Saturday, August 23, 2008

Changing The Guard

Changing of the Guard

The first applications of Information Technology involved highly numeric calculations. The original guards of I.T. were scientists. As business accepted the new tools offered by technology, these tools were often applied to accounting related tasks. Today, we still abide by the incorrect notion that I.T. employees should be computer scientists. Take a look at a few job descriptions and you’ll note that many employers think that they want I.T. employees with computer science degrees.

They are dead wrong. While technically minded people are often hired into I.T. positions because of their knowledge, it is an aptitude of another sort that can change from Old Guard Information Technology into Integrated Technology. Technology staff should have excellent communications and business skills. Most technology skills can be acquired, but it seems as though technically gifted staff often lack either the interest or the capacity for communications.

Perhaps because of its mysterious, highly technical beginnings, Information Technology commands tight control over its subjects yet often fails to deliver exactly what its customers need. Internal customers are faced with a conundrum. They are required to use their computers, yet they are often severely disciplined for misusing them. This leads to a communications schism between I.T. and its internal customers. Staff who are afraid of misusing a tool have little chance of mastering it.

When I was in college for my programming degree, a systems analysis text declared that Information Technology should hold a place in the corporation which acts at an executive level. Of course, that text was written by an I.T. professional. In a perfect world, perhaps I.T. would hold such a position. Reality, though, requires something a little different.

Since highly technical staff are usually hired into I.T. departments, their business acumen is typically inversely related to their technical skills. These people are frequently the last people that a company may wish to introduce to a customer. The detrimental effect of this situation is that technology is often explicitly avoided by executives, despite the fact that they stand to benefit from its use. Perhaps the situation is such that using technology is more difficult than not using it. Not because of technical problems, but people problems.

It is time for a new perspective on technical staff. Why should businesses hire technically trained people, if they need business people? They shouldn’t. Perhaps every I.T. department will require some highly technical staff, however those staff who interact with internal customers should be selected specifically because they have more empathy than technical expertise.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Road to Happiness

Seth Godin wrote recently about the job of marketers.

What you have doesn't make you unhappy. What you want does.
And want is created by us, the marketers.

Someone must want (or need) a product in order to buy it.  It is the job of the marketer to create the desire (want or need) for the product. 

Toaism tells us that one may experience peace (happiness) in the absence of desire.  Does it then follow that we can increase our happiness by cutting off the barrage of marketing messages we're exposed to on a daily basis?

Aimee and I watch almost no television.  Perhaps three hours per week.  We live relatively modestly, but we're hardly free from desire.  I subscribe to a number of electronic magazines, and (of course) they are choc full of advertisements.

While avoiding marketing messages might lead to greater happiness, is it really practical?  When we think about the products we purchase and our overall happiness, I think it becomes clear that most purchases do not increase happiness.  We still keep making purchases though, as if transfixed by the never-materializing promise of happiness.

Monday, August 18, 2008


The other morning I got in my car and immediately thought "Gee, why is my radio bezel on the floor?"  The answer, of course, is that my radio was stolen.  Again.  This routine is getting old.  This time I didn't have my doors locked, but I'm not sure if that cost me a radio or saved me another broken window.

As I sat at my office desk, fuming, I finally concocted a plan to defeat radio thievery once and for all!  Wasting no time, I went to the Bazaar and found something better than a radio.  It was a small, 12 volt amplifier with volume, bass, and treble knobs.  It was $14 plus shipping.  Of course, it was in China, so shipping was $15.  Perfect.  It isn't a radio, but it can play my satellite radio and Aimee's iPod.  The best part?  Even a low life thief won't want to steal this thing!  A person would have to be crazy to want it! (Erm, don't take that literally)

When my new toy arrived, I was giddy.  Aimee picked up a radio harness for me, and I set about wiring up my new "radio".  When I finally got out to the car, humming "Into the Wild Blue Yonder" under my breath, my happiness was short lived.  Despite the label on the wiring harness, it did not in fact fit a Kia Rio.

Today I exchanged the harness (naturally the guys at the store didn't believe that it was the wrong harness until they had also stymied themselves on my car).  This evening I got my car amplifier installed at last.


Now, in case you are uninitiated...Chinese style seems to favor loud.  Gaudy, I mean.  When I first unpacked this thing, I noticed a clear bezel around the volume knob.  "Great", I thought, "probably a calming green LED is behind that."  When I turned on the amplifier and hooked it up to my Sirius receiver, my initial reaction was not "Hey, that sounds ok" was "Is this thing going to give me seizures?"

In case there was a danger of it getting stolen, I'm pretty sure the flashing light will put the kibosh on that.