They'll miss you when you are gone
An underpaid, undervalued I.T. person wonders how to make his
employers understand how valuable he really is. I've seen this a
number of times in my career, and it's usually someone who started
out as a very young person and has grown with the company. Because
of the fairly recent history of desktop computer use in
corporations, this person often was there at the beginning or near
to it: they may have put the very first computers into place.
Their pay is often not unreasonable. It's likely to be around or
even slightly above the median pay for I.T. professionals. The
employer likely thinks that they are treating this person very
well. Unfortunately, sometimes they really are not.
A typical I.T. person is often not a highly talented individual.
They may be certified at some level, and may be able to deal with
installation tasks and minor administrative functions, but they
usually lack real expertise, and their pay scale reflects it. In
contrast, the type of person I am talking about is a jack of all
trades: system administrator, programmer, troubleshooter, and run
of the mill I.T. worker. In addition, by benefit of having been
with the company so long, they have tremendous knowledge of how to
integrate business needs and technology. It's that last that is
often most lacking in the "ordinary" technology worker: they may
have technology skills, but seldom know how to apply those skills
to the business at hand.
For the over-worked person who is in that position, my advice is
always the same: move on. When someone starts out at ground zero
with any company, they are always seen in that context, and their
employers think that they have done rather well going from whatever
they started at to where they are now. The employer's view will
always include the green kid who didn't know a tenth of what they
know now. A new company only sees the experienced veteran.
I often say that I don't want to be a company's first
consultant. They never appreciate what I do for them because they
think anyone could have done it. That's part of this problem too:
the employer has no idea how good they have it, because they've
never had anyone else.
Related to that is often the certainty that they can easily hire
people for less or equal money. What they don't understand is that
they really cannot: applicants probably will not have programming
skills, may not even have basic scripting skills, will lack the
experience of a seasoned administrator, and will not be able to
translate business challenges into appropriate technical
Companies who haven't experienced typical I.T. qualifications
just don't notice the things that never break because our
experienced person has seen to it that these problems just will not
I do not know how to get any company to understand all that.
I've never seen a company that did understand it until it was too
late: the really good guy moved on and they went through months or
years of turmoil before getting back someone good - of course for
much more money.
It's sad, but it's human nature. You never know how good you had
it until you lose it.
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© 2011-03-09 Tony Lawrence