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 jrowe In reply to IT - a pain in the butt

First of all, all your gripes seem to be about the hardware and the software of different vendors and companies. How about complaining to them since they are the ones who built them? We only try to keep them going so that YOU CAN WORK!! Secondly, why don't you use a Mac?

Collapse -

Your job isn't your life.

by Darkar In reply to Real Value of IT Work?

I read many years ago, I think it was in a Tom Peters book, about the differences between Americans and Europeans view of their lives. In America if you ask a person what they are, they will normally give you their job title, i.e. IT person, banker, nurse, or what ever. In Europe if you ask a banker what he is, he may answer a mountain climber, a painter, a sailor, or what ever it is, he views himself as. His job is just the way he makes his living. If you want to ?make a difference?, do your job to support yourself and any family you may have and then go make your difference, be a social worker, help build a house for someone, help in your community. Don?t tie your job, hopefully something you?re good at and enjoy, to who you are or what you do.

Collapse -

"What Should I Do With My Life?"

by BW3 In reply to Real Value of IT Work?

At times during my 25 year IT career I've had similar thoughts. I think some of the problem is being someone who likes to help people but being on the back end I don't see constant reminders of how users benefit. And without good management and leaders IT is quite often left out of the rewards and recognition that companies realize. I consider myself fortunate however because most of the time I feel I add value to my company and its customers. I have also chosen to work for non-profit organizations in education and healthcare. Two areas I feel add great value and service to our communities. And there's pro's and con's to everything and one of the con's with my choices have been lower salaries. It has been worth it though. Each year I speak at a local university to IT students about IT careers. The most important advice I give them is to read an article by Po Bronson titled "What Should I Do With My Life? The real meaning of success - and how to find it". I found it to be an excellent article and you can find it at
Hang in there and keep looking, I'm sure there's a place out there for you.

Collapse -

Real Value of IT Work?

by raazeez In reply to Real Value of IT Work?

I'd like to believe that we are IT professionals due to our belief in the technology and in those it serves. I've asked myself this question, because this has been an issue for me for some time now.

It wasn't until I crossed over to the business side of technology that my purpose as a technology professional became clear. You see, as an IT professional, I could only see the technology. I knew it was good for the company, the employees and the clients these systems served. However, because information technology is OUR business, we tend to lose perspective on OUR purpose. Our purpose for being IS TO SERVE THE BUSINESS, NOT JUST THE TECHNOLOGY. Therefore, we must do more than serve the technology...WE MUST SERVE THE BUSINESS!

As IT professionals, we must be willing to round out our profession with good, solid business sense. We must find ways to present the business case for technology. We can do this in a number of ways; cost comparisons, analysis, and savings must be done and presented to the business. Savings analysis and reports should be performed, as well, in order to prove our worth to the Company.

Ours is an intangible world. One that is rooted in controlling the flow of information. Turn off the computer and all you have is a commodity. Turn on the computer and you have a transport for commerce. Operating systems, service packs, virus protection, virtual private networks, e-mail clients and browsers only exist when the computer system is on!! Although technology's importance is realized everyday, we must commit ourselves to the quantification and qualification of technology's presence for the business and thusly for ourselves.

We can prove to our children that we did _____, because we make businesses GO! The trick is to turn the intangible into the tangible.

I believe the IT field offers more of a career path today and in the future, because the technology era is still in its infancy. We are becoming more than IT professionals, we are becoming IT practitioners, not unlike our legal, medical, and dental counterparts.

The answer to the Real Value of IT Work? question may lie in OUR rediscovery and redefinition of the field of IT.

Collapse -

i agree enjoy the business side if you can

by dohNotGood In reply to Real Value of IT Work?

I have had two diiferent job paths. The first was public health were i practiced epidemiology. I loved it but was tired of grant work which was the majority of work in my city. So I went into web development and eventaully database administration in the Distance Learning field with nothing to do with public health and I started to feel just like you. I worked long hours on skeleton crews to make things happen. But I still felt empty. So i stared to look for IT related jobs in the Public Health sector. It took me a year and a half and I was able to and did move within State to take a jobe where I am assiting in the development of a state wide web based disease surveillance system and loving it. I get to practice Epidemiology while keeping my hands wet with data modeling and messaging infrastructures.

Collapse -

Change who you are helping

by Lister Of Smeg In reply to Real Value of IT Work?

I am an IT Consultant and my clients are mainly organisations trying to make money. But with the knowledge, resources and time that this career provides me, I am able to help some very worthy charities for free. I can't tell you how much the charity sector needs the help of IT Consultants - the majority of small charities are an IT nightmare, with no means of repairing or fixing their problems. The most infuriating part for me is usually how minor the problems are and how much difference I could have made if I had been there earlier! Instead of lining the pockets of the few, you can help the people who help the many. I get my clients to donate their old equipment to the charities that need it the most. This is a double edged sword as the charities are able to help my clients by safely disposing or reusing the old equipment and the client often comes round to the idea of offering their skills to help the charity. This part of my job is by far the most rewarding - and it gives me the sense of self worth I think you are looking for.

Collapse -

The bigger picture

by reflecting on history In reply to Real Value of IT Work?

You?ve made a significant statement when you link the question to: what might I tell my children. It seems to me the underlying questions is: Is there a direct relationship between IT (what I do for a living) and what is happening in the world. The focus here is ?direct relationship?.

As a college professor, adjunct, in a multi-disciplinary school, University of Phoenix: Seattle, this question constantly occurs because I work with students who are considering IT as a career and because I work with students employed in IT who are leaving the profession. These students want to know if they are making the world better than it was when they started working in IT. They seek to offer something of themselves as they try to engage problems related to food, shelter, hunger, etc. The recent Tsunami has helped focus this question for many people. The answer to this question is both yes and no.

IT will never have a direct link to anything that is occurring in the world. However, it does enable efforts to change the world, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. I was trained, doctoral level, as a theologian and so these questions and comments are important to me as we all struggle to help make the world a better and safer place. Still IT can never be linked to a substantial change in quality of life. It can however be linked to changes in life. It is the use of IT and the benefits derived from IT that will make the difference, if and only if, there is a concerted effort to distribute the benefits across the entire population rather than on the up side of the digital divide.

A major concern for many of us is the lack of the IT benefit across the population, particularly in second and third world countries. Because IT, science, and engineering workers earn substantially more than non-IT workers they are in a position to help change their environment. Yet this is not so much their possibilities but the purview of the business community and its willingness to redistribute income outside of the direct arena.

As an individual, you make possible the existence of a better world. For example you speed up the tracking and movement of medical supplies, the use of technology in schools, or the distribution of food. You may not directly distribute any of these, but without your help it might not happen. You can also lobby your company to offer training for those who are interested but not skilled or provide resources to schools. You may not change the world because you work in IT, but the world may be better because you work in IT.

Collapse -

Use work to enable the good stuff

by TToE In reply to Real Value of IT Work?

I have been thinking about the same issues over the last few years. Friends have been laid off because of/in spite of the efficiencies that my team has created. Wages haven't gone up, although benefits have been cut. The somber mood at this company sounds to be about par for the course right now.

However, I've realized that my skills and opportunities can be put to use anyway. Rather than quitting my job and dedicating my time overseas to the problems, I've found that there are plenty of things to do. It helps me sleep at night, although I will always wish I could do more. I've become a Big Brother (, and I will be volunteering one night a week at a local shelter. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities available, wherever you are.

If that's not enough, you can always do your best to donate money to a charity doing good work. I like AmeriCares ( and Results ( but with recent events, there are plenty all over the news.

Oh yeah, voting the correct way always helps too... ;-)

Don't give up trying to improve the world around you. I can assure you, if there were more people who cared about this like you do, hunger and poverty would no longer exist.

Good luck!

Collapse -

My perspective...

by vanight In reply to Real Value of IT Work?

I too have have been reflecting much the same as you. For my self I simply had to realize that my true lifes purpose is not going to be found in my job. Now, I totally understand the lack of satisfaction in having "few" people outside of IT understand the value of what we do. My Dad is a builder and when he builds a house it absolutely puts me in AWE. Even someone that digs a ditch has the satisfaction of seeing the ditch when its done at the end of the day.

I have been reading a book called "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. Be forewarned it is based in Christian principal, but regardless, it has been on the NY times best seller list for a long time and sold millions of copies. I will just say it helped me immensely and leave it at that.

Do you have an other hobbies you can do on the side to give you the satisfaction you desire? Music, Art, etc...

The issue here is an industry problem in my book. I strongly feel that there needs to be a change of accounting practice in order to truly change the attitude. On the other hand, I have been blessed to be working in a NOC that is a key profit producing center. Much of the problem is also in the way IT people have been slowly changed into viewing themselves. We need become agressive in showing the value and profit we can bring a company by being inovative and leveraging our skills and knowledge of software and hardware. Bottom line though, I sympathize with you as I have often reflected in the same way. Good luck in your self discovery and may you find the purpose your looking for.


Collapse -

One more day

by TomSutor In reply to My perspective...

It seems back in the day before I got into IT whenever I would go to a place like CompUSA, the people always "talked down" to me like I was intrusive for asking IT questions about computers. When I started my home repair, I noticed the same attitude from competition IT people. Always being aloof and they are not to be questioned. Had IT been more caring and not so self satisfied with their knowledge, they might still be at the top of their profession. As it is, the high schools now teach IT as a trade and that will lower the price people will pay for IT. Also, now that IT has to give customer support to keep their job, only the best of both will get the high paying jobs.

Related Discussions

Related Forums