You Are Not Special

Photo by: Ethan Hein

Everybody wants to think they are a unique and special snowflake. And they are … in a blizzard of other unique and special snowflakes.

If I seem to be going a little Tyler Durden here, it’s because I am sick to death of people assuming that the challenges they face are unique. That no one else in the history of the world has ever faced quite what they face. And in particular, that working in IT is just so completely different from every other profession out there. Despite the fact that they’ve never worked in any other profession, and don’t realize it’s the same everywhere.

“Technical Debt” … AKA Taking Shortcuts

People who write code for a living have a very specialized vocabulary, just like every other profession. And just like in every other profession, knowing the lingo is a screening tool to separate “us” from “them”. But people immersed in the vocabulary every day don’t know that they’re using jargon to describe a well-known concept.

Take technical debt. People in IT write articles arguing whether it exists or not, what to do about it, how stupid managers are for allowing it to build up. But all it means is that if you take a shortcut today, at some point in the future you’re going to have to pay for it, and it will probably cost more when you do. Yes, this is exactly what Fram was talking about when they said, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.

It doesn’t sound so impressive once you realize they’re just copying an old commercial, does it?

“Arbitrary Skill Lists” … AKA Weeding Out Resumés

Job listings in IT tend to be full of acronyms, and list how many years you should have worked with each technology. These lists are “unreasonable” and “arbitrary”. And exactly the same as job listings in every other industry.

What does a degree in Art History have to do with being an office manager? Not a damn thing, but you need “a college degree” to get in the door. Any old degree is fine.

And four or more years of experience with this specific vendor’s purchasing system, which has only existed for four years, is “preferred but not required”.

Oh, and Clarity for project management.

And Peoplesoft for HR.

And SAP.

And Oracle Forms.

And Sharepoint.

And this is for the entry-level admin assistant job. The Office Manager job has already been promised to the current admin assistant, but HR says they have to advertise the opening anyway.

Same as it Ever Was

Sure, there are things about every industry and segment that are unique to that area. But it’s not nearly as much as people seem to think. Odds are whatever you’re thinking is unique really isn’t. It’s the things you do every day without thinking about them that set you apart.

3 thoughts on “You Are Not Special

  1. I am glad you highlighted the Admin specifically. Its true. How did you know! Seems like only yesteryear when the only requirement for an Admin was that they knew how to type and take notes. Now, even the people with Masters have a hard time getting in the door (and that’s because we’re in a financial crisis). I, for one, know enough about IT that I am starting to lean in that direction, but only enough to get myself in trouble. I have enough IT friends, but I need to know more, so this touchy-feely approach is helpful!

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