Some common perceptions, practices and beliefs that remain afloat in the echelons of the IT world.

1. Your Organization is “Behind the Curve”

You’ve probably heard this line before, “Wow!  You guys still do it that way?  Everyone else is using ___.  You guys need to catch up!“.  This is either coming from a vendor/reseller, or a colleague trying to wave his testosterone-ego-rub-it-in-your-face flag.  It might also just be coming from another ill-informed minion that read another article somewhere that aims to instill a sense of urgent-inferiority in you; that you are not keeping up and you need to start buying something.

The ugly truth is this:  If everyone was really doing shit the proper/modern/correct/respectable way, there wouldn’t be any market for newer/better tools and services.  The problems would be getting solved before they became problems.  You can find that on the unicorn aisle, on the lower left shelve, near the portable nuclear fusion energy devices and below the clean, renewable, cheap energy boxes.  It doesn’t exist.

Does that mean you should rest and be content with where you’re at now?  No.  Never!  The IT motto has always been “never rest!  There is always another problem to solve”.  Okay, that’s one motto.  The other is “stale donuts become fresh and new with a hot cup of strong coffee” or “Red Bull. It’s not just for breakfast anymore“.  Whatever.

Basically, when someone else lays into you hard about being behind the curve, ask for some proof of that.  After all, if the Internet has taught us anything at all, it’s that everyone loves to repeat unfounded bullshit with a smirk of confidence, because they “read it somewhere”.  Just ask for the proof and then smile and eat your stale doughnut.

2. You Can Hire an Expert in Everything

I’m sure you keep one, bloodshot eye aimed at the job listings. And I’m sure you deny that whenever asked.  I’m pretty sure you’ve run across a position that looks something like this:

Requirements:  Master’s Degree in a related field.  10-15 years experience.  Speaks 24 languages fluently.  Has a current certification in each of the following: MCSE/MCT, VCP/VCxx, CCIE, CISSP, ITIL, and demonstrated experience leading projects to cure cancer, world hunger, AIDS, Ebola, micro-electronic-bio-mechanical-robotic-transdermal-infusion technology, NIST, DFARS, ISO, and has a strong background with SQL Server, Oracle, VMware, Hyper-V, ASP.NET, C#, Java, HTML5, CSS3, PowerShell, Linux, MySQL, Apache, 802.1x, certificates, and must possess a current DoD Top-Secret clearance.

On paper, maybe.  In reality: NO.  Never.  Your parents might have told you “never say never“, but I’m saying “never!“.  I borrowed that line from Chris Rock obviously.

The time required to even familiarize one’s self with the master-level intricacies of networking, servers, virtualization, software deployment, configuration management, security, and storage systems, is one thing.  Even that 101-ish threshold requires years and years and years of exposure to the right circumstances and opportunities.  Pouring some “master/expert” level voodoo gasoline on that smoldering pile of famliarized kindling requires a decade of each by themselves.

So, even if you’re 85 years old and claim to have top-level certs and skills with Cisco, VMware, Microsoft, NIST, Oracle, ITIL and ISO, all that would translate into is that one or two might be relatively current.  The others would be very old and outdated.

Even if you can claim such uber-mastery of all that is IT, in order to spread your focus among all of these simultaneously means that either (A) you are sampling, not mastering them all, or (B) you are entirely full of steamy horseshit. I’m choosing (B).  I’ve met people that claim to have qualifications like this, but after thirty minutes of discussion, it’s usually obvious that they lack some serious cutlery in their resume kitchen.

And…

From a totally different angle:  Would you even want to work for an employer looking for all this in one person?  Really?!  Think about that for a minute (go ahead.  I’ll wait…)  Thought about it yet?  Mmmmkay.  So.  That employer is almost certainly aiming to apply your brain in one of the following pursuits:

  1. Meeting some vendor/partner qualification threshold
  2. They have no idea where they’re going to use your skills
  3. They’re going to dump a truckload of undesireable shit on you since you are Bruce Lee.

If it’s option (1), you’ll be underutilized and bored out of your tin skull, sending you directly back to the job listings.  If it’s option (2) you’re dealing with an unorganized, clueless, pack of idiots.  You may fall into a comfortable niche, or maybe not.  I’d bet on not.  If it’s option (3), well, good luck.  I’ve seen this one play out more than options 1 or 2 actually.  The real intent is to save money by letting go of five vertical experts and replace them with one Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Steve Goldberg, Dwayne Johnson, Arnold Schwarzennegar blended smoothie poured into a nerd cup and finished off with a cheap suit and tie.  Net result?  You’ll head straight back to the job listings.

3. Rock, Paper, Scissors, Suit

Which is more meaningful as it relates to furthering your IT career endeavors:

  • (A) A college degree
  • (B) A butt-load of IT certifications
  • (C) Experience
  • (D) An impressive set of golf clubs

If you answered A, B or C, you lose.  I’m not implying that the sport of golf is going to propel your career on its own.  What I’m implying is that your socio-political status and adeptness are what will.  If you take two CISSP/CCIE/MCT/VCD/ITIL certified bad-ass IT kung fu masters with equal college degrees from Carnegie-Mellon or Princeton, or MIT, and drop them into a big corporate blender, the one who can make the CxO laugh and get invited to the right social events, will be writing the performance evals for the other.

4. Island Mentality = Idiot Doom

Let’s pretend you’re at an IT job interview.  The interviewer looks at you without saying anything yet.  He stares at your chest and crotch area, making you a little uncomfortable.  You can’t call HR yet, because you’re not technically an employee, so you sigh and try to ignore it.  Then he smugly offers the following boilerplate blabber:

Here at Douchtech, we pride ourselves in living a spirit of teamwork and cooperation.  Working together to solve problems as a collective.  That’s our vision.

He sips his cold coffee and continues on into the first question…

If you are hired into the Application Development team, and one day you encounter a problem you feel is related to a network issue.  You suspect it has to do with a router configuration. What would you do?

You clear your throat.  Sit up straight.  And begin answering…

Well, I’d contact someone in the Network Engineering team for…

Abruptly cutting you off, he counters with something like…

Ooooh.  Why would you do that instead of trying to troubleshoot the problem yourself?  We expect our professionals to show up with the skills required to do their jobs.  And that often means having a well-rounded background from which to tap when solving problems that fall outside of their own assigned duties.

Translation:  Everything Dexter Douchebag just read off about “teamwork” and “collective” this or that, was pure bullshit.  Teamwork is teamwork.  Does that mean you should knee-jerk and contact other groups as soon as something unfamiliar pops up?  Never. You should try to troubleshoot things before calling for assistance, yes.  But since Douglas D. Dingleberry already said that it might involve a “router configuration”, that implied it was already outside of your scope of duties.

Some would argue with this, and some are perfectly able to do just that.  However, if one of your custom applications wasn’t working properly, would you want the network engineer guy tinkering with configuration settings before calling you (the developer) for some insight?  The table flips both ways.  There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but if “teamwork” is really one of, if not “the” primary of, the core principals, then “teamwork” should factor into any question that pertains to solving problems that cross functional lines.  That’s a lot of syllables, I know.  It’s okay.  I’m a professional and I’ve had a cup of coffee.

5. The New Thing is the Best Thing

I’ll just cut to the chase: Wrong!  Remember the law of the “golden triangle”?  The one about “Good, Fast, or Cheap”, where you can only pick two of the three for any given task?  Yeah, that one.  There’s an interesting corollary between the business side and the technological side of an organization, in which solutions are often pursued to the wrong problems.

It sometimes walks in like this:  Vendor rep makes a house call to hand out cards, smiles, and stories of his/her latest vacation trip (implying that they’re living the high-life because so many customers are just dumping their entire wallets into their trusty product offerings), and starts to schmooze you about some latest product line coming out.  The new Excelsior Increditastimatic with the Douchatronic Hyperdrive thing.  It’s cloud-based and does the de-dupe thing with full-on 802.1x and it’s tablet-friendly.

You raise your eyebrows and make that “wow! I’m impressed” frown look.  Meanwhile the rep is silently calculating how many units of the Douchatronic Hyperdrive he’s going to suggest you start with.  Then you remember you have a hot cup of coffee in your hand and you immediately drink from it.  Like PopEye’s can of spinach, you awaken from your glazed-over post-staff meeting stupor and ask a question, “So, how is this better than what I have now?

I’m glad you asked“, which is code for “I practiced this shit all night and on my flight here this morning, so get ready to be impressed”.  “It’s faster, has cloud-storage features, and a cool web management console you can manage from your phone while surfing porn sites on the toilet!

Impressive. But then you remember that your line of business doesn’t allow for cloud storage due to certain DoD/DFARS/NIST top-secret, covert operations stuff, and you’re not worried about speed as it is, so “faster” is meaningless.  You need more redundancy.  You counter with that, “How about redundancy?”  To which the rep sadly confirms it’s no better than what you already have.

The New Thing is not the Best Thing.

The Right Thing is the Best Thing.

Never forget: They have a product or service to sell, and a quota to consider.  You have a business to run.  Confusing their interests with yours can be risky.

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