Career Opportunities

Helping to build the career you deserve!

A weekly ComputorEdge Column and Podcast by Douglas E. Welch

A tech in every meeting

January 20, 2006

** Listen to this column on your computer, iPod or other audio player **

Listen to the Podcast

I am sure you have all experienced it. Some department comes up with a great project and now, only when they are ready to implement it, they come to you to figure out how to make it work. The want to know what computers to use, what software and, by the way, this has to have some custom software written that has never before been created. Once again, you as an IT worker find yourself in the unenviable position of giving these people 100 different reasons why the project is infeasible, exorbitantly expensive and perhaps even counter productive to the goals of the company. In many cases, they will accuse of you of being an obstructionist, a technology dictator and sometimes, even worse. You must be lacking in vision to not see the elegance of their plan. In reality, though, much of this conflict and strife could have been avoided, if the department had included a high-tech worker at the very beginning.

A dividing line

When I worked in the corporate world, I often noticed how high-tech workers were sequestered away from the “creative folks.” Like some form of high-tech janitor, they were expected to be somewhat invisible until called in to clean up some technology mess. Unfortunately, this type of thinking is often what yields the big technology mess in the first place. Instead, high-tech workers need to be integrated into the flow of every project, much like you would with engineers, artists, architects, project managers, etc.

Every project these days, from a new high-rise building to a new consumer product to a new fashion line, has a technological component. There is no escaping this fact. Computers and other technology are an integral part of life unless you are living in the wilderness and even then, you might still be using a computer. Computers control the heating and cooling of buildings, they make your new Tickle Me Herbert doll laugh at your stupid jokes and they control the equipment that manufactures your new dress before it ever shows up on a rack at Target. You ignore technology at your own risk and yet, thousands of projects do just that every day.

There are many reasons for this. Often creative workers believe that including high-tech workers at the start of the project will limit their vision and prevent them from creating something entirely new and different. Others see high-tech workers as “worker bees” who are only there to implement their ideas, not comment on them. Some people put no thought to technology at all, considering something unworthy of thought, as it has nothing to do with the “Art” they are creating.

It must be done

If your company isn’t integrating high-tech workers into their projects today, I can assure you they are suffering many, if not all of the headaches mentioned above. Projects that are rolling along with the creative speed of a freight train suddenly come to a crawl as they hit technological walls that were never imagined. Products that require new manufacturing processes have to wait until tech workers can be brought up to speed on the project and begin to develop solutions to their unique technology problems. The lack of high-tech worker integration takes an essentially parallel project process and suddenly reduces it to a serial process.

Had high-tech workers been involved from the start, they could have been developing the necessary technology as the project grew, instead of being seen as a choke point that brings the project to an utter standstill just at the time when everyone else wants to see it become reality. Organizing projects in this outdated fashion puts unfair pressure on high-tech workers and exposes them to anger and disdain when in reality the process is at fault and not their technological skills. They are simply suffering from an outdated process that ignores the last 20 years of technological advancements.

If you want to make your high-tech department shine, you must find ways to integrate high-tech workers into every project at the earliest possible moment. It is only by providing your insight and knowledge at this point that you can ever hope to provide the best technology solutions for your company. Doing so will raise your profile in your company, expand your influence, challenge your skills and build a better high-tech career.

Question of the week: In what ways can you offer guidance and information to the project groups in your company today?

If you would like to join a discussion of Career-Op questions, visit the Career Opportunities forums at

Podcast Feed

Subscribe with iTunes!