Many of us in IT like to think -- right or wrong -- that we're the invisible hands behind a successful business, making sure systems operate smoothly and solving tech puzzles on a daily basis. Call me cocky, but I can point to at least one episode where our pride was warranted and IT's unheralded leadership guided a less-than-tech-savvy manager to make a decision that helped the entire enterprise.
This story dates back to the early 1980s when I was working for a regional bank. The senior IT manager had a banking background, but zero IT background. He was generally a nice fellow but also pretty aloof. He rarely spoke to IT people in the trenches, and he was well known for his immaculate desk -- only one item at a time was allowed to be on that desk. The phrase "ivory tower" often popped up when discussing his management style.
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The term "IT" was not in our lexicon back then. We were mostly known as "ADP" for Automated Data Processing, or just "DP." After working in a technical job for more than two years, I was hired into a management position. The people who reported to me were tasked with fixing production problems ASAP, nearly 24/7 -- except for Sunday nights, when there weren't enough batch processing jobs scheduled to need coverage.
The daily grind
In our not-so-copious spare time, we were allowed a break from the daily grind to work on "fun" projects. It was a point of pride in our department that we'd get projects completed that the development teams had turned down and deemed undoable. Fixing production remained our team's No. 1 priority, so we could not be held to completion dates on these extra projects, not that we ever used that as an excuse to goof off.