The Mad Blog

IT Professionals: grow a backbone and evolve!


I am bold enough to call myself an IT Professional.

But, if I am honest, it feels a bit of a hollow boast. Pretty much like boasting you are a vegetarian when you work in a slaughterhouse.

Put simply, IT isn't a profession yet.

We are certainly trying - just as a baby tries to speak and tries to walk and tries to not soil its nappy. But we still have a long way to go before we can sit at the table with the other grown-up professions.

To illustrate my point, let me borrow the definition of a profession from the Australian Council of Professions who, let's face it, should know a thing or two about the topic.

"A disciplined group of individuals who adhere to high ethical standards and uphold themselves to, and are accepted by, the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised, organised body of learning derived from education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to exercise this knowledge and these skills in the interest of others. Inherent in this definition is the concept that the responsibility for the welfare, health and safety of the community shall take precedence over other considerations."

Gosh! We'd have to do all that? Sounds like a lot of work and not much fun. The bit about the public recognising that we "possess special knowledge and skills" seems to ring true, but "disciplined", "high ethical standards" and "welfare of the community" taking precedence? How un-cool is that?

I believe a large part of the problem is that there are no barriers to calling yourself an "IT Professional". You don't need to have any formal qualifications, possess a license to practice or even be a member of a professional body.

If you do "bad IT" there is no professional body to hold you to account. You can't be kicked out of the profession or be prevented from continuing to bring the profession into disrepute by practicing "bad IT" elsewhere.

In short, anyone can set up shop as an IT Consultant, a Computer Programmer, a DBA or Network Administrator.

Sure, there are certification programs; you can be a Certified Cisco Technician, or a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert or an Oracle Certified Professional, but these are all voluntary certifications.

There are, in reality, many highly successful IT people employed in organisations who don't possess any formal certifications, or indeed any formal qualifications at all.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not big on formal IT qualifications myself. I might have enginering and economics university qualifications hanging on my wall, but I don't a have any formal qualifications in IT, a field in which I have been very sucessfully employed for nearly two decades!

Sadly, most of us are currently little better than technical prostitutes. We continue to do as we are told, whether we think it is "good IT" or "bad IT".

Many IT projects continue to fail spectacularly, but if you ask the IT people involved they will probably tell you many of the projects were doomed from the start because, technically, they were a dumb ideas.

But they went ahead and worked on them anyway because that's what they were paid to do!

Here's a simple analogy to illustrate the point I am trying to make. In general, it would be difficult to find a reputable doctor who would cut off your perfectly healthy arm just because you wanted it cut off; similarly it would be difficult to find a professional engineer that would design you a bridge they know would collapse after a month. But, you won't find any shortage of IT "professionals" who would sign up to develop a system they knew couldn't be built for the estimated price or deliver anything near the functionality the customer wanted.

I don't mean this to sound like a condemnation of my IT colleagues. Far from it. What I intend it to be is a honest self-appraisal of our nascent profession.

There are no quick fix for this. The road to professionalism can be long and hard.

Let's not forget the barber-doctors of the 13th Century; they were seen as tradesmen and alternated between cutting hair and cutting off limbs.

I believe we are currently seen in a similar light by those who seek our services. While they may understand we possess skills and knowledge that they do not, they still consider us as paid tradespeople, not respected professionals.

It is up to us to earn their respect by saying no to "bad IT" and only accepting "good IT" from ourselves and our peers.

More articles


Note: This article has been archived. You can view exisiting comments, but new comments can't be posted.

No comments exist for this article.