How IT admins are using tough times to trailblaze

March was rough. We all experienced the transition of our world with a varied and cascading amount of frenetic logistic, emotional, and preparations response. I found myself considering the full impact of our new experience daily (and nightly, let’s be real), but also dwelling on what I, as a clickity-clacking desk-bound technologist could do to contribute. How could I help? What do I have within my grasp to do in confinement that will be beneficial to others at this moment?

I’ve talked extensively about wanting IT to be at the forefront of good where we are typically spotlit for the unfortunate definition of disruption. In this uncertain time—ahem, excuse me—IT showcased their quality to respond to crises with unflappable resolve no better than in this current pandemic state. It occurred to me that I could follow their broader-scoped example and do the same as an individual:

And was immediately met with the same level of support from atSpoke’s leadership. In fact, they were all about it. Turns out we think similarly—what could we offer beyond product as an IT resource and to those without direct support? My brain.

We threw up a splash page, attached a public scheduling tool to it, and put it out in the world.

The response was astounding. Over four weeks, I was able to connect with 21 unique individuals spanning 3 continents. The topics ranged from current service expectations to spot-checks about work from home implementation to career advice.

There was a timeliness to the types of conversations. Within the first two weeks, the majority of topics pertained to transition: What were the best practices for this shift? We’re weighing tools to cut, what would you define as necessary for work? What are you hearing from other administrators? Are we moving in the right direction? 

Administrators wanted both a gut-check that their practices were in the best interest of their coworkers, but also that they weren’t setting their teams up for failure in the future by driving fiscal responsibility and rapid implementation. Even when we were told to throw caution to the wind to make it happen, IT was taking a strategic, cautious approach, albeit at a more rapid pace.

Individuals were feeling a different pain, but around the same topics. Many were looking for a technical sign-off that the choices they were making for their company were the right ones, especially with the budgetary hit it might take to make it happen. A few were interested in connecting me to their IT team to talk about how to go from on-prem to cloud and eager to understand the role they could play as additional tier 1 support. There was a determination of self-sufficiency that needed no nudge, but rather a little validation.

As we gained distance from necessary reactivity, I began hearing a conversational shift from technical endorsement to career. With triage stabilizing and people having more opportunity to focus on projects and themselves, they were seeking guidance on how they could use this time wisely to grow.

This is a particular area of IT that I am incredibly passionate about; that there is time to explore the direction you want to take outside of the traditional technical pathways expected and already paved in IT. Where people expressed interest in moving up technically, they also acknowledged that it came with a desire to advance their leadership skills. Others sought to define a new role for themselves as a torchbearer of IT initiatives through management. 

What became clear is that there is room for us all to grow. I heard an overwhelming desire to mature oneself and the function of IT but with that a profound discouragement around the ability to be a change maker. There is still insufficient mentorship in IT and the community, a perpetual association with being an individual contributor, and lacking targeted career development to build the next generation of at-the-table leadership.

And while this sounds the trumpets of womp, it indicates that though the paths are still muddy, people are looking for ways to engage with the resources available to them. My colleagues are recognizing the changing landscape that will be the next foray of IT and preparing themselves to be at the forefront.

The through-line of these conversations distills to a desire to dig into our motivations and be assured that we are making the right choices for our future. Where the world is in excess of unpredictability, we are finding that we can be our own driving force in what comes next. It’s been a privilege, from such a simple offer, to contribute to that in a much broader capacity than I could have ever imagined*.

*And of course, this offer never expires.

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