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IT Responsibilities

What does it mean to be an IT Professional? by gbaughma
Posted: 30 Apr 09

While I'm sure that this FAQ will have a lot of feedback, and that feedback will have a lot of different views, I figured it was a good opportunity for those folks thinking about getting into the IT field, or to help a current IT professional to regain focus.

This is what "Being in I.T." means to me.

1) It's all about customers.
Both Internal and External customers.  Your external customers are obvious; they're the ones paying your establishment for solutions; whether those solutions are directly data related or not.  The internal customers are just as important, however.  Your internal customers are those that work within the company that you support.  They are just as important as your external customers.  If a person can't do their job because their printer isn't working, or they can't make a VPN connection from their sales conference, that needs to be resolved.  Remember, a customer isn't always right; but a customer is always a customer.

2) It's our job to educate, as well as support.
Let's face it.  IT people are seen as geeks.  We have our own language.  We get excited when we get a new server.  But learning good communication skills so that we can properly relay the importance of a project or a piece of equipment is important as well.  I have watched a manager's face light up when I explained "Raid 5 means that if a drive fails, I can remove that failed drive without turning the system off and replace it.  There will be no interruption in service."  That's education.  Don't just throw specs; your boss (also one of your customers, remember) is looking for SOLUTIONS, not jargon.

3) Just because we CAN doesn't mean we SHOULD.
Everyone knows that as a system administrator, I can read people's e-mails, or look at their bank balances.  That doesn't mean that I should.  IT people *must* maintain a higher level of integrity.  The boss knows that we could look at his budget.  But the boss should trust that I won't.  Nothing will destroy a reputation faster than someone finding out that you've been reading their e-mail.

4) It's all just ones and zeros.
I have used this line when someone asks me if I can see their banking information.  Could I?  Of course.  Do I?  Of course not.  I tell them "To me, it's just data.  My job is to make sure that it's correct, protected, backed up, and accessible."

5) An IT Person's job is to make sure that:
- Data is backed up
- Data is accessible to those who need it
- Data is not accessible to those who don't

6) Try to see the "Big Picture"
What may seem like a good idea to one person may not be what's best for the company.  When in doubt, involve your supervisor.  This will show loyalty to the company without showing favoritism.  Favoritism is another reputation destroyer.

7) People often feel intimidated by IT people.
They are afraid of being perceived as "Stupid" because they put the CD in upside down, or didn't turn on the wireless switch on their laptop.  My response when someone says "I feel so stupid with computers" is to point out to them that I have different training, and they do things in their job that I wouldn't know how to do either.  Or I'll make a little joke, like "I'm lucky to remember where gas goes in my car."  Be human, don't be aloof.

8) People have their own skills and values.
Change your way of thinking.  Everyone thinks that if someone gets a "bigger piece of the pie" than they do, that they will get a smaller piece.  Look at it this way... one person has the flour, one the sugar, one the fruit... and without all of them cooperating, there IS no pie to begin with.  (See "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" - Habit 4)

9) IT is often seen as a "Necessary Evil"
Be honest about your projects and your budget.  Once again, education comes into play.  The more that you share and educate your users (customers), the less afraid they will be of the technology, and the more productive they will become.

10) It's not our job to dictate
I've heard of IT people saying "That person doesn't NEED a printer" or "They refuse to do things my way".  If you have done your job, and you're a customer-focused educator who is trusted, you won't run into this problem.  Saying something as simple as "If we make you a place on the server to store your files, you won't take a chance of losing them." can solve many problems.

Being in IT is not an easy task.  We're never the hero for keeping the e-mail server running 24/7 for the last 6 years, but we're certainly the goat when it goes down.  At times it's a thankless job; at other times it can be very rewarding.  But as an IT professional, you MUST raise the bar.  Integrity, customer focus and education are the loads that we bear.

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