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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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You don't really believe that do you?

by j.penney In reply to Line the CEO's pocket?!

Look, no offense, but this is just not true.

The CEO's job is to increase the shareholder value, and usually that's in the short term.

The easiest way for me to increase the shareholder's value of your company in the short term is to buy it, fire you and sell off the assets.

A big part of your manager's job is to eliminate your job (and thus you) if possible, and his motivation to do this is that if he does, he gets to keep part of your salary for himself.

I understand that if the company isn't profitable then people get fired and salaries go down, but it's a really big mistake to think that the CEO doesn't get a big chunk of any profits we create.

Interestingly enough, in several of the management schools I've looked into one of the mantras repeated by all the professors is "profit is the result of the activities of management" - I bet that's a surprise to all of you who work every day to make the company run.

Take care.

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Perhaps I am missing something

by Rascal1981 In reply to Over 10 Years

Reading through this topic and your posts has left me thinking that maybe you need to consider a more charitable line or work; The truth is that business is business and you do end up looking out for number 1, whether that is you directly or lining your CEO's pockets with cost reduction in head count in order to get that bigger bonus. Seeing a value in this is easy enough; more money = better lifestyle for you and your family and means you are doing a better job (most of the time) which means your end users are benefiting from your work as well.

While you may not be changing the world, tell me what job is? I mean do you really think giving that $5 to the bell ringer in front of your grocery store is saving someone's life in a 3rd world country?? While this may seem harsh it is the unavoidable truth of any job in business. Your productivity does lead to layoffs, cutbacks, reduction, etc... and more money for you (for the most part in the form of bonuses, raises, etc...) and if you feel guilty about that or are looking for deeper satisfaction you will have to look a little further outside of IT and business in general to find it.

Does this sound cold? Most likely but I am a surrealist person who believes the truth; yes what I do may put someone out of business but in this fast paced world, who wouldn't/doesn't do the same? And if it benefits me/my family why shouldn't I?

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Heard of Ethics?

by Womble In reply to Perhaps I am missing some ...

I acknowedge the point that business is a a process of making money for shareholders or business owners, but all of us are limited by the sets of values we develop as to what we will do to achieve that profit. By taking the extreme view that alls fair in love and business, we ignore the limits that our society puts on us.
We have seen, by both legislation and education, that most major corporations have been putting in place limits on what they will do to accomplish their corporate goals. Things like bribes and Cartels used to be SOP, but are now avoided minimised or hidden.
IT work has changed from an art to a trade, and as a result it can be used or abused the same as any other trade. If one wishes to use it to suck up all the money you can, then best of luck dealing with the various legal agencies that will be chasing one. If however one makes a decision to stick to one's ethical guns, then this is a lot easier to sleep with.

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Horse chips!!!

by ron_r_a In reply to Perhaps I am missing some ...

What a bunch of crock! Except for the term surrealist (one who pairs unmatched fantasy images together to represent unconscious dreams).
So many people here are defining materialistic needs; void of purpose and direction.
IT began its downward spiral when the newer members decided it was all about money. Someday, a giant IT tsunami will sweep them all away to a deserted island along with one Commodore C-64 and let them face their own uselessness.
Twenty years ago, IT had a "team" air to it. By helping each other, you helped the field evolve. Today, you need to get your head above the sea of career parasites first then set out to find the personal touch you are destined to contribute.
Let me tell you what happened this week... one of my customers found out she had a blockage in her heart. It was late at night and she needed someone to talk to. She saw that I was logged into Yahoo Messenger. So, we began to talk. I had been working for 18 hours but I listened to her. For 2 hours, I listened. I never once thought it an inconvenience. I certainly did NOT consider charging for my time. She turned to me because she knew that I cared about my customers. She knew when I worked on her computer that I took the time to listen to her and to explain things in her terms. She knew that I did my job because I enjoy it even though there are corporations out there that would pay much more.
The corporations and rapists currently dragging IT through a maze of self-righteous glut will eventually tire and discard the scraps. Among the remains will be a smarter, stronger seed that the upcoming generation will hopefully put to better use.

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Wrong industry?

by Joia In reply to Over 10 Years


There are some very thoughtful replies in this thread, and I've enjoyed reading them. What occurs to me is that it may not be the *profession* you are in that is the problem, it may be the industry!

It's clear that the people in the healthcare IT field feel like they add value to people's lives...both healthcare workers and patients. Maybe you should think about shifting your career to a different industry, where the work you do and the people you serve would provide the personal satisfaction and sense of pride and self-worth you seem to be seeking.

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life defined by work or work defined by life

by Seanpol In reply to Over 10 Years

I would like to have had the social impact of Ghandu, MLK, Lincoln, Malcom X, or even my drill instructor.
The meaning and purpose of life's worth is in you and is not defined by what you kill and drag home to feed your young.
Do well and be happy in your work, then if you need more sustenance, do volunteer work , or raise a family if you really want to have all of the life challenges and smiles you want.
Being a good dad is tough, being a good geek pales in comparison.
I gave up my job with IBM, for a number of reasons
among them I found a maintenance job that paid more, and let me work with my hands, and be around
As the saying goes "Life is where you find it"
My neighbor was having a hard time with a break job, I dragged out my compressor and helped him with the hard part, just becaause I could.
I do volunteer tech support, on line for Five Star, and have learned patience dealing with end users who just do the weirdest things, and are spectacularly clueless.
So enjoy your work, make lots of money and learn to share your happiness.

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Consider using your free time to make a difference in a kid's life

by MomtoJustin In reply to Over 10 Years

I agree that you can use the money you make in IT to fund what you want to do. In my case, my husband and I are using it to help fund our dream of adopting a special needs boy.

There are still orphanages in the US and so many children out there who need loving care. You need not be a foster or an adoptive parent. You can also just visit a kid who has no visitors at all or volunteer to help out in some other way.

If you are in Massachusetts, you can check out:

Best of luck,

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Systemic thinking

by photontx In reply to Over 10 Years

The big picture that we are discussing here is not being brought to light. Every business in the US is now impacted by technology, and if you are contributing member to the infrastructure of a company that is meeting public or government demands then you are an asset that is helping support the infrastructure of society.

For example, for the last 5 years I have worked for a two-way paging company, engineering, implementing, and maintaining their paging and database systems, whose services are utilized by physicians, surgeons, police, and emergency personnel. Those individuals depend on the robust, reliable, and advanced technological paging engines to help other people. Without my IT skills, and the IT skills of others these services wouldn't exist, and therefore more people would not be helped or possibly would die. I'd say that's just one direct example of how IT contributes, supports, and accelerates the rescue of mankind.

It all depends on your perspective of the big picture, and whether or not you're looking at it from 5 thousand or 30 thousand feet. Look at every business from a systemic standpoint and try to understand how improving the efficiency of any industry helps society. I think you'll find it's a quantifiable and qualitative value that simply needs a different perspective.

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IT's not the job, IT's the attitude

by dmichalski In reply to Over 10 Years

No matter what field you take up, it is only a tool; a means to an end. You provide the direction. If IT doesn't seem to have the global effect that you are looking for, perhaps the issue isn't the career, but something in yourself. You could set up web sites to collect food, clothes, money, or other goods to help the needy, homeless, or tsunami victims (your choice). If that isn't your expertise, you could look at what your business does for humanity, and then how you help them accomplish that task. Whether it's provide the world with a better mouse trap for a cheaper price, minimize networking costs that will enable expansion (and jobs) to other regions, or as simple as keeping all the machines running smoothly so that some child will get his toy, game , computer, or what have you in time for the holidays.
Personally, I teach and that is how I am fulfilled (and fulfill others). To see people that are transitioning from working a dead-end job to learning a career that is not going to die any time soon is a good feeling. Worse case scenario, you could have your job in IT and spend your free time making a difference.

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We do help

by TonytheTiger In reply to Over 10 Years

Computers play a large part in most people's lives nowadays. Including cargo loading scheduling, etc. So making sure those computers and their programs are working correctly certainly will help people. Making sure food, medicine, building supplies, etc. are delivered where and when it is needed, for example.

Another example is using your skills to make someone else's task easier, allowing them to get that task done sooner so thay can devote more of their time to helping people.

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