Career Opportunities

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A weekly ComputorEdge Column and Podcast by Douglas E. Welch

What matters most?

October 24, 2003

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In a high-tech career, it is too easy to get caught up in the technology while losing sight of its real purpose. If you are still fighting the Mac vs. PC war, Linux vs. Windows, or a host of other technology battles, it is time for a wakeup call. It is not the technology that matters, but how people use it. If you forget this simple rule, your high-tech career is going to suffer.

Battles, battles everywhere

Many years ago, I made an active decision to stop fighting the Mac/PC war. While those around me continued to evangelize, cajole and argue, I simply went on my way. I am equally skilled in Windows troubleshooting and management, but I use a Macintosh as my primary home office machine. It finally became clear to me that it didn’t matter what computer someone used, only what could be done with it. There was no sin in using one platform or another, and treating people differently, based on this choice, was simply ludicrous. I was wasting energy that was much better spent on productivity.

Do you find yourself constantly engaged in battles over hardware and software? If so, perhaps you need to reevaluate your priorities. You are supposed to be helping your clients, no berating them. Sure, you can make suggestions and try to convince them that there are better technologies, but when it turns into a constant litany of complaints and snide remarks, you are creating problems for your clients and yourself. If they are truly wrong-headed in their technology choices and refuse to change, then your best recourse is to find another client. There is nothing to be gained from banging your head against a technological brick wall.

I often hear high-tech workers berating various technologies as they struggle to make them work for their clients. America Online is a constant bane of my consultant existence. I often have more problems with it than any other piece of complicated business software. That said, when I am struggling I try to change the discussion from “AOL sucks!” to “I wish I could know more about what is happening within this software so I could help you (the client) better.” This allows me to address my frustration without blaming the client for selecting the AOL service or sounding like some close-minded tech geek.New isn’t always better

Another technology trap to avoid is the feeling that “anything new is better.” This thinking can infect not only high-tech workers, but your clients as well. Back in my days as a corporate support technician we called it “MacWeek Syndrome.” Whenever a user saw something in MacWeek, a major trade weekly at the time, they had to have it. No matter what problems the hardware or software might have, it must be better…it was new!

Even today I am still faced with similar issues. Whenever a newer, faster, better PC is announced I have clients asking if they should run out and buy it. The sad truth I usually need to deliver, though, is that despite the announcement, the new systems wouldn’t be available for 2-3 months. Even when the systems do become available, they often have major stability or compatibility issues that need to be worked out. Being a technology pioneer (you can tell them by the arrows in their back) often has the opposite effect of what they want. Instead of the fastest and best computer, they spend their time correcting bugs and flaws. It can be difficult sometimes, but I usually instruct my clients to wait for at least one minor revision in software or the second model in hardware before upgrading. This lets other people work out the worst problems before my clients dive in.

High-tech careerists need to understand that fighting technology battles, or engaging in technology for technology’s sake is a losing proposition. One mires you in un-winnable (and counterproductive) battles and the other buries you in a morass of new, but unstable, systems. What matters most is helping your clients (and yourself) be more productive. It is important to be aware of new technologies and how they might be used, but doing something useful, with the technology you have, should be the focus of your high-tech career.

Book of the week: Work to Live by Joe Robinson

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