friday-rant
Human Resources

Rant: Five people you should never trust in IT

Technology can change lives for the better – that’s what IDG Connect is all about. But like any powerful weapon, if it falls in the wrong hands, it can hurt somebody.

But what are the tell-tale signs of someone you can’t trust in the IT industry? Here are a few symptoms of people you should never trust.

Number 1: Anyone who declares they are ‘passionate’ about anything.

The first thing this declaration tells you is that they lack imagination. The idea that anyone is ‘passionate’ about, say, cloud computing or open source software or search engine optimisation is such a cliché now that even personnel officers are using it. Every job description requires people to be ‘passionate’ about whatever duty they are to fulfill.

Passion isn’t always called for anyway. Enthusiasm is more appropriate.

Would you really want to deal with someone who is passionate about, say, SEO? It’s an impersonal, largely unscientific process at the moment. Anyone who can get emotionally involved with an algorithm that somebody else wrote probably has fixation issues. That’s stalker material.

The obsessiveness and lack of proportion means you should never trust the judgment of someone who is passionate. Even if they were consummate professionals – which is open to debate – their passion will be self-destructive in the end.

Any true professional who has major influence on your life – like a judge, a barrister, a doctor or a nurse – is required to be dispassionate. If they allowed themselves to become emotionally involved in each case, they’d ruin themselves. That’s why alcoholism is so high in the medical profession. Anyone who allows themselves to become emotionally involved in each harrowing case they deal with is embarking on a very dangerous road. That way madness lies!

Passionate judges are for TV drama. In reality, if Judge John Deed – the subject of some BBC writer’s political passion – were real he’d have been laughed out of court.   

Number 2: Anyone who shouts “woo!” from the audience at a presentation.

I’m sure most of us are great believers in free speech but there’s a responsibility that comes with that. You should not have the right to shout “Fire” in a crowded theatre. Neither by extension, should anyone ever issue the words “woo!” from the audience of a packed presentation, because that will have a similar effect. All sensible people will stampede towards the exits.

There’s something eerie about people who shout “woo!” whenever they’re in an audience at an event. It’s OK if they’re American – because that’s their custom. But when other people do it – be they in the audience of a chat show or watching some corporate presentation - that marks them out as suspicious characters. They’re just copying someone else’s cultural homework. That’s phoney and dishonest!

It doesn’t stop there. These monsters are probably so desperate to impress that they’re capable of far worse crimes against taste and decency. They will be easily led too. These are the types to lose their heads should society ever break down. They’ll be the ones looting the shops and hoarding. Or picking up a pitchfork and joining a torch bearing mob. Or signing an online petition against someone whose opinion they don’t like.

The man who shouts “woo!” because the CEO of a software company is excited about his quarterly figures is a man you should never allow to get behind you.

Number 3: Stock phrase users and cliché-mongers.

The technology industry calls for creative thinking. Organisations are like snowflakes – no two are alike. It follows then that every situation, whether it’s a business or social problem, or just a new product, is unique.

So anyone with a one-size-fits-all approach to IT is clearly untrustworthy. They’re lazy and can’t be bothered to do the work to recognise the characteristics of each situation. The most obvious symptom of this condition is people who have the same phrase for every occasion.

They’ll tell you, rather patronisingly, that ‘IT must be aligned with the business’. (Er, yeah. What else is it supposed to be aligned with?) Another blindingly obviously piece of advice – the hallmark of the untrustworthy – is that ‘business has to be customer-facing’. Like we didn’t already know that. Think of the world’s oldest profession. I think it’s safe to say they’ve always been customer-facing, haven’t they? In fact, the ones that aren’t customer facing can actually charge extra (so I hear). Now that’s differentiation.

Number 4: Anyone who ‘Doesn’t Suffer Fools Gladly’

The IT industry is permanently in flux. Nobody can say with any certainty what’s going to happen in five years’ time. You’d be pushed to predict accurately what will happen in 12 months’ time – although as a rule of thumb it’s usually all the stuff the analysts predicted would happen this time last year.

So nobody can afford to be pompous. Never trust anyone who can’t make the effort to show good manners. Politeness and patience are the foundation of civilisation. If some oaf hasn’t got that basic grounding in place, the rest of their communication is going to be pretty unreliable too.

Number 5: Anyone who offers you a guided tour of the datacentre

Technology is all about people and software these days, isn’t it? In other words, it’s about intellectual capacity. Either the intellectual capacity in the human resources of an organisation, or the hours of thought that have been translated into code.

The code in application software is only a tiny, infinitesimally small subset of anything that even the dullest life form is capable of doing. And the software in most infrastructure hardware is an even tinier subset of that found in most applications. It’s safe to say, then, that hardware is pretty stupid. So why is it, that whenever companies want to show you how impressive their organisation is, they concentrate all their time showing you round the datacentre? They might as well show you the bricks. Or the cables. (Actually, some do.)

A datacentre is like a giant PC – you wouldn’t want to give you visitors a guided tour of your PC, would you? Besides, they all look exactly the same. They all have exactly the same grey corridors, noisy air conditioning and big grey boxes. About the biggest variation is the neatness of the cabling – and if you’re looking to cabling for entertainment and variety, then you know you’re in trouble. Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. And I’ve seen dozens now. Never trust anyone who thinks you would like a datacentre tour – they obviously think you’re stupid.

Oh, and finally, never trust anyone who makes massive generalisations and groups everything into lists of five. They’re the worst of the lot.

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Nick Booth

Nick Booth worked in IT in the UK’s National Health Service, financial services and The Met Police, witnessing at first hand the disruptive effects of new technology. As a journalist and analyst, his mission is to stop history repeating itself.

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