Technical Racism

Did you ever notice there is a universally accepted discrimination about professional roles in IT staffs? All of us have surely heard the expressions “first level support” and “second level support”, what it does stands for you?
When I was first employed in an IT staff at a big company I noticed that there was no awareness about how to have the team structured so that it could do its job, an example of which was the different value recognized to a helpdesk operator against a systems administrator. It is clear to everyone that the efforts and the skills requested from a sysadmin are definitely different from what is expected from a support technician, but… do you truly believe that the role played by the first one is more important than the second one?

What I’ve learned from my long experience in managing high demanding IT environments is that each team member, especially in groups with multi-layered skills, plays the same critical and irreplaceable role in reaching the entire team’s goals.
Years later I found that, beyond the sense of inequity I had perceived, there was an incorrect vision of management, and I realized that the root of the problem had been in the lack of knowledge about the IT governance philosophy.

The time has come for all IT or project managers to understand that among their staff members there are different layers of technical, relational and organizational skills, but they should not be valued differently. Each member has its own weight in the group, and losing only one role means the failure of the whole team: what can a sysadmin do without a reliable network infrastructure? How can a consolidation project succeed without the work of a professional first‑level support staff?
The same statements can be applied when looking at the offering of IT professional services: why considering that a low skilled IT manager may be enough to carry out the need of a small-sized company, while all of us know that Information Technology has became a strategic asset for business, regardless of its size?
I do not believe that different business sizes need different IT approaches, if high quality service is always a requirement. I think that a more open approach must be used in attaining a profitable IT governance, regardless of the size of the company: we must try to comply with business and IT regulations before weighing personal, political or corporate operations.

I often speak with “IT pros” who misunderstand their own role: they believe only to be a sort of replaceable part in a mechanism which they have no way to influence. Thus, we should consider the “People Ready” initiative as another stupid marketing campaign by uncle Steve? It might be, of course, but I do not think so. What vision do you have about your job role?

2 Responses to “Technical Racism”

  1. Andrea says:

    The post is a very interesting one.
    What you suggest is right, but, as Jarabe De Palo wrote, it depends by different point of view.

    Just one suggestion: Start to consider IT as a COMMODITY. IT is a tool business uses to optimize results, to lower costs, to achieve agility.

    If you start to consider IT in that way, you will start to look at IT people and roles in a Cost / Returns paradigm.
    So can start to consider “first level support” good technician, young guys usually, with “acceptable” skills, and low cost. They do not get engaged in “critical” activities and so the risk of their failure is low.
    Following the ramp you will find “second level support” (less engagement on more critical issues, just like ER and surgeon in an Hospital), and so on to System Administrators to Architect or Visionaries.

    It’s just a road isn’t it? 🙂

    No racism, just a way to define skills, ambitions and costs.
    Btw, if you’re intending that in Italy in the “first level support” usually companies hire no-skill lowest possibile cost people I agree. But it’s not a matter of racism (harsh word! :)) but a bad way to approach a serious job.

  2. andreav says:

    Hi Andrea! The title of my post is obviously provocative, because I wanted to push a reply from anyone who know that IT is “a serious job”! 😉
    I have felt “alone” since I started to work in the IT field, and if you would have met half of the italian “IT pros” I had the chance to face with, you’ll likely use an expression far stronger than “a bad approach”. I mean that companies do not accept to identify IT as a critical asset, and that’s mostly because of the lack of competence in self-defined professionals, while a lot of real professionals are not conscious of their value.
    I really appreciate that you agree in disapproving the “slave trade” of the first level support personnel, and I’d pleased to meet someone who can do his/her job today, no matter if he/she is a “first-aid” supporter or an architect, and from wherever he/she come from! If you are too, feel free to contact me to collaborate: here is a lot of work that must be done, but we miss real professionals!