value of what I do for a living, that being IT of course. When I say real value, I mean, what can I point out to my children and say "look, dad did this and it helps people and is worthwhile because ______."

I'm asking myself (and all of you) this not just because I think IT is being killed in the US as a potential career path, not just because business views treats us as a cost center and annoyance instead of an asset... But because I always wanted to help people and make a difference in this world, not contribute to it's problems and I wonder now if a career in IT doesn't do more harm than good in the big picture.

Seriously, I wonder... what have I done in this career other than increase efficiency and thus help line the pockets of already very wealthy people with even more wealth by allowing them to do the same things with fewer workers and thus put other people out of work who needed that money more?

As you can tell, I'm looking for more substantive answers other than "I saved my company x dollars" or "I helped a user figure this out." or "I got our network to run more efficiently." I'm looking for something of real value, something you could point out to anyone and explain in real tangible terms how your job made a real difference.

Is IT truely just a cost center, not just in the eyes of business, but also in terms of social worth? What real true value to the world do you think you have as an IT worker that makes it worthy of holding on to or sacrificing so much of your life for?

This conversation is currently closed to new comments.

Thread display: Collapse - | Expand +

All Comments

Collapse -


by DC_GUY In reply to Real Value of IT Work?

There are many lines of work in which it is virtually impossible for the majority of the workers to "make a difference" on the scale you're talking about. IT is one of them.

The average software engineer can apply all the principles of good engineering that he knows and build reliable, user-friendly software that will help his company prosper. That doesn't sound like the scope you're looking for. But remember that at the same time you're making life easier for your end users by reducing their headaches and minimizing down time. That is a worthy goal.

We can't all change the world but most of us have the ability to make a few people happier and help them get home to their children a bit earlier every night. That's worth being proud of.

As for enriching the corporation, at least you're helping the U.S. economy grow, which is more likely to improve the lives of a few of its citizens than if it were shrinking.

But just because you can't change the world the moment you start your IT career doesn't mean that you won't be able to do it eventually. It's that old "paying your dues" thing. I spent most of my life in the construction and support of rather unremarkable software that was not well deployed. But eventually I got into training, which is a very fulfilling activity whether it's second-graders or adult software engineers; you really are making a difference.

Then finally I got into process improvement, and I feel like I'm one of the few people who is struggling to change the IT world.

But I'm in my sixties. You can get there, you just have to be really patient.

Collapse -

Over 10 Years

by Packratt In reply to Patience

Yes, I've been at this for over 10 years now so I don't know if it's a matter of patience.

I think it's more a question of, in the real scheme of things, what could I offer to people in need that they could use? My skills will not house a homeless person, they will not feed someone who needs food, they will not heal someone who is ill, etc... My skills serve no real purpose in the scheme of things, it seems artificial.

To the point, my skills increase the efficiency of business, as you correctly point out. However, this increase of efficient and profit margin result in more people being laid off and becoming unemployed as this is ultimately what businesses have done with those efficiency gains (do more with less)... All that work has gone straight to the CEO's pocket, a person who needs that money the least out of all the people affected by these changes I've participated in making.

(not to mention that those increases in efficiency are actually causing the people left behind in wakes of layoffs to work longer hours, not shorter ones.)

Yes, perhaps too that my efforts in a very small way contribute to the growing US economy, however we see there that it's growing for the already wealthy, but shrinking for the poor and working class who have seen costs rise faster than wages. So that contribution as well seems to be more detrimental than contributory.

(does the social construct called economy exist to serve the needs of people or do people exist to serve the needs of the economy? Which is more valuable and worthy of saving or helping, a person or a business?)

Yes, there was a time that my skills did help people who most needed it. I trained and mentored many who needed jobs and I enabled them to work in the IT field when that was a viable option. Now that the field is barren I do not teach others these skills because it's more detrimental than good.

But, perhaps you have given me an unintentional idea, maybe teaching is a good way to help others. Not technology, but something more basic like math or science. But I'm not sure even that makes a difference these days as the public school system in the US forces you to teach to tests and to learn trades... not to develop critical thinking skills and how to learn.

Collapse -

The best teacher...

by Salamander In reply to Over 10 Years

...I ever had was a teacher in public high school, an English teacher. He made a very powerful impression on me because he did teach us to think logically. We also had an excellent chemistry teacher who inspired a great many of my friends to go into the natural sciences. Our art teacher was exemplary.

Admittedly, this was in a rural area. Where I grew up, there are no private school alternatives, and everybody goes to the same place: farm kids, the kids of manufacturing workers, and professionals' kids. Classes were small, less than 25 kids. Sure, the books were not the newest, and there wasn't any air conditioning, but the teachers were creative, and they cared about us.

I obviously can't speak to all public schools, and I'm sure that there are problems in various systems, but that was my experience.

If you have a genuine desire to teach, you may want to look into this milieu.

Collapse -


by AcesKaraoke In reply to The best teacher...

Packratt don't be too hard on yourself or expect too much from your career.

I look at a job/career as what I do to fund what I want to do. The fact that I'm training to be in computers (which I love) is just a perk. Doing an honest day's work and collecting your pay, there's no dishonor in that. You should be proud to do work that not everybody can and that you do it well.

You have the power to change the world in what you do wherever you are. Trading kindness and respect with others. Raising a family. Participating in your community. Being politically active. Discussing your views with your peers. Teaching others and learning yourself. All these things change and help shape the world. You don't have to look for a cure for cancer to change and impact the world in a positive way.

Don't expect too much from yourself. Just do what you can and be a good person who cares about others.

If everyone did, we would live in a changed world indeed.

Collapse -


by apotheon In reply to Perspective

That was quite well-phrased, and more succinctly made some of the same points I tried to address elsewhere in this discussion. Good job, Aces.

Collapse -


by gabeap In reply to Perspective

I could not have said it better.

Collapse -

Perspective Part II

by Worm Farmer In reply to Perspective

I'd like to add to this message and say Ditto. I get more satisfaction knowing that I am respected for WHO I am, rather than WHAT I am. Smarts, IQ, College Education...sure that matters for WHAT a person is, but in order for anybody to realize that you are out there to change the world, you must take a look at the world from inside yourself. Respect others and they will respect you.
I know a hundreds of people who were laid off during the "Bad Economy" 2001-2003, many of my IT friends were out of work for months. They were smart, had years of IT, or software developing experience. Those who succeded at obtaining work during that period were not always the "Bosses friend of a friend" but were those who know how to treat and respect others.


There are 2 rules for success in life:
1- Don't tell anyone everything you know.

Collapse -

IT Valuable

by pstorli In reply to Perspective

Would you say a career in television is worthless? That actors have no purpose? Well, ITs global reach is even greater than television and movies. I have written several programs that affect thousands of people, if not millions. My software makes what they are trying to do easier. We, as programmers, can affect the world in a way that no other technology can. We can and are having an impact on the world. It is how we use technology that determines if it is good or bad, not the technology itself.

Collapse -

Teaching is great

by barbmac In reply to IT Valuable

Teaching IT is a great career. As you rightly point out, education should not just be about passing exams and learning a trade or 'job skills'. Many students hate school, and it is soul destroying to do something you hate for years. Generally, students love IT. Whether they eventually work in the industry or not, in IT classes they master skills that will be of use in virtually any working environment while having lots of fun, improving their own confidence and self respect. That is a job worth doing.

Collapse -

IT Burnout

by mill3502 In reply to Teaching is great

For the most part IT has lost it luster to me and as you pointed out I to began to ask what am I doing that changes things. And for a while I really thought about returning to school and changing my entire life. But challenges can still be a part of the IT world and instead of returning to school and sitting behind the desk I decided to return to school and be in front of the desk. I am still pursuing my current IT position but I am also teaching part-time at a local community college. It has given me new focus and the ability to face the duldrums of my current position. So I say find that outlet that lets you be creative and gives you a feeling of returning something to society. You will feel a lot better for it and you will not feel like you threw away your life.

Related Discussions

Related Forums