Professionals in information technology and other tech fields have a unique struggle: they struggle to make the low- and no-tech people in their life understand what they do for work. For me, the low-tech person in my life is my mom. I love my mom. She’s a smart lady and has taught me so much. She bought me my first computer and that computer inspired me to pursue my career in information technology. But for all of her smarts and all of her focus and attention, I cannot seem to make her understand what I do for a living. Somehow in her head it all gets twisted back into the idea that I “build websites.” I don’t build websites.
IT is a special form of torture because we all go home to our significant other, our roommates, our parents, our cats or dogs and they all, in their own way, ask us the same question we all ask: “How was your day?” Just once I would like to answer this question and not find myself explaining and re-explaining. It’s not her fault, but many times I find that it’s easiest to just say “it was fine,” or “you know; it was a day.”
Now, I know that IT specialists are not the only people this happens to; I’m sure the guys and girls, the web designers and developers, that actually build websites have their own special kind of pain and for that I’m sorry. Those in IT can commiserate with each other, but the buck stops there, and this can be frustrating because many of us actually bring our work home with us, at least a few nights a week. Heaven help us if there is a server migration or a system needs to come off-line for maintenance; we’re working at all hours making sure it goes off without a hiccup.
“No, Mom, I can’t help [Insert Tech-Helpless Friend/Neighbor/Coworker Here]…”
So, mom has her head firmly wrapped around the idea that I work on computers. But the understanding stops there. Whenever we have a friend or family member whose landscaping company’s website isn’t working properly or who needs a new website made for their latest small business venture (and would I like to come in as an investor on the ground floor?), I’m called to the rescue and I have the displeasure of reminding these confused people that IT is more than website setup. Not all IT professionals are the same and I wish she would take what I do seriously enough to try to understand it, or at least remember that I don’t build websites.
“So, if you don’t build websites, honey, what do you do?”
I am an IT specialist. That covers a wide range of functions related to hardware, software, database, information systems, and network support. Depending on the company and the day of the week, many IT specialists are multifaceted, talented, and can take on many different roles, all of which are very important to make sure that the business and its systems function properly. One might start the morning working on a service call with a vendor and end the day working on a network configuration to improve network reliability.
IT is an incredibly rewarding and exciting field and despite the frustration, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’m lucky to work with inspiring professionals of all genders and identities. I’m thankful that, for all of the time my mom doesn’t understand what I do, there are times when I can talk nerdy with a coworker and know that they understand my pain, as well as my excitement.