A Techie’s Biggest Problem
While I was going to Santa Clara University, I had spent a lot of my non-class time working in the main engineering computer lab. I had managed to gain some administrative control over the system (legitimately) and ended up doing my part to shape how the lab ran. It was a low-paying job, but it gave me a great deal of experience in a heterogeneous computing environment, which ultimately led to the job I had gotten: as a systems administrator for a small recruiting/contracting firm in the summer of 1995.
Instead of entering the workforce, my friend Fish (not his real name) had decided to go the grad school route. One of the classes he took was an Engineering Management class. He had to ask (past) co-workers a question, which was:
What do you perceive to be the major problems facing today’s technical professionals? Which of these concerns relate to The Ascent–the general increase in the sophistication of the world we live in? Which of these concerns is within the province of your managers to address? Which are yours alone, to deal with? Do you feel you are ready to Ascend with the rest?
Here was my answer. Keep in mind I wrote this over 10 years ago–October of 1995 to be exact. If you were in the industry back then, think back to the way things were and compare them to the way things are now. As I read these words today, they seem as true as ever. I’m still a systems administrator, though mostly for my own network.
Technology is advancing faster than our ability to keep up with it while maintain status quo. Often being on the bleeding edge creates many problems, many dealing with the man hours lost when using relatively untested technology.
The flip side is staying with a particular kind of technology past the point where it is feasible to do so and proven better technology exists that can replace it. This happens where a company, either because they don’t know any better or they are afraid to use a new technology or do not know how they can apply it properly.
As a System Administrator, I have to find a balance between the “bleeding edge” and “stable” all the time. In my job, it is difficult to get my head above water long enough to get a good look at what’s on the horizon. And there is also “so much” going on out there that it’s impossible to see and use it all.
How much of this do I have control over? Not much, really. Even when you’re “making” the technology, it’s not always easy to know what’s going on out in the “real world.” Even for large organizations, it’s difficult to “keep up with it all.” I think the pace of technology will dictate how often things are changed and we must be prepared to upgrade or die, so to speak.
The one thing I will add to this is that technology is changing so fast that it is hard to digest it all before the next new thing arrives. We are perpetually behind the 8-ball, so to speak. And if it’s bad for us, think of how bad it must be for the common person.