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BlueWolf's Howl

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August 08, 2002


Geeks are prevalent in the computer field. Being a geek is almost expected of Network Engineers, and the term has recently acquired a more positive connotation. But, unfortunately, the computer world has many geeks who are also nerds.

The current Internet owes its popularity to networking. It’s because we can communicate that the medium has a social value and has found its way into society at large. The widespread use of Chat, Instant Messaging and Email attest to this value. Most blogs have comments (and now trackback) so that the conversation can flourish. Yet, many that are proficient in providing these services are the least capable of using them.

When you tell a computer person that they “need to network,” they’ll grab a hub and a straight-through cable. They mean well. They’ll get you connected. But, how do you connect network people?

The answer to this question is important in the current economy and job market. The best jobs don’t always go to the most qualified person – they go to the best-qualified applicant. So how do we find out about these jobs? Only the lower-end computer jobs are advertised. The high-end jobs are always filled through networking. It’s like that in just about every field. However, the people doing the networking in other fields are in a culture where social skills are more emphasized and rewarded. We reward a lack of social skills in computing by presuming that the technical abilities of the person are inversely related to their social stature. This is not true and we must do all we can to break that stereotype and expectation.

This affects computer people directly, but it also impacts the user and the company. If you hire and promote based on the stereotype, you are rewarding social incompetence. This means you will eventually get the best nerds, however, it’s no guarantee that you’ll have the best programmers, engineers or help desk personnel. It will only insure that you’ll have a difficult time obtaining assistance in a complex and frustrating situation.

It’s an issue that we all need to work on correcting. The resolution benefits everyone. So, the next time you call the Help Desk or need computer assistance, try to be nice to the person helping you. Say something nice to them later in the hallway. Expect the same social response that you would from any other coworker. And if you’re the one helping the user, try to smile every once in a while and crack a joke or two. Learn how to like people. Just because someone can’t grep a file, doesn’t mean they don’t know anything. They may know someone who has a friend who’s looking for someone who really knows what they’re doing to run a larger network (for more money – think about all the RAM and bandwidth you could buy with that). And in every situation, show you know what you’re doing. Make it work. Make it work right. And make it work reliably.

And learn the other meaning of "networking."

Posted by BlueWolf on August 8, 2002 10:20 PM