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A Day in the Life of an IT Grunt

by Jack Santos  |  June 17, 2013  |  Comments Off on A Day in the Life of an IT Grunt

A group of us have enjoyed reading this recent missive from deep inside the bowels of Microsoft:

Reaction to Mr. Balkan’s post usually ends up in one of two camps:

“Disgruntled Employee Land” – Can you believe this guy? He ain’t working at Microsoft much longer

-or –

“What’s News Here?” – Welcome to my world.   Sadly, nothing here is any different than my experience in any  large company…

I will not assess the accuracy or validity of his comments – much less whether it is even true at Microsoft.  But I will say that I have heard much of these complaints (or are they observations?) before.

Let me rephrase this in more common every-day F500 speak, focused mainly on IT:

Expect no documentation in corporations. Unfortunately, speed doesn’t kill, it sells.  And documentation is the first to go.  Sometimes this is euphemistically called “write code that documents itself”.

It is not what you do, it is what you sell.  Any first year hire will often complain that the first person promoted is not on merit (best coder, smartest, able to leap large Turing tests in a single bound), but the guy who shows well and has great convincing skills, no matter how wrong the thing he is selling.  Our research found this in context of the negativity by ITers towards the term “marketing”. .

Sure, some of that is lack of perspective. Some of it is sour grapes; some of it is true, too.

Not everybody is passionate for engineering. In a typical F500 IT shop that has 500 software engineers, I’d say the odds are pretty good that a certain percentage have 1) become jaded 2) have other outside interests in addition to their 9-5, 3) there are other pasisons that engineers can find: management, architecture, etc etc. and 4) understand the oft-repeated business euphemism “don’t let the excellent be the enemy of the good”.   All of that can be interpreted as a “lack of passion” – especially by the supposed passionate person on a fast track to disappointment.

2-3 hours of coding a day is great.  plus 2-3 hours of meetings, and then 2-3 hours of analysis/think time.  Add in email, HR duties, self appraisals, peer appraisals, company videos, benefits sign-ups, etc etc etc …Yeah, that’s about right, and a fairly universal complaint.   Just look at our research – projects don’t fail because of lack of technical skills – so 2-3 hours may, in fact, be just right…

Not giving back to the public domain is a norm.  Duh.  Time to market, IP, competitive pressure.  There is a reason copyright has been extended to 120 years from 75 years during our lifetime…

The world outside is not known here a lot.  Most corporations are so internally focused they limit “strategic thinking” to a select few.  It’s time that changed (see our research on becoming a contextual strategist).

It is all about getting s%*t done in corporations.   I have heard this every day my whole career.  And its true.

Copy-pasting code can be okay.   We in IT development call it “reusability”.  We even automate this in our code management systems.  The day of handmade, single use anything is long gone.

Code reviews can be skipped, for the sake of agility. Sad but true.  See #1 . The dark side of the misinterpretation of agility.  Even agile development, with scrums and sprints, has a very real potential to degenerate (Jack’s first law of management oversight: Orderly processes inexorably degenerate toward a greater state of disorder if you let them).

Latest software, meh. Dear reader, please check your version of Outlook or browser of choice.  In fact, we in Gartner have classified this into type A, B, C companies.  (it’s a bell curve).  By the way, B’s are not on the latest software, at least not first.

Your specialties usually do not matter.  Stock advice for end user IT organizations: The era of the generalist…or what we affectionately call versatilists….

At the end, you are working for your manager’s and their managers’ paychecks. I was not aware of this fact in college.   Welcome to capitalism.  Otherwise incentive programs would not be structured the way they are.  In the last 500 years, the only progress we have made here was the dissolution of the monarchy (sometimes by revolution, and still not everywhere).  The supposed alternative (communism) either died or is in hiding….

Our Professional Effectiveness research takes these observations (and reactions) into context.  Like the presentation:
Why your next IT job may not be in “IT”  ” – coming to our Catalyst conference in San Diego at the end of July

Welcome the real world kid.  Now get back to work.

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Category: career  management  managment  practitioner  

Tags: career  management  microsoft  social-media  

Jack Santos
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
40 years IT industry

Jack Santos is a Research Vice President with Gartner, part of the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation team within the Gartner for IT Leaders product. He focuses on enterprise architecture and technology trends. Mr. Santos' specific area of research covers individual development, leadership and management practices for enterprise architects, EA innovation, and collaboration approaches. Read Full Bio

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