Originally published in The Clarion | June 29, 2011
Thinking back over the years, it’s interesting to reflect on how information technology and consumer-based personal computing has evolved. It seems like only yesterday that I got my first real personal computer, even though it was some eighteen years ago. It was expensive, rather clunky and to be honest about it, didn’t do much. The term ‘web’ only meant something that was produced by spiders, to me at least, at that time. I’m pretty sure the hard drive was no more than a couple hundred megabytes and it came with only four megabytes of memory. I don’t recall any computer shops in town and one certainly couldn’t go to a big-box store and purchase one off the shelf.
Some recent conversations have had me reflecting on the professions that center around computing technologies – from shops that build, customize and repair personal computers to businesses that offer nothing but web design and online presence and marketing services. Twenty years ago, with the exception of computer engineers and data entry personnel, computing professions for the most part were unheard of. Today, the slang term ‘IT Guy’ is commonplace. Most of us know that those in the IT field work either with computers or some sort of technology that encompasses information systems and the mechanisms required to make them function.
With all of this considered, I have struggled recently with trying to figure out why non-IT folks aren’t hesitant in asking for assistance when something goes wrong with their computing devices. A typical scenario usually involves calling a friend or a friend who has a friend who can assist with whatever issue is causing them trouble. I’ve seen and experienced it a thousand times it seems. So-and-so’s sister can’t get her web browser to work properly, or the neighbor’s PC tower is making a funny sound or simply won’t turn on. The issues are countless and can either be rather simple or extremely complex. Either way, there rarely seems to be a hesitancy to jump leaps and bounds to get in touch with ‘that guy’ who knows about computers.
Now for the struggle (for those of us ‘guys’). How is the IT specialist any different, or exempt for that matter, from say your neighbor who is a plumber or electrician? Those who work in these professions are experienced, knowledgeable and good at what they do. They work honest forty-hour weeks like the rest of us, and I’m sure make a decent wage at it as well. Yet for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem that favors are asked of non-IT professionals like they are of ‘us guys’. Maybe there’s a perception that IT folks are hobbyists and simply enjoy the challenge. Maybe it’s something entirely different. Whatever the case, speaking for the IT group as a whole, consider our profession as just that – a profession. Sure we’re glad to help, but just like Joe the Plumber, it’s a job and isn’t necessarily what we would consider a fun time during our off-hours.