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Bill Eisenhauer : Why IT Sucks
Why a career in computer programming sucks
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Just to be clear, IT in this context means being in an IT department, not being in the IT industry.
I’ve spent a combined five years in IT departments of two companies — one a large company another a small company. In each case, the experience lacked job satisfaction and only marginally advanced my career. If you find yourself faced with a job opportunity in an IT department, consider the following to be likely experiences:
You will be frustrated because technology is not the core business. And unfortunately for you, this means that you aren’t likely to be the rockstar of your company. You are an enabler of minimal importance in a cost center.
You will deal with technology that is likely to be obsolete or on the verge of obsolescence. In IT, it is not important to those you serve what the technology is, rather its whether the solution provides the desired value.
You will integrate with old technologies or products that have challenging integration scenarios. As you are the tail on the dog, no one will ask you your opinion for the products that are most likely to integrate well with your technology stack. Rather, you will be brought in after such products have been selected.
You may find that the talent around you is watered down. The trend is to cut costs which inevitably leads to outsourcing. In my experience, outsourcing provides less talented, less instinctive colleagues. These will be your teammates.
You may find that cost cuts means there is little investment in the “factory” that you work in. Hardware and software that could make your life easier are not accessible due to budget challenges. Therefore, the factory eventually resembles an old car plant with declining efficiency.
Your managers may care only about your utilization and your costs. Innovation is secondary to these factors, so you may have trouble championing new ideas.
You may find in bigger companies that consensus-building consumes most of your time. Be ready for double-digit emails per day with people copying you on details that are irrelevant to your job.
You may find that the company has organically grown in layers causing you to fight through multiple layers just to get simple tasks done. As such, simple tasks are hard tasks and hard tasks are impossible. If you think that something as simple as opening a firewall port can’t take weeks, think again.
You may find that since the company has cut costs to the bone that you end up wearing more hats than you feel qualified to wear. You will be best prepared to succeed if you can write your own requirements, write code, write markup, develop your own styles, be your own DBA, be your own system administrator, and do your own testing. You will most likely have to build your own infrastructure enablements because those would be too costly to be purchased for you.
You may never understand the business decisions made by those who ultimately create your projects. You may question whether they know how to scorecard, perform cost-benefit analysis, or whether they even know their business. But in the end, you will have no choice but to work on their projects.
You may find that your natural curiosity for new technologies or business strategies is not appreciated or valued. Old school managers may even make fun of you for having your nose in a book reading about those “new-fangled” technologies. Be prepared to have uninspired leadership.
You may find that your colleagues eventually have become zombies. They show up every day and walk the halls, but they seem to be in an unproductive, unchanging funk. And worse, you may recognize yourself making the same transformation.
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