Life (And Career Planning) Among The IT Tribe - InformationWeek

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10/19/2007
03:29 PM
Rob Preston
Rob Preston
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Life (And Career Planning) Among The IT Tribe

We tend to view certain organizations and professions as if they were tribes or sects, with their own unique cultures, customs, personality traits, and aspirations.

We tend to view certain organizations and professions as if they were tribes or sects, with their own unique cultures, customs, personality traits, and aspirations.Axel Leijonhufvud's "Life Among The Econ" is one such insider view of the academic economist's world, complete with totems and social structure. I got to thinking about Leijonhufvud's clever parody while reading "Boardroom debate: Not everybody wants to be a CIO," one man's observation on IT business and social mores.

Written for the Financial Times by Ade McCormack, a consultant and former tech pro, the piece draws a distinction between the "well-defined career phases" of most business organizations and "that bubbling pool of resource" known as the IT department. McCormack's main assertion: Professionals in most organizations scramble to make it to the top; most IT pros are content to do rather than lead.

"In most IT departments across the planet there is no concept of career progression," he writes. "And those initiatives imposed by the business based on a business-side perspective of what constitutes a career path do not work, either."

McCormack maintains that not every IT pro wants to be a CIO, adding: "Nor does the idea of project management have universal appeal" -- as if this is a condition unique to IT. "Managing people is so undigital, what with their analog spectrum of moods, aspirations, and industriousness," he writes. Analog analogies aside, not every salesperson, accountant, magazine reporter, or engineer wants to be the chief or a leader of people, either. And many of those doers are leading admirable careers. McCormack goes on to say that IT pros not interested in the management track are predisposed to that career decision because of a "genetic condition" he calls (tongue in cheek) "poor interpersonal skills syndrome."

"Let's be thankful for those that recognize they have the condition," he writes, "because those who do not recognize it go on to manage increasingly large and thus increasingly dysfunctional 'teams,' whose sole focus is to avoid being attacked by the project manager (in this case read alpha-techie). User happiness is way down the list of priorities." Such a description smacks of Leijonhufvud's treatise on economists, but that was obvious parody. How true is this IT stereotype? Are IT pros and organizations really all that different from other people and departments? Must their career paths and organizational charts be mapped in new and creative ways?

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