The IT worker bucket list: 40 things tech pros wish for
However much you and I may love our IT jobs, some things irritate us. It might be a small, niggling annoyance (Why do we have to wait for laggards to show up before starting a conference call?) or a systemic problem (Company management somehow believes that disaster recovery planning is optional). Obviously, some problems are easier to solve than others. A word of caution: Expect the disaster recovery program to be implemented long before sensible teleconference behavior.
As it turns out, IT professionals have some commonalities in their wish lists. In a survey of techies I found several themes in the answers to my question, "What would you include on a list of 'If all these things happened in my professional life in IT, just once, I could die happy'?"
While looking at these 40 responses, you may bang your fist on the table and shout, "Me too!" And, maybe, with a bit of thoughtfulness and planning, a business exec might make a few of these dreams come true. Isn't it pretty to think so?
Let's finally get rid of that old…
Whether an employee is a system administrator, project manager, or software developer, you can count on a rousing cheer at the idea of replacing an old and troublesome technology with, well, a new and troublesome technology.
There are two kinds of fool. One says, 'This is old, and therefore good.' And one says, 'This is new, and therefore better.'
But nothing generated more emphatic agreement among those I surveyed than the daydream of getting rid of printers: "We go truly and fully paperless, and I can throw the printers off a cliff," wishes one sys admin.
Among the responses on the theme "My life would be complete if we could get rid of…" were:
- Printing became obsolete in my department.
- We retire all of our Windows 2003 servers (or Windows XP or Windows 7).
- We get rid of ISDN-BRI systems.
- A summer goes by without a chiller failure.
- We clean up DNS that has been poorly maintained for the past 10 years. ("It's always DNS!" sings the chorus.)
A variation on "replace the hateful legacy system" was a more positive desire to build a better company infrastructure, and by "better" I mean whatever the techie prefers:
- Have a job where I only have to look after Linux servers.
- Build and cable an entire data center myself, from the racks to the server and everything in between.
- The cables are all neatly bundled, with not too much slack, and clearly labeled.
Or indulge in a nerd cave:
- Build my dream setup of an x86_64 tablet, with Arch Linux installed, that can be plugged into an EGPU dock that would run a powerful graphics card for gaming.
Is it possible for these techies' dreams to come true? Certainly, most company execs like to think that they're modernizing the infrastructure as quickly as they can afford to. But for plenty of IT staff, it can't happen soon enough.
Tired of work overload
Not everything that frustrates IT employees is about equipment. They wish that the constant stream of work requests would let up every so often, that they could find the right information to get their work done, and that they could leave work at a reasonable hour:
- Just once, if all the servers and workstations showed "up to date" in patch monitoring.
- Seeing zero help desk tickets in the queue—without that meaning, "Oh, no, the ticketing system is down."
- Immediately know the answer to all questions for an entire monthlong streak, so I know exactly what to do without looking it up.
One issue is a desire to be trusted to manage one's own time. That's not just a matter of "Go home early today. Preferably right now." Several people wished management trusted employees to balance work and life without it hurting the company. One respondent said he would like to:
- Halfway through a day, walk up to my boss and tell him, "I'm done for the week, see ya Monday," with him being fine with it.
Here, perhaps, thoughtful leadership can make a difference. One suggestion: Consider the metrics for success in each department—and let the reward for reaching them be time to oneself. Or at least provide a better help desk management system.
Projects gone wild
On time, on budget, on spec—pick any two. Or so the saying goes. Wouldn't it be amazing if once—just once!—a project went the way it was supposed to?
For example, IT staff wished for:
- No scope creep! The customer agrees what exactly they are building, then sticks with it.
- Having all the code and revisions documented all the way through…not just the first 25 percent developed.
- A project goes on schedule, on budget, and within expected parameters.
- Client: "I trust your knowledge of what makes for a good website and your talent for making that happen." And they accept the final product without any edits.
- Everything goes so well that meetings regularly are cancelled, since there isn't anything to resolve.
- I don't have to spend my time hand-holding during an on-site client project, so I can get my own work done before 11 p.m.
- A meeting between competitors in which they all listen to each other.
Or at the very least, it'd be nice for the project documentation to be helpful:
- Everything is documented the first time rather than in numerous iterations.
- Product technical documentation has all the steps necessary to complete a task, including a glossary of every term and acronym the manual uses. And it's up to date.
One techie rolled all those project dreams into one:
- The client says, "Our deadline is a little looser than your estimate, so you can have six months longer than you asked for. We're funding a full-time documentation person, an extra full-time tester who has a performance background, and a full-time release manager. Oh, and once the development is in the bag, we want you to spend a month in Paris to lead the installation and rollout. Since it will take so long, we'll pay for an apartment that's big enough for your spouse, too."
Is it too much to ask for a reasonable budget to accompany all this?
- Build something in my test lab. Get management to approve of me building it for the business (and give me the correct budget), and add the cost saving/performance increase to my salary. (That is, if the IT pro saved the company $10,000 a year on hardware upgrades, the techie's salary would get a commensurate increase.)
- Have a truly unlimited budget to buy a new server or PCs. Even if it is just for one order.
Maybe it is too much to hope for clients or end users to know what they need, be willing to pay for the work to be done with quality, and resist the urge to change their minds. Well, more than once.
But there are such things as project management best practices, Agile techniques, and business attitudes that reward staff for its innovations and improved workflow.
Think creatively. How can you reward staff for improving business processes?
Create a better work environment
Even if IT workers can't build the data center of their dreams, ban a despised content management system, or go a single day without a new trouble ticket landing in their in-box, can't they at least work more comfortably?
- One day I hope to move out of the cube farm and into my very own office. Ideally with a personal coffee maker and mini-bar.
The easiest wish-list item to provide is among the most earnestly hoped-for (and most frequently mentioned): the opportunity to telecommute.
- I would like to work remotely, even if only some of the time.
If there's any "make 'em happy!" process the boss can implement, surely it's this one. Despite a lot of corporate pushback on telecommuting, it's entirely possible to build a team where location is not a factor. It may even save your company money.
When we made it 'idiot-proof' the world made bigger idiots
Once upon a time, IT staff called them lusers—and got away with it. Now everyone has to use words like "stakeholders" and "end users," but that has made them no less irksome. As one IT pro wrote wistfully about his bucket list item: "Never having to deal with users again. That'd be pretty high up there for me."
- A user confesses that, yes, he did click OK to the big warning saying he was deleting all the records/emails/entries.
- A user actually "turns it off and on again" before calling IT.
- An end user follows directions and thereafter understands what she's doing.
- Users explain the problem they are actually experiencing, instead of, "The Internet is down."
- Bosses and co-workers stop trying to come up with solutions to their problems, then assert their solution as the only solution.
- I spend one day without being interrupted five times by "emergencies" that are really minor user problems.
It isn't only end users who present problems—and make techies wish the troublemakers would go away:
- I want to track down the guy who set up my current environment and say, "What the hell were you thinking?"
- When researching a problem online and finding an article that has my exact question/problem, the question is not the only post in the thread. When the original poster resolved the problem, he explains clearly what he did.
I'd give you pithy advice here, but suggestions like "How about giving people useful training classes?" or "Send them to conferences so they can better learn their tools" seem too obvious.
Build a community of trust
This is the real world. The budget is limited. Management can't control unruly users. The project spec is eligible for a Hugo award.
But managers and execs have power over at least one thing: How they treat the staff. Managers and leaders control the company culture; nobody else does.
- I'd like to hear, "Hey! I just noticed that email hasn't been down since God knows when! Thanks, guys" or "It's just what I asked for. And what I wanted!"
- I get a job where I am friendly with my co-workers. They have interests and passions, and are decent human beings.
- The general manager says, "Yes, you know more about IT-related stuff than me. Let's do what you proposed. I'll trust your decisions and give you the help you need."
- I can attend all the major tech trade shows like CES.
My heartfelt plea to every boss: Trust your people. Invest in them. Recognize that they want the company to succeed at least as much as you do. Tell them thank you, every so often—particularly to acknowledge work well done.
Is that so hard?
For the final wish list item, one IT pro suggests:
- I stride commandingly into a giant data center, yell battle stations, have the entire place start flashing red lights with klaxons blaring, and have all the servers turn into an army of Daleks that follow me out the door.
"What? Bucket lists have limitations?" he asks.
Got a bucket list item of your own to add? Tweet it to me @estherschindler.
This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.