Old IT Guy vs. New IT Guy

Do you remember Old IT Guy?

He worked in IT about 10 years ago. He usually had a beard, a bit of a belly, and smug expression on his face. Every time he looked in the mirror he saw Superman, a savior, and the solver of crisis. He was the ‘go to guy’ that dumb employees would turn to rescue them from an IT disaster. He was that guy that answered the help desk phone with a curt “IT!” or just “What!?” With that know-it-all grin on his face he’d lean over and press the reset button on an employee’s PC, and in a patronizing tone say, “I always reboot it first.”

Old IT Guy was the person who single handedly kept the business running. He selflessly dialed in from home at midnight or drove to a deserted office on the weekends to reboot the mail server.  Of course he never told anyone that the reason it failed was that he had fiddled around and changed the configuration of the server earlier that day that no one had requested or approve. On bad days he’d even deliberately caused system failures just to give him a chance to show how valuable and essential he was. But no one needed to know that. All everyone else knew was that he worked long and hard and was a selfless superhero.

Mind you, if you ever asked him what the business he worked for actually did he didn’t know and/or didn’t care. Because back then, it didn’t matter.

Personally, I’m glad that I don’t see Old IT Guy much anymore.

Like a cleansing wave of sanity, the combined forces of IT Service Management combined with Consumerization have washed Old IT Guy far, far away. Now there’s a new superhero. His name? New IT Guy.

New IT Guy understands that IT offers a service to his customers.

New IT Guy understands that IT offers a Service to their customers. He understands the cloud to big data to MDM, and that their job is to use those skills to enable employee productivity. He knows that by enabling employees to work smarter, faster, and better helps them and their organization be more successful. He understands that he is there to serve. He is a highly skilled technician who knows how to effectively communicate with his customers. New IT Guy makes people happy and successful.

New IT Guy works building automation processes to transform the speed in which IT moves. He speaks strategy and understands that saving two mouse-clicks can be transformational when you are doing it for over 70,000 people. He knows what the business does.

New IT Guy also knows that his customers are technically sharp. If he treats them like idiots, they’ll conclude that he is an idiot and they will take their needs elsewhere.

Old IT Guy thought he was a superhero and that he was saving humanity from its own stupidity. But humanity got all clever and grown up and changed the rules. Now Old IT Guy is a broken, sad relic of a past era.

New IT Guy recognizes the rest of humanity developed technical superpowers. Yes, they still need help, but New IT Guy helps them all to fly.

  • Leah

    You don’t think this is a BIT of a generalization? Not at all? Really?

    Because I tend to think that the villain “Old IT guy” is NOT the experience everyone has had.

    Technology has changed. Needs have changed. But, one thing has not changed. And, that is…
    broad generalizations, such as this post, only promote stereotypes.

    So, I didn’t find this witty or clever.

    And, no…I’m not an IT guy. I’m a teacher. One who happened to have a great OLD IT guy.

  • Gorsh…
    I’ve not met this new super-hero – tho I know plenty who have some of his characteristics and are trying to do these things. I think that’s the point and value of this blog, ie to highlight that we need more of the latter and less of the former, although I have some sympathy and empathy with these guys and we certainly still need a lot of the ‘business data’ that still walking around in their heads, even if they don’t know or care who they work for.

  • AndieKis

    I enjoy a bit of a generalisation, especially that I have been surrounded and still surrounded by Old IT guys wherever I look. I would even go further and risk generalising their general preferred workwear, food and drinks.

    I think a tongue and cheek generalisation always draws smiles especially for those who actually work in the area and have been there and experienced the same where they have made the same general observations.

    We can write up tearjerkingly funny descriptions of people working in different positions based on general observations. After all who can forget their scary Maths teacher with the hairy armpit? 😉

  • Matt Beran

    We are human, so of course this is a generalization. If we could generalize statements about humans how could we possibly understand it? Same with snowflakes, we’re all unique, but calling out a trend isn’t bad, it’s learning and understanding.

    My wife is a teacher too and I constantly hear her gripe about IT. And rightfully so, they are put in a tough spot where they aren’t given the resources (people, money, time) they need to give her and her co-workers the support, tools, tech, innovation and training that they need.

    There are some old IT guys that really did great work for people, and sometimes for businesses (I was definitely one of them). What I think Ian is getting at though is that even though we perceive these old IT guys as helpful, it is often not understood that the helpfulness is SHORT term. I can band-aid something and make someone happy, or I can let it fail, justify a replacement of the system, then band-aid it, then replace it. Nobody is doing people or businesses (or schools) favors by being heroes and performing unauthorized change. It’s time the business and IT grow up.

    To put it in a different perspective. Think old teachers and new teachers. My old teachers lectured (not my learning style) but they weren’t flexible. My new teachers taught hands-on and I picked it up. I don’t think the lecture style will ever die (some people learn that way)(all businesses have an old IT guy), but innovation, change, and maturation can go a long way and have a longer term impact.

  • Thanks for all the comments so far. Yes, this was a slightly tongue-in-cheek piece, and yes it contains sweeping generalisations, but sometimes you need to do that to make a point. (I should be clear that by ‘OLD’ I’m not referring to age of course. In fact the sort of skills that the New IT needs are probably found more in those that have been in business/IT for some time and understand ‘business’).
    You know, the best New IT experience I’ve ever had was when a member of our own IT department came into my office, sat down and asked me to explain what I did, so he could understand my priorities and find ways to help me do more. Two days later he gave me a list of hints and tips all relevant to my role and my priorities. Keeping most systems running is a given these days, it’s making people more productive is the magic now.
    Agree? Disagree? Join in the debate 🙂

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