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Business

Breaking the IT shell

Ask someone to describe their IT department and the words "geeky" and "EQ challenged" will likely pop up. But, is the image of an awkward bespectacled nerd whose eyes never seem to leave the floor, a misconception of techies in the industry today?
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor on

Ask someone to describe their IT department and the words "geeky" and "EQ challenged" will likely pop up. But, is the image of an awkward bespectacled nerd whose eyes never seem to leave the floor, a misconception of techies in the industry today?

A TechCareers.com survey in January revealed that the most common stereotype associated with techies was that they were introverts.

So introverted, in fact, that some of my friends often note how their IT helpdesk guys would grump their way through each troubleshooting incident and mutter "user problem" under their breath.

Most at ease when huddled in front of a computer screen, techies live and breathe binary codes. Their world is ruled by logic and data, and they're happy to remain in the server room reading their copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, for the sixth time.

But, I think that image is changing--thanks, in large, to the emergence of social media and more importantly, the increasing need for a company's IT strategy to be better aligned to its business needs.

I spoke to IT Management Association's president, Eugene Chang, who issued a reminder that IT managers today can no longer afford to stay in the backroom where they focus only on their organization's technical requirements.

"Today, if you want to be a successful IT manager or CIO, you can't do that anymore. You need to understand the business and have the softer skills to communicate with people in the organization," Chang said. He added that IT heads now need to have softer "people skills" so they can effectively manage a team that typically comprises members from different generations as well as vendor relationships in an enterprise environment where outsourcing contracts are the norm.

I've always believed that finding success at work isn't only about how good you are at what you do, but also how good you are at managing relationships--be it with your boss, peers or subordinates.

Like it or not, we work with human beings every day and with that comes raw human emotions. We're all different people with different personalities and different temperaments. We can't all always get along and it would be pointless to expect otherwise.

One of the most important tools to get things done in the office is to understand the unique qualities of each of your colleagues and work along those traits, so any potential conflicts can be avoided and tasks can get done more quickly.

This is especially important for IT managers because, as Chang noted, technology is no longer a standalone component within an organization. Today, IT touches almost all corners of the enterprise environment and is increasingly ingrained in business processes and workflow. That means IT heads will inevitably need to communicate with colleagues from every department in their organization including the management team, various business units, finance and HR.

And they can't do so effectively if their eyes remain affixed to the computer screen when a colleague is trying to hold a conversation with them.

Besides, after a long day in the office, do you really want to share a beer with the Apache server?

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