Today’s podcast is about being an IT guy and how your job will keep changing from one company to another, and how you need to be aware that every company has its own fair share of issues; that, definitely, is not the focus of this podcast.
If my guesses are right, I know you are guessing already, and you are right that I am an IT guy and for the most part, I like to say at one place but when support jobs began to vanish, it is not wise to stick around and compete in a small market. It means that, change has its benefits; you get to experience how the tools and processes are uniquely used. If you have always been on one job, you will never discover applications and tools that are not available at your current job.
In essence, what you are about to read here comes from my unique experience specific to where I live. You need to know you cannot generalize jobs in IT or just go by a title alone for a longer period. An IT Manager 5 years ago is different today and varies from one job to another. This is due to the fact that, from what I have seen, responsibilities and experience requirements have increased at all levels. I have seen job postings for IT managers that look like a marriage of systems administrators, front line manager and technician; doing more with less.
Taking a step back to my Help Desk days, I worked at a global staffing company; another term for employment agency. The entire building was a showcase for visitors, everything was kept up and looked the same. They set a high bar, one that I emulated but failed to achieve as my expectations were high. There was organized Timely staff meetings that do not go off focus with shared meeting notes, monthly team and personal performance reviews, consistent professional tone from everyone you talk to, unless you move up to a manager level and see what is really going on. There, each department ran the same way; within your box. If you are tech support that is all you do. I learned as a leader to take bullets and ask for forgiveness.
Nearly a couple of years that is almost a decade in that environment, I knew things can run a certain way or direction and I can identify what needs to be done. How you identify and communicate with that can cost you your job. Even if it is done in a professional way, it is somehow still hard to transfer your initial way of work to another industry. I switched over to manufacturing after staffing. This definitely would not be my last experience in manufacturing, but my first. I still worked in a box, but it was not taped up or maintained as long as the box has a shape, it won’t be replaced.
Take everything I talked about in staffing, and isolate it to one small building or floor at another global company. The money was spent on that building, the rest of the company focused on the manufacturing of products. I worked above a plant, after a few months, I moved into a different plant. The buildings were from another time, some before my parents. My desk fell apart, smashed everything below it. Many of the desk phones had analog rotary phones, no caller ID, and no tough tone. There, when I visited the plant floor, the hardware was even older; if it still worked, they kept it and if it broke, do everything fix it.
The job pace was considerably slower than staffing. Some things were more relaxed, because I worked well past my contract date until I was offered direct employment in healthcare. It all seemed like I was getting back to how things were in staffing but at something that looks like a turbo speed, everything was a fire. As for the box, I had many to choose from and make my home; I just had to make sure I kept them all in good condition.
When it came to how a clinic ran, you had the site manager, providers and corporate pulling at all directions. All calls from clinic staff were urgent; it had to be fixed ‘now’. IT had to wait for them as they may walk away from the phone a lot. Unless you are talking to someone who is not giving patient care, then you can make small talk like ‘how’s the weather?’ No one wants to talk to IT when they are busy in the clinics or taking calls from patients. There, their time with IT is short and most of the time, they want off phones and for you to fix it. Basically, small talk was non-existent, unless they call you to avoid doing work.
One strange thing was not being able to identify who really ran the clinics, when it comes to making a major decision that could be financially or performance impacting. Quite often, it is the nurse supervisors or patient care coordinators that make things happen as managers ran multiple clinics. I learned to dodge bullets and tread lightly.
I went back to manufacturing after I was left as department head reporting directly to the top. I went from fast paced experience with a steady IT department to slow pace, even slower than my previous manufacturing experience. Things ran as expected for the most part given my previous experience; I had more experience and I now worked as a manager. I was used to being busy all of the time. I used my combined experience to offer assistance to multiple functions in IT to fill the void. That came with a lot of resistance; everyone did their job their own way and no one wanted someone asking for assistance, even if they appear to want some of their works offloaded.
A big part if my job was to cut the red tape and be a customer advocate. Meaning, if you can identify the red tape and cut it, you will step on everyone’s toes. I was in a no win situation; I was not supposed to see the real red tape. My job performance was based on being responsive and offering solutions to management. Other people in the department had their own boxed, tightly packed without middle management caring about what is inside, as long as it was closed, it looked good at a distance. I was told by my manager it has been working this way for 15 years, people are used to the level of service they receive.
Fortunately, I provided more value and experience than they expected. This was expressed initially as a good thing, as they did anyone as professional as a manager who is able to be hands on and keep up with the department needs. I did not fit and they did not want me to excel and provide efficiencies with proven real solutions.
Something I learned about bullets is that, treading lightly or being able to forgive works in an environment where leading change is passive; doing less is more.
In summary, here are the insights I gathered:
- Staffing in a corporate environment may have consistency and professionalism.
- I learned to take bullets and ask for forgiveness in a clean kept up box.
- Manufacturing is slower and laid back.
- The box is there, but you do what you can to make the box work, regardless hos it looks.
- Healthcare is fast pace and direction is not initially clear.
- You have a box, but you can choose multiple and share as long as you do not make a mess in it.
Ultimately, you should know that what you learn, many may not be transferable; even when you return to a similar industry with new experience.