IT social worker

IT, that’s the hoodie-wearing nerds in the vault. Especially in the news footage: There has been a publicity-grabbing computer failure in a company, and the background image is of a person in front of a laptop, shutters down, casting a striped shadow on a hoodie. The only new development since a few years is that the hacker is sometimes female.

Recently, when asked what I did for a living, I told a woodworker that I am a computer specialist. His answer was that he couldn’t spend the whole day sitting in front of a computer. I replied that I couldn’t do that either. He said he works with people. I asked him where and when he actually works with people. Approximately every 6 weeks, he advises customers on individual pieces of furniture or their restoration, apart from that, he works alone in the workshop.

He didn’t believe that I work far more with people. For him, IT means sitting in front of a computer and programming. And so I tried to explain to him the tasks of an IT architect. I told him that I need to understand the client, his culture, his maturity level. That we need to agree on the right level of IT services that will bring real business value to the client. That I have to reconcile the picture I have of the customer’s IT with the reality in the company. That I have to win people over to change their work and show them a nuanced picture of what their future could look like.

I honestly don’t know if I really reached him. At least he knows that there are people in computer engineering who work intensively with people and social systems. But I guess he still believes that most of us work with pizza fingers in the basement.

This highly stupid image of IT professions probably plays a great deal into why we have been lacking young talent in this sector for years. Particularly for female trainees and students, “sitting in front of a computer all day” is likely to be quite a put-off.

I can only say that the job opportunities in IT are extremely wide-ranging, you get to know great customers, and you can develop super interesting innovations for the business with them. Not a single day goes by that I do not work with other people.

Dear computer professionals, let’s talk more often about our profession, about exciting, challenging or funny encounters with clients, always in the bright sunshine as well as sometimes wearing a hoodie.


Digital Natives, what the heck?

So today I want to get a little edgy about two events. The other day I read in a whitepaper about the new generation and their IT requirements, the term “Digital Immigrant” which the ” Generation X” doesn’t really understand everything about IT. For this group of people, the whitepaper had some warm words at hand.

I spoke to the business partner who proudly presented me with this work and told him: “You realize that you are insulting the current generation of IT managers? Because many of them grew up from Generation X and also with IT.

It was similar but completely different when I was approached by a young lady who said that it must have been very difficult for me to become acquainted with modern means of communication such as e-mail [sic] in my senior years. For her, that’s a piece of cake e-mail, Instagram, Facebook, everything: in the end she’s “Digital Native”.

When she found out that I got my first e-mail address with the enrollment, that at that time there was already chat, internet and the WWW. She was also surprised that we had to submit digital homework exercises in computer science. In the further discussion it turned out that she has very little knowledge about IT besides being able to install and use apps.

I think using apps is a knowledge that even the most backward digital immigrant – if he only wants to – can catch up in a few days, because apps are designed for intuitive operation.

There are certainly “digital late entrants” or even “digital ignorers” in Generation X, but in the vast majority of cases this generation has been using IT for a very long time. Just like there are still “digital dummies” today that have no idea of what they are doing other than consuming.

I think the first Digital Natives are people like Tim Berners-Lee or Grace Hopper. I also think it would be nice if as many people as possible were interested in the backgrounds “What is the WWW?”, “How does a network work?”, “How does an app work?” or “How does the technology behind Facebook work? That helps a lot in the modern world to be able to form a solid opinion. This may also be part of the educational canon for Digital Democrats.

Requirements for IT systems for the Digital Natives generation are always requirements for better usability, consistency or interaction. Mostly exactly what all IT users want. Stop putting labels on people of any generation! We humans don’t fit sorted to labels. Thank you!