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Reflections on a Professional Future

Yay, go me…I’ve survived another year on this rock; although I’ve noticed my first gray hair which is little concerning. My birthday and other anniversaries around this time of year always lead me feeling a little reflective and thoughtful; this time, I am thinking about our profession and it’s future. I’ve wanted to work in IT pretty much as far back as I can remember and apart from a long-held ambition to be Indiana Jones and be an archaeologist uncovering lost cities and mysterious temples; I still can’t really think of any other profession that I’d be in.

Yet I am concerned about this profession and the direction it is taking; no I am not talking about the technical direction it is taking but more what it is doing to it’s people. This may be simply a factor to do with the economy and that we are also in the throes of a ‘transformation’ but this could be something more concerning.

I am seeing increasing numbers of people surfing the edge of burn-out; both in end-users and vendors. 60-80 hour weeks and more becoming the norm; not the exception and demands on people’s time increasing all the time. The mobile revolution leaving people on call all the time; the liberating impact of mobility being lost as the contactability at all times becomes a ball-and-chain.

Yet all the research suggests that most people are generally most effective when working something between 35-45 hours a week; we pride ourselves on being a smart bunch in IT, yet we seem to ignore both common sense and scientific research.

And if we factor in the high degrees of introversion in our profession, we are tending to force people to be always on when they need to be given time and solitude to recharge. Meeting after meeting, interaction after interaction, chewing away at the spirit of some of our most talented people.

The best people love this profession and they are an odd bunch; how many surgeons take patients home to operate on? How many dentists build home surgeries to try out the latest techniques? How many teachers? How many accountants? Lawyers? Very, very few! But amongst our fellows, it’s relatively common…I would argue that even those who do manage to stick to their official working hours, normally put in another day’s work in keeping themselves updated.

Yet as a profession, we pride ourselves on enabling our users to work smarter and better; our output makes people lives better and richer. Perhaps we should think about how we do the same for ourselves?

After all

Young man, as you perambulate down the pathway of life toward an unavoidable bald head bordered with gray hairs it would be well to bear in mind that the cemeteries are full of men this world could not get along without, and note the fact that things move along after each funeral procession at about the same gait they went before. It makes no difference how important you may be, don’t get the idea under your hat that this world can’t get along without you —Abilene Reporter, 1909.


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