Respect and “the I.T. guys”

I really didn’t want my first post on my new blog to be a rant. I really didn’t.

But, of course, things don’t always work the way we want, so here we are.

I’ve been an I.T. Manager for just over three months as of now; I’ve worked in the industry for nine years, at two different employers, with some occasional side gigs thrown in along the way. I’ve always had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right, but now more than ever I can see that it’s true: People still don’t fully respect their I.T. Departments.

Now, I don’t mean they don’t respect “what we do”. People have certainly come around to see that technology is critically important to their everyday job tasks, and they understand that without an I.T. Department (or at least, some good contractors) they’d be up the creek. What I’m talking about, though, is on more of a personal level. Person-to-person interactions, specifically. I’ve noticed that outside of I.T., nobody really cares what your title is. I have four staff in my department, including myself: Superintendent of I.T., Network & Systems Administrator, Helpdesk Technician, and CRM Administrator (some titles tweaked to protect the innocent).

If you have an e-mail issue, of those four titles, who do you think would be the best person to call first? Of course it’s the Superintendent, right?

That’s my point. We have other specialists within our organization — plumbers, electricians, gardeners, janitors, you name it — that don’t seem to have the same issues. You call the plumber when you have a plumbing problem, not the director of his department, because you’d certainly be wasting his time. He’s not coming out to plunge your toilet for you, no matter how nicely you ask.

On the other side of the coin, we have higher-up management positions with vague titles: “Superintendent of Marketing”, for one. Do they get calls about spelling issues in marketing material proofs? No, those go to the graphic artist or the social media manager.

I haven’t quite figured out what the cause of this phenomenon is. One part of me says I’m overthinking it, and it’s just because our titles are vague and encompass so many areas of technology. On the other hand, I can’t help but think it’s purely a matter of respect (or lack thereof) for newer professions that aren’t as established as the “old guard” blue-collar jobs. Or maybe, it’s a lack of understanding of what the titles actually translate to. Maybe nobody realizes that e-mail is a “system” and their physical computer gets worked on by a “technician”. Maybe they don’t understand that everything that plugs in doesn’t fall into our area of expertise, or that the Systems Admin has zero knowledge of the minutiae of the billing process behind our custom-built CRM software.

If it is a lack of understanding, I can’t help but think it falls on us to offer some kind of training. Then again, I have. I’ve sent e-mails describing who does what, who to call off-hours, and how to pick the right category of helpdesk ticket (if one ever gets submitted) to get it routed to the right team member. That doesn’t seem to help. I could start immediately re-routing calls that aren’t relevant to me, but “let me transfer you to so-and-so because they deal with that” somehow ends up offending people and making them feel like we don’t want to help them, when really I just want their problem to be fixed more efficiently by getting it to the expert. I could tweak the job descriptions so there are no experts, but then there are no experts and when it really hits the fan, nobody has done the deep dive into the systems needed to bring things back to normal.

All I want is for my staff to be treated as the experts they are, not as “the I.T. guys” (one of them is female, by the way, so there’s that too). We’re not just a big group of people that drink Mountain Dew and play D&D on the weekends — we’re all trained in specific things, have specific skill sets, and have different troubleshooting methods (and different pay grades, if I’m being honest).

I’m at a loss, honestly. I just wanted to see if there’s anyone else that has the same issues as we do. For now, though, I’ll be signing off — I have to go answer a ticket about someone’s e-mail… that was categorized as “Internal Projects – Do not use”.