Nothing wrong with admitting your weaknesses, but for the most part people don't seem to mean it that way. I think what they are meaning is 'I'm not one of those grubby techie types, I can actually converse with people,' and that massively winds me up. You wouldn’t hear an equivalent from anyone else in any other area of an organisation. 'I run the HR function, but I've got no clue about people'. Hah.
I think that this has been a survival response. If you wanted to make it career-wise, moving upwards and outwards, you couldn't allow yourself to be touched with the techie brush. It's as if that made you unsuitable to be taken out in company. This may well be because the historic experience of techies were unnerving people who said incomprehensible things and didn't understand anything about proper business stuff.
But instead of changing it, the people who had to survive it have, once they've made it, have perpetuated it; kept the management initiation rites going good and proper...
I've worked in and know about very technical organisations that recognise people have different strengths. These places build their core value on technical capability so they have to deal with this sort of prejudice. Some people are not well suited to managing teams or looking at multi-disciplinary issues, but they may well add incredible value to the organisation with their technical skills and need to be rewarded and respected accordingly. That's good and sensible. However, technical skill does not infer a lack of anything else, and I think society has perpetuated this by putting people into little boxes rather than allowing people to develop more broadly.
Yet I detect a change in the air. People with strong technical backgrounds are once more being valued in organisations. You won't hear the CEO of a major organisation admitting they don’t get this techie stuff…or if you do then sell, sell, sell! Technology as a strategic tool is essential for almost any organisation. It is once more cool to know techie stuff, and even cooler if you know how to turn that into organisational value. The stigma was strongest in earlier generations who no longer dominate the working environment.
So for those of you who have somehow felt you should be ashamed of your technical capability, throw of your shackles and be free! To those of you who shine a bright light of technical wisdom and understanding, speak forth! And to those of you who want to tell everyone that you're 'not technical' and think that will make people think more of you, shut up or go away please it isn’t helping and won’t do you any good.
Rant over. Just to add, now the red mist has cleared, that if you, like a large number of people, are working in IT without a technical background, and if you are a manager not a techie, and you're doing a good job at what you do, then all strength to your arm. You’re important and valuable to. But don’t forget to be nice to your techies.
Thoughts people? What are your experiences?
About the author
Thoughts on membership, the profession, and the occasional pseudo-random topic from the BCS Policy and Community Director.