In the World of IT, The More Things Change…

Technology is morphing, developing and advancing at a breakneck pace and those that want to survive in the evermore in-demand world of IT need to be increasingly tech savvy just to keep up. So how tech savvy are you? In the following quiz, score yourself 1 point for each statement you believe to be true and 0 points for each statement you believe to be false. The score at the end will give you an accurate assessment of how tech savvy you are.

  • I know the difference between a server and a domain.
  • I know what a “hashtag” means as it relates to social media.
  • I am confident that I know what IT stands for and don’t have to double check on Google before writing a blog and then second guess myself later about whether or not it should include a period after each letter.

So how did you do? If you scored 1 or more points, congratulations! You are significantly more tech savvy than I’ll ever be.

Yet, strangely, I recently found myself as a panelist at an IT event in Detroit, “Build IT Together,” speaking to IT professionals about their industry. Even stranger is that my role is this type of realm is becoming less and less, well, strange.

I own two small businesses, and while the end product of these two differences is fairly different, both are essentially based on the premise of helping people connect. With each year, the businesses are growing in demand.

What’s interesting is that we live in a time when technology has made connecting easier than ever. In the days of my youth, if I wanted to catch up with a friend, I had to ride my donkey down to the county pigeon coop and hire a winged courier to deliver an invitation. Months later, I would await the arrival of my friend at the train station and when he arrived we would head to the bar to watch the Lion’s game and catch up. These days, I just hop onto Facebook to see that he and his wife are doing fine and that he made pancakes for breakfast. With the catch-up box ticked, we can forego the meet up and I can get back to playing video games.

Focus on communication and engagement

If it’s so easy for a business to connect with the customer and so easy for people to connect with each other, why are companies spending more energy than ever focusing on communication, engagement and interpersonal skills?

I don’t want to downplay the significance of technology in the professional environment, and I’ll tie this all in to the IT world in a moment, but I want to highlight two industries, in particular, where the disconnect between technology and interpersonal communication has become an issue.

Communication in banking

Banking, in theory, should be completely impersonal. I can deposit checks with my phone, I can pay for everything with a credit card linked to my account and I can withdraw cash from an ATM. I can even get a home loan online. Banking, in reality, has never put such a premium on interpersonal communication. Go to almost any bank and they either have someone greet you at the door or they’ll call out to welcome you. They engage in pleasant conversation and try to get to know you. They are trained to do this, by the way. Take any one of these tellers and throw them behind the counter of a neighborhood coffee shop for a while, and it’s likely you’ll get the stink eye when you order the blueberry flavored coffee. My bank regularly calls me to ask how my visit was. They never ask about the technology of their services. They ask how I was treated.

Communication in medicine

I find my business, Improv Effects, doing more in the medical field every day. My partner and I have done communication work with interns, residents and even attending physicians. Recently, we’ve started helping instruct at a medical school. If you think my tech knowledge is poor, I know even less about the field of medicine. The concern: even though technology has made medical procedures safer and less invasive than ever, there is not a proportionate decline in the amount of malpractice suits. The reason: poor communication. The surgeries may heal quicker and the operations may be shorter, but when people don’t feel like they are being listened to, or when they don’t trust their physician, suddenly a little post-surgery elbow nag feels like a negligent mistake. Interpersonal communication in the medical field is preached regularly all over the country now.

 
And that brings me to my seat at the IT panel, and the work my businesses do with technical fields in engineering, banking, healthcare and yes, even IT. Distilled to its essence, the job of the IT professional is not to fix a computer or build a company’s server, though that might be the arms and legs of the job. Your job is to help a person who has a need or a problem. If you take the person out of the equation, you’re just someone walking around fixing stuff. Great as a hobby, not as a source of income.

Again, I don’t want to underscore the importance of having the knowledge to do so. That’s the minimum just to be in that profession. What will set you apart is your ability to connect with the client, address his or her problem and fill his or her need in a way that establishes trust on an interpersonal level.

The best piece of business advice I’ve ever received was years ago and it rings truer today than ever before:

“People will pay you to solve their problems. They’ll pay you twice as much to solve a problem twice as hard and make it look easy. They’ll pay you twice that again if you solve their problems, make it look easy and make them feel good about calling you. They’ll pay you twice that again if you solve their problems, make it look easy, make them feel good about calling you and make them feel special. They’ll pay you nothing if you tell them to help you solve their problems.”

As I joked at the Build IT Together panel, I realize I sound a little bit like Vince Vaughn in The Internship, but there’s always a gem of truth in humor. The more things change with technology, the more things stay the same with people.

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Featured image: Photo originally by Katarzyna Stawarz via Flickr

About

Brian Lam is the owner of Lam Creative Solutions, and the Co-Owner of Improv Effects LLC. His improvisational experience includes studying at the prestigious Second City theatre in Chicago, in both the improv and creative writing programs. Brian’s professional history includes sales management, creative management, copy writing, and focus group facilitation.