IT Pro Day ’22—The Evolution of the IT Pro — SolarWinds TechPod 068

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IT Pro Day is right around the corner, and in preparation for the event, TechPod hosts Chris Bowie, Sean Sebring, and special guest Head Geek Chrystal Taylor talk about IT Pro Day, the evolution of the IT pro, and how roles have changed in an increasingly distributed and complex IT landscape. Tune in as they share their thoughts on what makes an IT pro” and why IT pros deserve their day in the sun! Related Links  
Chris Bowie

Host

Along with being cohost of Solarwinds' Techpod, Chris is a product marketing manager for the SolarWinds infrastructure and security products. Having started her career in… Read More
Sean Sebring

Host

Some people call him Mr. ITIL - actually, nobody calls him that - But everyone who works with Sean knows how crazy he is about… Read More
Chrystal Taylor

Guest | Head Geek

Chrystal Taylor is a dedicated technologist with nearly a decade of experience and has built her career by leveraging curiosity to solve problems, no matter… Read More

Episode Transcript

Announcer: This episode of TechPod is brought to you by IT Pro Day. Each year, we recognize the critical role IT professionals play in managing and maintaining the essential systems and applications powering our digital experiences. Join us this IT Pro Day in honoring and recognizing IT pros everywhere. To learn more, visit itproday.org.

Chris: Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of SolarWinds® TechPod. I’m Chris Bowie, and I’m joined by Sean Seabring as your new TechPod hosts. Today, we’re talking about IT Pro Day, how it came to be and really what makes an IT pro. And with us, we have Head Geek, Chrystal Taylor. So before we get any further, why don’t we get going with some intros? What do you think Sean and Chrystal?

Sean:  I am Sean Seabring. I represent pretty much everything ITSM. My study is in the ITIL best practices. So when it comes to process improvement and anything to do with service management, I will try and insert myself as much as possible.

Chris: Awesome. And I’m Chris Bowie, one of the product marketing managers here at SolarWinds. Originally, I hail from sunny Scotland, but these days I live in Austin, Texas. I got my start in tech actually at SolarWinds about four years ago in the marketing org. More recently, I moved into product marketing and just never really looked back.

Chrystal: So I am Chrystal Taylor. I am a Head Geek here at SolarWinds. Prior to that, I spent almost ten years working for a partner of SolarWinds operating as sort of a monitoring administrator in the many different types of environments that I worked with, so engaging with our customers in that kind of capacity.

Chris: But today as mentioned, we’re going to be having a chat about IT Pro Day and IT pros specifically, and I think it’s fair to say time and time again, that IT professionals rise to the challenge to support and lead digital initiatives and transformations in organizations around the world. So just for some context on IT Pro Day, SolarWinds actually created the annual IT Pro Day holiday, and it’s celebrated on the third Tuesday of September every year to really recognize the broad range of technologies and the rapid pace of change that IT pros manage in their day-to-day lives. But I guess one of the things I wanted to ask is how has the role of an IT pro changed over the years, and is it even possible to define an IT pro? What do you both think?

Chrystal: Sure. So, I mean, those are two questions. I’ll start with, is it possible to define an IT pro? I think there’s been a lot of interesting conversation, especially on Twitter lately, where you see someone ask what is an IT pro, and they’ll get a million different responses, right? Everyone thinks of it a little bit differently. A lot of people think of it in respect of their own disciplines. So people who work help desk, they think IT pros are only the people who work help desk, and so on. It depends on whatever their discipline is, then they have different answers. A few people have broader responses than that, but I think that just goes to show that it really is just do you work in IT? You are an IT pro, congratulations.

What your discipline is or what part you work in, I think that we can all have these more specific defined labels, like I’m a security administrator, or I’m a network administrator, but you are also still an IT pro. That’s the way I kind of look at it as more like of a broader terminology for working in IT.

Sean:  And I think the other part of that question was about how has it changed, and while we were noodling about this, not too long ago, Chris, we brought up an analogy. Is it okay if I bring that in now?

Chris: Please, yes.

Sean:  Excellent. So one of the things I think of when I consider how has IT changed in the last, let’s just say decades is a movie that probably everybody is familiar with – Jurassic Park.

Chrystal: Yes.

Sean:  And the reason that I bring this up is because when you think of Jurassic Park, of course, one of the first things you think of is a gigantic Tyrannosaurus Rex. However, I like to counter that the movie, the film, or maybe even the book, doesn’t have anything to do with just dinosaurs. They happen to be in there, don’t get me wrong, but the film is actually about, or the story is actually about IT and what happens if you mistreat your IT staff. So consider for a moment that there would be no plot to the story if Nedry, who ran the IT infrastructure for all of Jurassic Park, had not felt he was undervalued.

Chrystal: Absolutely. A hundred percent, a hundred percent agree. I think that this is… Chris and I were talking about this recently also, because she had brought up your analogy with me later and I didn’t get the chance to talk to you about it. But I was saying how even looking at as far as the evolution, you can still use the Jurassic movies, right? You look at the difference between Jurassic Park, where there’s literally one IT guy for that whole endeavor. And then you look at Jurassic World where they show an entire NOC, for instance. It’s not really a NOC, but it kind of is. A NOC kind of SOC a thing that has all of these employees. It looks more like more akin to what you would see at NASA or in war games or whatever. In there, that’s what it looks more like because that’s kind of how its evolved. The importance of IT has been more widely accepted and respected I think now than it was in the past.

And it still is undervalued. I do think that, but I think that that’s a really good point of in the first movie, original movie, that he did everything himself, and they completely ignored his warnings. They completely ignored his information. And even looking at the girl who took classes, I can’t remember her name, the character’s name, but she took classes and she was able to figure things out on her own, that just goes to show you even generationally, even generationally how quickly it goes from the kids are picking these things up just on their own in a class, on a side gig, whatever, because that’s where we are. They live in technology.

Sean:  And you brought up something as far as the operation center goes, right, transforming from one to two people, smoking cigarettes in an IT room, keeping the infrastructure for an entire theme park up versus an operation center, which is in Jurassic World, right, where there is that entire team, a squad of folks collaborating, communicating, there’s lots of back and forth. Another perception on it is the park was in its infancy. The infrastructure, they were building it. In fact, it wasn’t open. This was showcasing it to family and some stakeholders and advisors. So baking in strong and healthy IT practices from the concept, at the infancy of it, not just maintenance and ongoing things, but baking it into being a part of designing the services as a whole, I think, is a big part of that.

Chris: I think that’s a really good point. And I think just if we think about it more broadly, do we think that generalists still exist, or is there more of a trend towards specialisms when thinking about the IT pro?

Chrystal: I don’t think we’re going to get away from having generalists. The fact that small businesses exist means that you can’t get away from generalists, right? They have smaller IT teams, sometimes one person, sometimes two, maybe three, if you’re lucky. Maybe they outsource parts of it, but they generally are going to have to do everything because they are the only person doing it. So I don’t think we’re ever going to fully get away from generalists.

I think that as we’ve seen, IT organizations kind of expand and grow in enterprise spaces and now where they’re getting really large, right? You have these big dedicated teams that are doing specific things. Then that kind of generalist stuff kind of goes out the window because there’s no place for it in an organization of a really large size, right? There’s no room for one person to be doing all of the things that Nedry was doing, right? They need more people. There’s more things to worry about. There’s more things to focus on. Technology has advanced. And with that, we also have advanced, which means that specialization is necessary whenever you’re having to do more.

Obviously, it would be great if small businesses had the opportunity to take advantage of specifications and having specialized things to meet their needs for each of the things that they need, but it’s unlikely to happen because they can’t afford the costs where a large enterprise can afford the cost.

Sean:  Something I think about a lot as far as generalists, specialists, I think into interview terms. As someone who comes from a support background, one of the biggest things I thought about going into and interviewing people was asking a question that they may not know the answer to. And someone being able to say, “I know how to Google,” is probably one of the best or even most correct answers because you’re able to leverage a resource to find the solution. And when we think about a generalist or specialist, you don’t have to have the answer. You have to be able to know how to get it. And as we move into a world that’s increasingly more SaaS-oriented, where we are generalists leveraging other specialists to continue building a strong and intelligent IT organization, right? An IT pro can be an expert at utilizing other specialists to be a pro. They’re a generalist in leveraging those other resources. And I think it’s becoming more possible to just be smart at how you leverage those resources.

Chrystal: I could not agree more. I think when I used to do interviewing as well, I always asked a question that really was designed to draw out how you would go about solving a problem, even if you don’t know the answer to it. I’m not here to ask you to solve the problem for me in this moment. I’m not giving you a real solution. What I’m doing is I’m asking to figure out how you go about problem-solving because that’s far more important. Even if the answer is I would start with Google, and that’s totally fine, totally acceptable. We need to be able to utilize the resources at our disposal, as you mentioned, whether those are other experts and specialists in other fields, or whether that’s a search engine that’s going to take us to Stack Overflow or wherever to try and get our answers, right?

I’m a big fan of not reinventing the wheel. So I don’t feel a need to spend all of your time sitting there, cycling, trying to figure out a problem, banging your head against that wall until you figure it out yourself. I don’t think that’s necessary. I think we can learn from others, and it’s a waste of time. And honestly, time is money, and businesses believe that too.

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. And I think a common thread that makes IT pros so successful in what they do is enthusiasm for technology, a passion for learning, and kind of curiosity and willingness to grow and learn because I mean, technology just moves forward and changes at such a fast pace. I think if you’re not someone that’s willing to adapt with that, then you’re going to struggle, right?

Chrystal: That’s our greatest superpower in IT – adaptability.

Chris: So I guess thinking about the importance of an IT pro and kind of that role, tell us a little bit more about your experience, Sean, and kind of how central you think an IT pro is to a business.

Sean:  I think one thing, well, and I hate to go back to what we just talked about, but resourcefulness and adaptability is a good term too, because in IT, I think some of the nature of what makes IT fun for me is this concept of variety. I was actually recently taking a time management course, and it speaks a lot about variety versus consistency when you’re talking about how do I manage my time. And so there’s this scale. You take an assessment. You find out where you are on this scale to learn more about your time management styles. And I found out, close to what I thought, I’m kind of in the middle, but lean more towards variety. I’m generally a Jack of all trades, which I also think makes you very versatile in IT, being a generalist.

But variety is a big thing in IT, right? There definitely is a time for consistency. Things are very programmatic, right? It’s very mathematical, but there’s also the flare in the operations side of IT, where things are filled with variety. You never know what’s going to happen. You never know what problem you’re going to encounter. And more exciting and terrifying is I never know what the solution is going to be. Maybe we do. But being able to know how to get to those resources, I think, is what makes a organization so well.

And this goes into a lot of my favorite study, of course, ITIL and service management practices, is they are not about defining the answer. It’s about defining your practice for getting to the answer, the practice of when things hit the fan, which direction do we run? How do we document it? How do we continue to collaborate and expose visibility into the problem so that we can swarm back together and get back to redefining the answer after our initial reconnaissance? So it’s all about the process. And I think the variety, someone with a flare for the variety or with a taste for variety is definitely going to make it more successful because if you don’t like it, I got bad news for you.

Chrystal: I certainly agree. I think to talk about the counterpoint there of the consistency bit, right, consistency is all well and good, but you’re not likely to advance in IT without the variety. You need to expand your mindset, your skill set, to accept and adapt to new things. If you are the consistent one, then you will be stuck in help desk forever or wherever you started. You might not ever grow beyond that because you’re not showing the adaptability and the variety needed to go further in IT. This space is, as Chris just pointed out, constantly growing and expanding, and that is exciting.

It is one of the greatest things about IT in my opinion, is that if you get bored or you don’t want to do what you’re doing anymore, go do something else. There’s a million other things to do. They’re constantly creating new technology and creating new things that you can support and learn and do with. And I think that that makes it an exciting place to be. Tech isn’t slowing down. I don’t know if you don’t even notice this. It’s not slowing down. We’re not ever going to go backwards to the days in the ’80s and early ’90s of where you could do a single job and just do that one thing and that was it. That’s not happening.

Even people who are specialists quite often have to do troubleshooting of different things, because it is relational, right? So many things are intertwined and dependent on each other that you wind up using skills that you previously maybe neglected, or you previously used somewhere else and it’s not part of the specialty you’re in now. You’re going to wind up using all of that information, and that’s great. Use your experience. Use your experience from everywhere.

Sean:  So I’m not just bringing these buzzwords in so that things show up in search results, but we talk about variety. Some of the key terms that you’ll see in Harvard Business Reviews and things of that nature are the terms disrupt. For example, disrupting the market. That’s definitely variety. Acceptable risk, innovation, all of that means variety and a break in consistency, and that’s where you see success and skyrocketing and growth, right? Someone who was able to disrupt the market with innovation, that’s complete variety.

And then something else you brought up, Chrystal, was not being a specialist or being a specialist who is not scared of reaching outside of their specialty, which shift left is one of those big terms that comes up in best practices nowadays, where we are sharing our operational roles together, breaking down the silos, right? Again, buzzwords. Apologize. But these are all really important, and there’s a reason for it because the world is changing, and being able to adapt, this is where the success is seen. These are why these practices are succeeding is because you can’t just stay in your silo and things will magically grow, change, and improve.

Chrystal: Cross the boundaries.

Chris: Yeah, exactly. I do think that is a very common challenge that a lot of people face. What other kind of main challenges do you think people have with being able to collaborate across teams and especially share that knowledge across the board? Because I think that it is really important.

Chrystal: I think a big challenge that at least from my experience and all the people I talk to that are IT pros, a big challenge is you could call it, it could be fear or it could just be that social anxiety where they just want to stay in their place and do their thing. I have a friend who used to say, “All I want to do is clock in, do my job and go home. I don’t want to talk to anybody else. I don’t want to do anything else. Give my task. I’ll do that, and I’ll go home.”

I think though that if you want to be able to collaborate and grow and all of that, especially, especially with the, we’ll call it an increase in work from anywhere or work from everywhere or hybrid work or whatever else you want to call it, whatever terms they’ve decided is the thing for today, right, we’re not going to be able to go back to where everyone in IT works in an office. There are places where it has to be this, right? There are high security environments where they’re never going to allow work from anywhere.

But for the great majority, I don’t think that employees are going to be going back to working in an office full time because we’ve realized over the last two years that it’s not necessary and is in fact detrimental to our lives and to our productivity in some cases. But we also need to adapt to that, right? You can’t just sit at home and not talk to anyone else on other teams, because that is detrimental, right? We need to use our resources. There’s so many great things out there. You need to overcome the anxiety of reaching out with a blind message on Teams or Slack or Discord or whatever platform of choice you’re using. Right? You need to be able to reach out. You need to talk to those people. You need to make a little bit of time to attend happy hour or have a lunch meeting with someone or whatever.

And in my opinion, I think that the best relationships to garner in those situations are ones that are outside your own discipline. Make time to make a friend or an acquaintance or whatever. Pick somebody’s brain that works in a completely different field than you. It only helps you in growing your own skill set, even if they’re non-technical skills, right? Talk to somebody in sales for a while. Try to understand why they do things the way that they do. There’s a lot of animosity, oftentimes, between IT and sales and any kind of field that I’ve known, right? There’s a lot of animosity. Sales sell things that we can’t deliver on. That’s the thing that’s going to happen until the end of time, because they don’t understand each other’s roles well enough to have that.

So have those conversations. Try and understand why they do things, how they sell things to the people. Maybe that will change the way that you think about things. They’re not monsters, right? They’re not the people that we want to hate. We don’t need to hate them. I have some very good friends in sales that I made when I was still working in engineering, and they want to understand. They want to not sell people things that we can’t deliver on. They don’t want to be the person that gets yelled at later because they sold them something that can’t be delivered.

So they’re people. That’s what you need to understand. People need to recognize people in other fields, other departments. Talk to them. Let’s stop doing blame games, even cross-departmentally, right? You’re a network admin and you’re blaming the database or the systems or whoever all the time. Let’s get rid of all that. There’s no reason for it. And honestly, as we move more to this kind of more virtual workplace, that’s more harmful than ever because there’s no one coming up to your cube wall to talk to you about it anymore. That’s gone. You need to be able to have those relationships virtually that you had physically before.

Sean:  I am so glad that the title for my team updated to solution engineer from sales, Chrystal. I can see where some animosity could have come into play. So I’m very happy for that. All jokes aside, I agree that those… And that goes back down to breaking those silos in the whole shift left idea, involving folks in that process. If product design involves sales, then they can collaborate on what is sales hearing the most asks for, and vice versa, right? If product is able to share concepts of what they’re working on, that can excite sales. So those are definitely things. I agree with those.

From an IT pro perspective, something I always bring up, but it’s a little different than what Chrystal had mentioned, is a focus on improvement. And the reason I bring this up is because IT, if we think about the logical mathematical side, where we were talking about variety versus consistency, consistent is operations. Operations are very consistent. Even if you do have the taste of variety in what you’re handling day to day in your operations, it’s still consistent. It’s problem solving. And I often see not enough focus on improving your processes.

And so improvement folks typically think happens with the purchase, with an acquisition, with a new, innovative idea from leadership, when it can be happening all day, every day around us throughout all that we’re doing. And what that means is more of what Chrystal was talking about. Talk to people, collaborate with people, find out what their pain points are and find out you could have had an answer to address that the whole time. Just having the conversations, making time to dedicate to focus on improvements and understanding where you’re strong and where you’re not strong. When I think IT pros, unfortunately I still think that there’s not enough focus on that improvement and still a little bit too much focus on operations.

Chris: Yeah. I think that’s a really good point. There’s a lot of focus on the tactical, and I can imagine if you’re bogged down in the weeds, you’re fighting fires all day, it can be really hard to think about, okay, I’m going to sit down and think about how this process can be improved or I’m going to think about how I can improve my own personal learning journey. So yeah, I definitely think that’s a difficult one to overcome for sure.

Chrystal: Yeah. I don’t have much to add to that. I mean, I do want to say that I think that it can be challenging, especially because there are a lot of introverts in IT, right, and in sales, in marketing and things, you generally find more extroverted personalities. And for an introvert, it’s like an extra level of challenge, right, to go reach out and make those connections and be part of those conversations. But the sooner we’re part of conversations for improving things, the faster they can be improved and the more we can all have a cohesive hole at the end.

If you start from the get-go with all the right people in the room, right, all the different steps, even if they’re not going to be working on it at this moment and they can hear things and they go, “Wait a minute, I have this thought about this thing,” then you’re not having to go backtrack later and make changes to your project at the 11th hour or whatever, because you’ve all been part of the conversation from the beginning.

And while you might think that that’s a waste of your time as an IT pro because I can already feel people are listening and that they’re saying that, right, “That’s a waste of my time to sit in a room,” I think that that’s where your supervisory roles, the management level roles, whatever, that are not doing the day-to-day in the trenches operations should be doing some more duty. Right? They need to be part of those conversations. And then they should bring that back to you, and you can say, “Hey, well, this needs to be improved because this isn’t working because of X,” or whatever, because they don’t know. They’re operating off of assumptions. We all operate off of our own assumptions. We think we know how things are going to go. We think we know why they’re creating things, and in reality, we probably don’t.

Sean:  I love that you brought that perspective up. I get a little too myopic. So that’s super that you bring that up. And we’re talking about IT pros and challenges. So I think the solution-oriented mind I have, I want to think are there ways to make improvement for that? Increase the ability for folks who might be introverted to collaborate and give feedback, things like one-on-one interviews, round tables, chat channels, surveys that can feel more anonymous or even be anonymous. So there’s lots of means to accomplish that, but thank you, Chrystal, for bringing that up because you’re right. That’s something that obviously, even in my case, sometimes like just now, folks don’t consider that, sure, you want the feedback, but you have to make sure you’re meeting people where they can give it.

Chrystal: Yeah, absolutely. That space needs to be available and open and receptive too. I mean, if you’re creating a space just for the sake of argument, you’re allowing everyone the voice in the room, but you’re not actually doing anything with that feedback or responding to it or considering it in any way. They’re going to stop giving you that feedback. And it also discourages anybody from joining in that. Maybe he’s more introverted and waiting for the right moment or waiting to take you aside because they’re not comfortable doing it in a group setting, whatever the case may be.

There are lots of reasons why people don’t speak up. I’ve been part of engineering teams that were quite large, like 50 people. And having all of us in the room, there’s three or four people will say things and everyone else will be quiet, but they’ll respond to an anonymous survey or whatever. There are ways to kind of get around that, right? At the end of the day, though, it’s up to you out there, the IT pro, for making yourself heard because while spaces may be provided and people may ask your opinion, if you don’t give honest feedback and you don’t give honest opinions or you give feedback that’s colored in a way that you’re being super defensive or going on the offensive, then those things hinder your ability to be part of the process.

Chris: Yeah. I think that’s a really good point. So how do you think then the state of IT has really changed and developed over the years?

Chrystal: Yeah. So I mean earlier, I brought up the shift to this kind of work from anywhere, and Sean brought up SaaS, which has become more and more popular. And of course, we could bring up the shift to the cloud, which is really the shift to hybrid because realistically, there are very few people that are a hundred percent cloud. They all have some stuff in house. They have some stuff in the cloud, and they work from that. Maybe it’s an 80/20. Maybe it’s a 20/80, I don’t know, percent-wise on what they’re working on. So that’s added complexity and challenge to the mix, right?

Now, you may have less visibility. When things exist in a public cloud, for instance, you, as the IT pro, have less visibility. You have less ability to make changes on those things, or it requires more red tape to tear through and more processes to go through before you can make those changes or before you can request those changes and also changes the budgetary aspects.

And as regular IT pros, boots on the ground, maybe you don’t think about budgetary stuff, but if you start thinking in lines of that, right, they start thinking of, “Is this going to cost the… Why aren’t they implementing these things? I recommended they do these things.” Well, maybe the instance was cost. Maybe you’re not fully understanding the big picture. I do recommend you try and understand on a base level, maybe, what the impacts would be for those things, because while it would make your job easier, maybe it’s not the best, most cost-effective way. So if you’re making propositions for changes and things like that, try to consider how that’s going to affect the business bottom line, because if you can affect it, if you can talk about the effect during your proposition, (a) you’ll get more respect, and (b) you’ll have answers to questions that they’re going to have for you anyway.

So I think that’s a big thing, is kind of the shift of ownership, I’ll say, ownership of actual physical hardware and virtual… I’ll call it virtual hardware. You can’t see me doing air quotes, but I can feel myself doing air quotes. Virtual hardware, right? Where the things live and how much access you have to them has affected the ability to do a lot of work. And so everyone’s had to kind of shift. And that also leads to that shift we were talking about earlier of relying on others of expertise. If it’s in a public cloud, you might have to rely on someone else’s expertise because you don’t have access and you don’t have the ability to make those changes.

Sean:  Something else I want to bring up that’s a huge point of shift in IT, and Chrystal brought this up and alluded to it earlier when it comes to IT might still be undervalued, underappreciated. I think it’s changed a lot from where it was. Bringing up the Jurassic Park scenario really shows kind of a rock bottom situation for IT not feeling valued enough, not just monetarily, but respect.

There’s also other things to consider. Everyone has accepted they operate off technology. Have they accepted that IT is no longer just a cost center? Not always. In fact, not as often as I’d like it to be. However, I think that it is changing, and I think that this is a hurdle that we are on the cusp of seeing everyone start to overcome, which is you cannot be successful without technology and you should partner with your technology. It shouldn’t be thought of as a cost center. It should be thought of as an investment. And it’s not just investment in technology as a piece of hardware, but investment as technology as resources, which are people as processes.

So the investment in IT, the acceptance that IT is a value center, not a cost center, is something that I think has changed a lot in the last several decades, especially in the last several years with what’s gone on in the world, identifying that you don’t have to work in an office. It’s not the office that enabled you to be technology-capable. It was your IT department. Being able to make your home an office that is IT-capable. And those types of things I think are continuing to prove the value of IT as an organization. And I think that, again, once that’s more further accepted, there’s going to be a continued shift in not just the IT jobs itself, but in successes of business. Those that accept that IT is a bigger part of their business are going to be more successful, and I don’t think there’s any argument or question about that.

Chrystal: I want that on a t-shirt that the office isn’t what made you successful. Your IT department is. I think that would be fantastic. That’s a great slogan for anything. I want to steal it. But yeah, I completely agree with you. I think that, as shown, even if you’re just looking through mainstream media, Jurassic Park is an example that we used, but there are many other instances, right, where you can see the importance of the digital age, right? People, they’re using computers. They’re using whatever, Google Glass, all these things, and TV and movies and whatever. There’s an advent, and if that’s what we, as consumers, are ingesting, right, so we accept our dependence on our phones, for instance. That’s a piece of technology everyone uses, everyone. Most people have smartphones. There’re seven-year-olds with smartphones these days. I’m just saying you’re right. We have accepted that technology is such a large part of our day-to-day world as people, as a society that that makes it a little bit easier.

I did do an episode of TechPod not that long ago about how IT is not just a cost center. So go listen to that. But also, that’s a great point. People, I think we are seeing an upswing in how IT is treated, right, by the business. We’ve seen the uptick of the importance of the CISO, and now there’s a C level for database or data. The advent of more roles and more important business decision-making roles for IT level things is really showing its hand, right? It’s showing that we are coming up in importance. They have accepted that there is a reliance on technology. And the hardships of the last two and a half, three years have shown that if you don’t adapt, if you don’t move forward with technology, you are going to fail as a business because we have become so reliant on it.

And we’re not going to be able to go backwards, right? There’s no return to before the pandemic. It’s not going to happen. The world has changed fundamentally. The way that we think about things has changed fundamentally. Why do I need to go to the store that’s three hours away, or whatever, to pick something up when I can have it delivered to my house in two days? Why do I need to do all of these things previously? Maybe I would’ve enjoyed going to the outlet mall and spending all day looking for two things, right? Maybe I would have. Maybe I would have. And I do still sometimes do that as personal enjoyment because I like shopping. But for an example, right, why would I do that when I can just get the thing that I need and get it to my house? I no longer need to take a whole day off to go do that.

Telehealth. Great example. Telehealth is a great example. I have, I don’t know, a cat scratched my face. I need someone to look at it. Right? You can just use telehealth instead of setting up a doctor’s appointment, taking time off of work, going to the doctor. Maybe you have to go for a follow-up and take more time off of work. Now you can do a telehealth visit in 20 minutes. You can just take a break. Those are the things that we as a society have now come to accept and embrace as a regular part of society. And maybe we should have been doing it sooner. Telehealth is not brand new, but it is more widely used and more widely provided than it ever has been before, because like I said, everybody had to adapt, and because we all had to adapt, now, we’re like, “Well, why do we need to go back? This is far more convenient.”

Chris: So with the availability of IT, do we think then that an IT program exists at any level? Is that a fair statement to make?

Chrystal: Any level professionally?

Chris: Yes.

Chrystal: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, why not? Why not? Why can’t I be an IT pro if I work on the help desk and also be an IT pro if I am a manager of system administrators? All you need to do is work in IT and have some understanding, in my opinion, have some understanding of the way that things work. Right? You don’t have to only work in help desk to be an IT pro. You don’t have to have started in… I never worked help desk. I’ll tell you that right now. I consider myself an IT pro, and I’ve never worked a help desk. But there are those out there who will say that if you work in IT, you have to work a help desk in order to understand IT, and I don’t really think that that’s true. I think that those biases are things that gatekeep when we don’t necessarily intentionally gatekeep. We’re not trying to keep people out.

I came from retail before I was in IT. I didn’t have any training. I didn’t go to school. I didn’t do anything. Someone took a chance on me, and I showed my worth and learned and adapted because that is a thing. Like Sean said earlier, during the interview process, the key is how do you problem solve? How do you get from A to B? Can your brain do the adapting that it needs to do? Right? Can you take it down that road? Those are way more important than having specific skills to say that you’re an IT pro or that you work in IT, right? Those specific skills are going to change all the time. Right? Maybe today, it’s important to be an active director, an administrator. But is it going to be tomorrow? Probably not. Probably not. That’s the way IT works. Right? Technology is a changing. You got to change with it.

Chris: Yeah. I love that.

Sean:  I don’t really have anything to add. I want to just a hundred percent agree that an IT pro is an IT pro. It doesn’t matter if their title is at a C level or if it’s their first position. I know many people that I worked with at my entry level IT jobs that I would call IT pros that I still rely on. If I want a piece of technology, I might reach out to and say, “Hey, this is what I’m thinking about.” I trust their Googling and rate reviewing skills better than my own, and it’s something as simple as looking at a shopping website. They’re just that good at finding the answer that I want, which is really what an IT pro can be summarized as in many ways. It doesn’t have to be shopping, but that’s just an example of where I still rely on an IT pro.

So it definitely can exist at any level. And I want that validation to be understood because Chrystal brought something else up. Gatekeeping creates those silos. If you’re trying to create an exclusive environment where you can only exist as an IT pro with certain qualifications, I don’t think that that’s going to breed a healthy, strong, or growth-friendly environment at all, because you’ve already blocked some people out that could have been the next best thing.

Chrystal: Yeah. I will say, to add a positive note to that specifically, one of the things that I’ve been seeing over the last two years ever, right, at least since the pandemic started, but really six months in when people like teachers and truck drivers and all kinds of stuff were running out of work or they’re running out of other things to do, they turn to learning how to code. And the absolutely wonderful thing that I’ve been seeing online is the developer community has been very welcoming of people from other disciplines, and I think the rest of IT could stand to learn from that, right? We need those different experiences in order to build better technology, in order to build better environments, whatever you’re doing. Maybe you work at a retail store. Maybe you work at a school, whatever. Those opinions and those experiences color the way that we think about things.

And you don’t think that you have biases. You don’t think that you’re making assumptions, even if you’re the nicest best person in the whole world, but you probably are. And you won’t think about things in a specific way unless someone who’s had a different lived experience says, “Oh, well what about this? What about this looks a certain way to me?” Last year, I had one of those where I got something for a blog image for an article that I wrote and I said, “Oh, this angle makes this look bad. It looks like they’re making this symbol that could be harmful to other communities.” It’s not my lived experience, but it is an experience that I am aware of. And so I said, “Can we change this to something else that’s less aggressive?” They hadn’t seen it that way. It was not intentional. There’s no reason for it to have looked that way. It wasn’t even a big deal. It’s just the way that it looked in a certain angle. It could have been harmful to someone else to look at.

And that’s an example of an image, and this goes way far beyond that. I mean, we look at AI, right? AI is a growing realm of technology and it’s constantly being improved. We constantly see people talking about how harmful and how many biases there are in AI by default because it’s not coded to think about everything that it does because it is coded by people. So the more differing opinions that we can get, the more different views that we can get that represents our actual real world, the better things that we can build. And I did just want to put, I wanted to say kudos to the developer community for being so welcoming to people from other walks of life transitioning into development, and let’s all be more welcoming.

Chris: Yeah. I think that’s really awesome and very, very true. So I think there are several qualities that we’ve touched on today that we all know IT pros share. They’re resilient, collaborative. They’re ready for any challenges. So we do know that IT pros can exist really at any level, whether or not someone’s gone for a specialism or if they’ve stayed a generalist, and that also applies to a one-man team or someone that’s part of a larger team in a big organization. So the purpose really of IT Pro Day is to make you all feel that what you do is valued and appreciated, and we’re looking at you, IT pros, because it absolutely is. It really is. We all know all the hard work you do day to day, and yeah, we appreciate that very much.

Chrystal: Yeah, absolutely. Could not agree with you more. I think that IT pros should be celebrated on a more regular basis instead of more tasks brought to bear, right, because your family, everyone knows you work in IT. Now all of a sudden, you’re the IT person for everyone. You’re not valued enough, but I think that you should be celebrated. And you should celebrate your fellow IT pros as well, not just yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back. Give them a pat on the back. Let’s all be excited.

Chris: Absolutely. Before we let you go, today, we’re going to try something a little bit different.

Chrystal: I’m nervous about this part.

Chris: We’re going to ask you some rapid fire questions. Chrystal, are you ready?

Chrystal: I’m ready.

Chris: One of them, and you can say Jurassic Park if you like, but one of them is what movie has your favorite IT pro depicted?

Chrystal: That’s so hard. You know, what’s funny is my favorite IT pro is actually not even from a movie. It’s from Saturday Night Live. In the 2000s, I guess, there was the IT guy. Is it 2000s? It might have been ’90s. It’s a little bit older, the IT guy, and he was just mean and rude. And I find him very funny, and he is my favorite representation of IT. The other one might be The IT Crowd, the show, which is also really good and has various representations of people in IT in it, which I think is also really good. But those are my favorite. I don’t know what it is about that parody of IT that really gets me, but the one from Saturday Night Live is really good. You should look up the… His name is Nick, Nick, the computer guy. Nick, the computer guy on from Saturday Night Live, and it’s very funny.

Sean:  Have you tried turning it off and back on again?

Chrystal: And he’s just really mean. He gets in front of him, and he’s just “Move!” And he yells at them, and they have to get out of the way. And it’s like a early ’90s office style environment, because it’s an older one, but I enjoyed the crap out of it back then, and I enjoy it now. It’s just funny.

Sean:  Well, we got to break that stereotype, but it’s super funny.

Chrystal: Yeah. It’s a parody. It’s a parody.

Sean:  Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. It’s Saturday Night Live. It’s not Monday morning. I want to take the next one to deliver to you, Chrystal, because it’s controversial, and I intended it to make you squirm. Which IT division takes the most IT pro expertise?

Chrystal: That’s subjective. That’s so subjective.

Sean:  Absolutely, it is.

Chrystal: The most expertise. I don’t know. I think that that’s really difficult. It depends. I think that the ones that takes the most expertise as in I have to delve deep into a specific discipline probably would be, I would argue for security. There are so many different facets of security that I would say that might be one. But really, that’s put me in a corner over here. I think everything requires a level of expertise. I think security is one that’s really challenging and constantly having to keep up with. So I’m going to say security in general as a discipline that requires a lot.

Sean:  Well, thank you for answering, even though it was a very tough question. I just wanted to see if we could get anything, but-

Chrystal: I don’t mind answering tough questions.

Chris: Another question that I have been wanting to ask is… And I think this reveals a lot about people’s personalities and their general outlook. So I’m interested to ask you this one, Chrystal. Would you rather travel to the past or to the future? And I know we work in tech, so that’s kind of an interesting layer to add.

Chrystal: I think I would visit the future, but not anything that would affect the present if I came back. I would want to go see something completely that I couldn’t do anything with. I don’t want to pull a Back to the Future and come back to the past with winning lottery numbers or something like that. I think I would want to go see, what is it? Is it like The Jetsons? What is it like in a hundred years or whatever, and just general society, not try to change things again in the past.

I’m not a person that lives with regrets or anything like that. I think that is a waste of my emotional capacity, so I don’t do it. So I think visiting the past would be hard for me unless I went way back to something that I have no context for, like I’m going to go back to… It would be kind of interesting to go back to the age of enlightenment and go walk around Rome while the masters are putting all of that art in place or in the Vatican City and that kind of stuff. That would be kind of cool.

Sean:  I want to go into the past to see if there was ever dragons. I feel like we couldn’t have just come up with them. So maybe they were there. And then once I find out, I can come back to have peace of mind.

Chrystal: What if you get killed by the dragon?

Sean:  Still peace of mind. Not peace of my physical life, but I would know.

Chrystal: That’s fair. I read a book recently that theorized that dragons did exist, but that we never find any skeletons because their skeletons were made of decomposable materials. I don’t remember what it was. It was like silica or something, and that they just decomposed into the earth.

Sean:  That’s lazy writing though. That’s too explainable. That’s too explainable.

Chris: That’s far too logical.

Sean:  All right. Chrystal, when are you the most productive?

Chrystal: When am I the most productive? I would say that middle of the week in the mornings is when I’m the most productive. Monday morning, I’m useless. Friday afternoon, I’m useless. Middle of the week in the mornings, I can be pretty productive.

Sean:  So straight up in the middle.

Chrystal: Yeah.

Sean:  All right.

Chrystal: Yeah. You’re not coming off the weekend. You’re not anticipating the weekend. You’re in it. You’re fully invested. In the afternoon, I get kind of snoozy from lunch, and so I have to recover from that. So I’d say most productive is in the morning.

Sean:  So you have momentum, but you’re not out of gas.

Chrystal: Yeah.

Sean:  Is that a good way to put it?

Chrystal: Yeah, that’s good.

Chris: I find I get a power hour at the end of the day, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m deadline-driven and because I think about it’s nearly 5:00 p.m., so I just… I don’t know what it is. Three o’clock rolls around, and I’m just like a machine. I’m just knocking out all my to-dos left, right, and center.

Sean:

All right. I’m going to ask one more because it’s weird and I like this. Flavor, salty or sweet?

Chrystal: This is extra hard for me because as someone pointed out to me not that long ago, I like really bland food. So that’s really difficult. I don’t eat a lot of sweets at all. So I’d say probably salty. I like pretzels a lot and things like that. Salty probably preferred. I mean, it really depends on the food, but sweet, I don’t eat a lot of sweets. It’s too much for me.

Sean:  Fair enough.

Chris: That’s very fair. I’ve got a sweet tooth. So you and I differ very much in that regard. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Chrystal. Thank you Sean for being my excellent co-host. We appreciate everyone tuning in and listening, and we’ll speak to you very soon. Thanks, everyone.

Chrystal: Thanks for having me. It’s been blast as always.

Sean:  Thank you, Chris. Thank you, Chrystal. It’s been a blast from the past or the present, but thank you all.