Are Geeks Different?

IT pros may or may not be geeks depending on how you define “geek”

Are IT people different from other people in business? Are we geeks? Is that good or bad? The age old question of whether IT people are different from other people in a company becomes more important now that IT is integral to everything a company does from marketing to HR. 

Now that IT is central to any business activity from sales to marketing and human resources, it’s even more important for IT people to take the lead in their companies in addressing these issues. Maybe there are triggers and levers that both IT and business people need to be aware of when they work together. We get triggered by certain words and situations and if we don’t understand them then we collide with the people we’re trying to work with and we don’t know what to do about it.

Lively Exploration of Being Geek

Two fellow IT industry columnists organized a small conference recently to explore what it means to be in IT and if that makes us geeks. The conference organizers were Paul Glen (his Computerworld column) and Bob Lewis (his InfoWorld column). They invited a select group of accomplished IT and business pros to meet and share opinions. What follows is a transcript of one conversation around the topic “are geeks different?”

Are IT people up to the demands of business now? Are we equipped with the technical and personal skills we need for what the IT job is becoming?

* See a YouTube video of this conversation here *

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PETER F. BROWN - The difference is between those who believe there is a difference between IT and business and those who think that there are commonalities as well as differences…

JASON PISTILLO – [listening]

YOAV ZIV – [disagrees, words unclear]

JENN STEELE – I feel there is a definite difference. I have been in both IT and marketing, umm… which are both support functions. I can tell you a hundred and ten thousand percent there’s a massive difference at least here in the States…

DAN GALORATH – And what are you trying to accomplish?

JENN STEELE - …there could be cultural differences that I’m not aware of.

VICKI MILLEDGE – [listening] 

DAN GALORATH – And I think what you’re trying to accomplish is to first understand and then be understood, right? If you understand the differences you can start resolving them. Isn’t that what the goal is? So if, I mean, I’m guessing, so then you really want to understand the mindset of the people that are doing the IT, called geeks or not, versus the mindset of the people that don’t care about IT; [they] just care about getting their job done and need IT as a service.

KYLE SHANNON – You know it seems to me, I think one of the challenges is that so many people in this room are chasm crossers, like people who can talk to both sides. So… so… it may be difficult, you know, as a whole to say “oh geeks are separate.” Geeks are separate. I mean geeks are geeks. You know the fact that a lot of people in this room can talk to either side…  

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