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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?

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Ease Isn't All

by PHelms In reply to IT Valuable

Doing things more efficiently means more than ease. In some cases it means being able to do something that would have otherwise been impossible, such as controlling massive amounts of air traffic.

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a helpful quote...

by networks In reply to Perspective

...comes to mind! Earl Nightengale once quoted on a 'self development' tape series..."you are paid in direct portion for your ability to do the work, the demand for what you do, and the difficulty in replacing you..."

For example, a janitor can be easily taught the cleaning skills. While the demand for a janitor may seem high [ assuming there were only a few ], there would exist little difficulty in replacing them, when compared to a 'brain surgen', who after many years of consentrated and competitive training and education, might receive several hundreds of thousands of dollars, for what he or she does, compared to the janitor at say 30 or 40k.

Therefore, worth could be combined with level of service to others, through sacrifices for the benefit of others.

I am too, a veteran of IT. Approximately 18 years devoted to this field, including teaching at several colleges and one institute of technology. I too am considering updating my credentials again. I am looking at Forensic Computer Crime and/or Security based certificates as a new venture to pursue going forward. I am 48 now, and with still a young family to raise, I must look at upgrading my skills, because I too feel a little stale with the IT/IS career.

Our organization has global reach, but much of the infrastructure building is complete and fairly recent. As a Network Analyst, little more than maintaining the flock for most of the forseeable future.

So, expand your horizons Packratt, because it should trigger a new joy to serve others, in what ever capacity you can achieve!

All the best!!!

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maybe a change of WHERE you do IT is needed

by dkucharski1 In reply to Perspective

you wrote:
"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."
Search out those organizations that DO THOSE THINGS and offer yourself up as a VALUABLE ASSET to them at a BARGAIN PRICE so they can use their funding to contribute the services they provide in a more efficient manner. If a charitable organization is enriched by your contribution, then that charity they provide can be looked upon as a very satisfying, if not impressive part of your compensation. It seems that while the corporate elite have forgotten how to share the wealth, there are many others that still can and do. SEEK them out! With all of the disaster relief being generated right now I know that there are charitable organizations that NEED good people willing to use their talents to help spread the wealth. Good Luck In the QUEST! it is a noble aspiration!!

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IT can still be good

by Gambi In reply to maybe a change of WHERE y ...

Hey packrat - keep your chin up. I think of similar things and the one thing that keeps me going is that I am helping others to achieve this goal.

I think that dkucharski1 and AcesKaraoke@msn.com hit the nail on the head for me - I may not be able to find a cure for cancer or any significant thing like that, but sure as jolly I can give those people the IT support that they can not do without in this era.

So my name wont be on the list of people who discovered the cure for HIV or on the list of doctors etc who helped with any disaster relief or anything else (I suppose) but those people could not achieve those heights without people like you and me. As sad as it seems...

We have more contribution that what alot of people think.

Hold your head high because of IT.

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Perfect Answer

by barry_sage In reply to Perspective

While reading Packrats post I was trying to formulate a meaningful reply. Then I read Aces and realised that the perfect reply was already there, and worded so well. I have moved through IT roles in several industries trying to find more meaning for my contribution. The reality is that most of your colleagues, including the CEO carry the same concerns, and make their contributions to the betterment of society in their own subtle ways, through social programmes, donation, empathy, kindness and political pressure.

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You want meaning?

by mitchlr In reply to Perspective

AcesKaraoke (what a pseudonym!) nails it, for better or worse.
If you want meaning, use your IT job to fund whatever it is you do for it. At work you're just a mechanism to produce code, administer or support systems. Indispensible where you are and as likely as not smarter than the person you work for, you are unlikely to be promoted where you can threaten some idiot bean counter's stock options.
Thank the Lord that you have a job that's at least mildly diverting and if you're lucky one in which you don't have to deal with "professional" managers too much.
Look elsewhere for meaning and significance -- your church, synagogue, tutoring, mentoring, making music, writing, or raising your kids (which ought to be first on the list) are where you ought to find your meaning.

For perspective, think about what you would like to be the epitath on your tombstone:

Here lies ITguy, RIP.
He pounded code so Giganticorp could sell widgets more efficiently.

You want that as a legacy? Thanks but no thanks. For right now, I do IT to fund my retirement account and feed my kids, but at some time (when I'm able to sock a bit more in savings or get the mortgage paid down) I'll get the courage to jump ship and take a more meaningful career at half or a third of the pay.

Oh, yeah. If you want meaning, try this: live well below your financial means. Fancy stuff costs losts of money and doesn't add squat to ultimate significance, although it keeps you chained to the IT desk. Live simply, finance your house on a 15 year note, pay it off early, and you will buy yourself more freedom than fancy clothes and cars will ever mean.
With a paid off mortgage, you might be able to take that more meaningful work at a third of what you're making now, and still be able to sock some away for retirement.

All the best to you!

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Thanks Everybody and Packratt

by AcesKaraoke In reply to You want meaning?

Thanx for all your great responses, and thanx Packratt for your honest query.

I've been learning so much from all the regulars here in TechRepublic. I'm just glad TechRepublic is such a great resource for information, advice, and (most importantly) support for a lot of underrated, underappreciated, underpaid and/or underemployed IT professionals in some hard times which are forcing many to re-evaluate their career and life choices.

P.S. mitchlr it's not a pseudonym, it's my business I'm in financing my return to school at ITT (18 years after high school) pursuing my passion for a computer intensive career. Karaoke's been good to me, but now that the kids are starting to attend school full time, it's time for daddy to get a 'real' job. I gotta free up more time to spend with the kids and more nights 'fore my wife gives up on me.

Keep the faith that what you want to achieve is never too late to accomplish, long as you're willing to do the work.

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No, thank you

by Packratt In reply to Thanks Everybody and Pack ...

Thanks for asking yourself the same questions and for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it.

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too simple?

by re-invention In reply to You want meaning?

I think what packratt was driving is not so easily dismissed. Of course, a pragmatic way around it is to look at a job or your work as a way to fund things you want to do, but that ignores the fact that you likely give 50% at least of all of your waking hours to this hollow vehicle for funding the areas of you life you consider more meaningful to yourself or society. There are also many small ways you can build meaning into your work, but again that does not provide some overarching value add to the world. For me, the only tangible benefit I can add to society as an IT manager for a large company is to continually teach employess and externals alike entrepreneurship and help push the evolution of how we get work accomplished. Hopefully, this helps us evolve faster towards working for ourselves, thus diffusing some of the enormous centralization of power and resources within huge multinational companies. It also aims to redefine work/employment and gear people for constant change so they have a chance to thrive (not just survive) into the future.

Of course, I could be wrong...perhaps packratt just wanted to know that his work is meaningless dilbert-esque BS, and that's fine as long as he squeezes in meaningful moment or two in his scant few hours of free time :-0

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Thank you.

by wtsantos In reply to You want meaning?

Mitchlr,

Thanks for your words of wisdom!

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