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The Humane Society of the United States

"7 IT superheroes -- and their fatal flaws"

September 12, 2011 By Dan Tynan | InfoWorld

A Comment...

Despite the headline's implications, Mr. Tynan's article illustrates that it is when backed into a corner by aggressive superiors that IT "superheroes" often get into trouble.

IT attracts highly intelligent people with low EQs (Emotion Quotients). We range from the socially awkward, through Asperger Syndrome, to somewhere else on the austism spectrum. Successfully navigating human interaction, particularly when it involves a disagreement, may be as terrifying and impossible for us as the average person navigating a computer that has crashed to the command line.

IT people immerse ourselves in computers because humans are too complicated!

IT managers are supposed to be the link between the "normal" people and us "geeks". Their superiors have singled them out from the rest of us and think of them as "geeks with people skills". They are translators.

As such, IT managers tend to be mediocre technologists that build on their strengths in organization, motivation and negotiation to move into management. Management is a body of knowledge all of its own... just as complex as IT if done well. But these people started out to be technologists, and little is more emotionally devastating than to discover you are really not so good at what you want to do. These lingering regrets can leave them less than charitable when trying to motivate their staff.

The best IT managers are those who are able to overcome those regrets. They manage to accept their own limits and pragmatically understand that IT people are always working at their intellectual limits and are depending on those managers to do what they themselves cannot.

Extreme focus on the task is what makes these people "superheroes". But they are like a cameraman with his eye glued to the lens -- they need someone to watch their backs. They need an IT manager who champions their work and defends their honor.

It would take a very skilled and self-reliant individual to successfully swim the moat of crocodiles that surrounds most IT operations. The world on the outside struggles with the very human fear, and thus hate, of what they don't understand and we geeks on the inside live in terror of their wrath.

Too melodramatic?

I thought it was colorful.

Okay, here's the businesspeak translation...

IT is pretty universally hated because nobody understands how unpredictable IT projects are. The complexity and constantly changing technology makes an IT project truly like rebuilding a plane... in flight!

That's what causes all the delays and design compromises. Thus IT people live in constant fear of losing their jobs to someone more naive or more arrogant who will promise eager CEOs and managers whatever they want to hear, then deliver smoke and mirrors, take their promotion and be gone leaving a skeleton "maintenance" staff to actually implement the difficult parts of the task.

"Superheroes" are, by definition, different.

Capitalizing on their talents just requires a little "MacGyverism"... using what you have to accomplish your goals. In this case, adapting the organization to the collection of talent rather than trying to force the talent into a rigid organization that was never optimal anyhow.

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