This is the first of a four-part series describing the main IT personalities. The intent of this series is to assist organizations in defining and hiring the right IT staff for their needs. In categorizing the personalities I will be making generalizations. In fact, many individuals will demonstrate traits of several of the personalities I define. In many cases, a person may be shifting from one role to another. However, I think there is always a dominant personality that an IT worker innately possesses and it’s a rare instance when they completely change to a different one.

A passion for technology

The most common personality is the technology administrator. How did they get here and where did they come from? Almost all IT staff begin their career in the help desk, a typical IT entry level role. The interests of techies are generally in system or network administration (I would guess 50-60% of all IT staff). Most IT staff go into IT to play with technology, so by default they want to learn how technology works.  Once they figure out one piece, their interests shift to the next piece of equipment. From one candy bar to the next.

Ambiguity in IT titles

As they increase their breadth of knowledge amongst the tech equipment, some begin to pick up ambiguous titles from their organizations. Microsoft and Cisco (and others) create certification programs that bestow new credentials that the IT person can proudly boast. However, these certifications are not equally viewed or recognized. What accolades are there for a competent COBOL programmer?  When did I become a certified IT strategist? While there is nothing wrong with these certifications, just remember that the titles are directed at an IT person’s ability to solve technical problems, not business problems.

While there exists a variety of these ambiguous titles, the majority of IT management candidates can be described as technology administrators. It’s the natural progression after years of experience and good work. However, many organizations don’t understand this and promote IT individuals from within, or the IT person grows into higher roles as the company grows.  The problem that arises here is that many business leaders are not technology savvy, so when they go to hire or promote a new IT leader, the natural assumption is that the most technologically competent individual will be the best fit. Any business leader lacking an education in technology can be easily awed by tech speak and promote the person versed in this foreign language to a position they might not be competent to fulfill.

Understanding the limitations of the IT administrator

What is the risk with promoting an IT individual to a higher role? These individuals do not help solve business problems. They were trained to solve technical problems and there’s a place for that. However, business problems are messier, and usually don’t have a manual you can refer to. These people in IT leadership roles will always focus on infrastructure; most do not understand the difference between reporting to a CFO or COO. Almost all their initiatives will include building and controlling more IT equipment.  In many cases, they won’t take ownership for the applications that reside on the servers and their selection and support fall to the business units themselves. Their IT departments are almost always reactive and not proactive.

So, let system admins run systems; let network admins run networks. Find a technology leader that understands that technology is there to enable and change the business.

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