The Human Side of IT

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I suppose it was inevitable that I’d get a call like this. I wish it wasn’t raining, so at least I could look out the window from the confines of my 2nd story office, with its unforgiving gray walls and harsh florescent lighting and find some sort of comfort. But there isn’t any – not today.

I don’t know why I’m upset. I only worked a couple issues for this client, but all the same I feel very protective of all those who come to me for aid. They call me because I know something they don’t. They entrust me with their information and productivity and their ability to perform their job and provide for their families. So when I answered the phone this morning and heard that someone in this person’s office had passed away last night and they needed assistance with passwords and PCs and such, I was gutted.

Immediately I wanted to do something. Flowers. A card signed by everyone in the office. I went over to the cubicle floor and solemnly gave the news to my supervisor, who simply let me know that we were stretched thin and that someone would be sent on-site to assist with the merging of user profiles and computers after this afternoon’s meeting.

I sent out an internal e-mail asking everyone to keep this person in their thoughts and received a sparse smattering of nods in my direction. It was then that I realize how callous the IT field can make people. They call us “network doctors”, and I imagine that medical doctors become this way after a while as well – every patient is just another patient, not a person. No time for people to be people.

It’s funny, really, that just last night I was lamenting that my personal stake in my client’s issues was causing me more stress than is probably healthy, and that if I just stop caring so much that my productivity would go up and my frustrations would go down.

So it begins. One of us, one of us.

It’s hard to work in this field and be empathetic. We’re lambasted all day by clients whose emergencies aren’t really emergencies. They “just want it to work”, as if we don’t. They “don’t understand why this keeps happening” as if we wrote the very programming that keeps failing on them. Over time, this turns the friendly neighborhood IT guy into a “tech”, and it’s then that you know his personal stake in his work is just enough to not get a poor survey back from the automated correspondence requests that get sent out by the COO in order to populate a performance metric.

It’s no secret that the IT field is plagued by people with horrible soft skills, but I think it’s also woefully deficient of soft hearts as well. I’ve been told that it is part of my company’s mission to “wow” every customer, but I never did subscribe to what some business major thinks is a trendy way to get people to work harder – I just want to be happy. I can’t be happy knowing that someone who comes to me for help isn’t.

Maybe I haven’t worked in this industry long enough to become a “tech”, but I hope I will never stop being human along the way.

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