Is Working in IT a Professional Career?

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague at work today. He attests that working in IT is more like being a builder than being a professional.

I thought about this for quite a while, and then like any generation-X male I head to wikipedia to start some research.

After looking at a few sites I think I have boiled it down to a few questions and answers.

Q. Are there specialist educational requirements to do the job?

A. My relatively normal public sector wage slave IT job requires a minimum of a degree, plus specialist qualifications just to apply. There are arguments that say experience is more important, but it is a minimum these days for most full-time IT jobs beyond the hell-desk, er I mean helpdesk jobs.

Q. Is there a higher standard of ethics attached to IT jobs?

A. I personally believe that every job deserves to be done with the highest levels of morality and ethics. Working in a lot of IT jobs does allow for access to a plethora of commercially sensitive or personal data. There have been cases of IT staff changing admin passwords and locking everybody else out of systems for weeks. With great power comes great responsibility, and so yes I think IT staff do need to maintain high ethical standards.

Q. A Professional is a master in their field. Does that apply to an IT Professional?

A. Well, this is a difficult one. Most of the time it is a case of the blind leading the blind. Which would make the one-eyed man king! Not sure about having the one eye yet, but I think a lot of my peers have a sonar based replacement for sight. We all use Google, it is our best friend. Any IT professional that tells you they know all about something or that they never have to look anything up on Google is either lying or about to apply an axe to your person at high velocity. I have a friend who is a lawyer and he says it is no different there. It is better to say that an IT professional always knows somewhere or some-one that can provide them with the answer.

Q. Do IT professionals have superior manual, practical, or litery skills?

A. There are only so many times you can accidents such as pulling out the fibre that connects the company to the internet, deleting the entire web-site including back-ups, or programming in a major bug that an employer will take. We all make mistakes,  but normally we improve everything we deal with (well most).

Q. Is there a chartered body for IT?

A. Yes the BCS in the UK. That means any member counts as a professional for the purposes of signing a passport. Does being a member mean much these days? I don’t believe so, but it is another tick in a ridiculously competitive job market.

Q. Overall do I consider IT staff to be Professionals?

A. I would like to think so, if only for my own self-respect. IT jobs can be high stress, with long hours, home working, and call-outs. All of which I have done in the last week. IT has become so important to the delivery of information, as well as automating many tasks. Businesses can fail if they do not have robust IT systems, and for that to happen IT Professionals are required. I am lucky enough to work with some very capable and clever people. Without them the performance of our company would be negatively affected.

Q. Can’t anyone do your job with a couple of weeks training?

A. Good luck with that. After fifteen years working in IT I feel like I know less than I did when I started. I have so many courses I need to go on, so many books and manuals to read, so much learning through experience that I don’t believe I will ever be an expert.

I should add that I enjoy my job, even on crap days (of which there are many). Mainly because I work with some superb people, but also because it is always a challenge. I hope that what I do genuinely helps our customers (or students as we used to call them) to have the best experience possible.

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3 thoughts on “Is Working in IT a Professional Career?

  1. “Q. Can’t anyone do your job with a couple of weeks training?”

    This is the one that gets me. I’m painting with a broad brush here, and I’m inherently biased so forgive me, but I honestly believe that the breadth and depth of knowledge and skills required separates IT jobs from many other roles out there.

    Specialist roles: yes, there are many. Broad roles: I can think of some. But how many jobs require such diverse AND deep understanding?

    This isn’t to under-value the efforts and aptitudes of others, but when I look at many of the other roles in my place of work I know I could make a pretty good fist of them relatively quickly. The other way around, though? Not a chance.

    There is a lot of literature around at the moment that suggests one needs 10,000 quality hours of experience to become expert in something. In IT you need that long just to know what are the right questions to ask.

  2. or you get a job in IT, crap out some really amateur code, get paid, walk away and there is no come back. way less professional than the building trade. or coal mining for that matter!

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