The (Often) Thankless Job of Technology

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When COVID-19 hit, it caused a major shift in just about every aspect of our lives. One critical area was our expectations of technology and how it should meet our every desire quickly, easily, flexibly, and consistently. Ha! Weren’t we in for a reality check?

Don’t get me wrong, the technology that exists to serve us today is astounding and difficult to fully appreciate. In fact, throughout quarantine and the virtual work environment, I’ve come to appreciate more than ever the role technology plays in our lives and how pretty darn amazing it is, flaws/limitations and all.

What I also had my eyes opened to was how my understanding of, and forgiveness for technological blips wasn’t shared across the board by all my colleagues and clients. In fact, I ran into quite a few snags, that at minimum were frustrating or embarrassing, to ones that I was seriously concerned would forever represent my services in a negative light and put the future of my contract with that client in jeopardy, even though the tech glitch was outside of my control.

My goal for this particular blog post is to shed light on how difficult a career in tech truly is, and how I respect those who pursue it. You serve me well, and you serve my clients well, and I recognize the constant hellfire you work under.

Simply put, when technology works we think nothing of it. It’s like breathing. And when it doesn’t work, we all kick and scream for air because we feel like we’re suffocating. Imagine responding to those SOS emails and phone calls day after day? Yeah, we tend to not really thank or acknowledge technology when it’s working, and the people behind it who keep it working, and here’s why we probably should.

They’re working a lot harder than you know.

In my experience, I’ve had to interface with a large number of business owners, employees, and freelancers who either create or work with technology daily. Their products and services provide my clients with websites, customer relationship management software (CRM), fundraising software, social media tools and plugins, plus so much more. I see (almost) first hand, or at least more so than the clients I serve, that these individuals are working incredibly hard to meet the ever-evolving needs of their clients. And often, we don’t realize the pressure they’re under to make near-instant and extensive changes to their existing technology to meet the minutia of requests being drilled at them daily, even hourly. My realization here is those who work in tech aren’t pushing paper or sitting on their hands. They’re working hard to put out a million fires that all stand to burn down businesses, either quickly or slowly, if not addressed.

They’re fighting battles we don’t know about.

The next reason a career in tech is (often) thankless is because those who create and manage the technology are fighting battles for us that we don’t see or know about it. Tech problems that reach the end user are just a fraction of the issues those who work in tech are addressing constantly. Technology exists to communicate with other technology. So, when one piece of the puzzle changes its API, rolls out an update, or changes its code, well there’s a profound ripple effect.

I experienced this recently when a client’s CRM switched to its own payment processor and sun-setted the prior payment processor it was white labeling. If this sentence sounds like Greek to you, don’t worry. It’s the most I’ll throw at you today. The result? An important platform connected to this old payment processor was no longer able to accept payments immediately, and with no simple fix. We scrambled for a solution and ultimately found one. But wow was that a stressful 48 hours! What I saw was how hard people in tech try to adjust to meet their clients’ needs, and how it’s not often a quick fix. Which bring me to my next point…

Changing tech is not necessarily a quick fix.

Here’s a great analogy for you . When we make certain requests to change and adjust technology, it can be like renovating a home. Often we think our request is as simple as moving a piece of furniture, when really we’re asking to relocate the bathroom from one side of the home to the other. It’s not just moving a table or couch, it’s ripping out plumbing, re-configuring it elsewhere and moving all pipes, fixtures, electric, and appliances. Our “simple” requests of technology often take way more time, talent, and money than we’d like to think. Fortunately, I’ve found this analogy and now use it frequently to explain to clients why their request to add a whole new feature or functionality to a particular tech tool will have a delay and an added cost. The alternate option I offer is that we can simply choose to work with the currently technology we have. And most often this is the smartest and most viable answer.

Behind technology is real people.

Here’s an important thing to note. Behind technology, there are real people – like you and me – working their hardest to meet reasonable requests and keep customers happy. Sound familiar? It should. And hopefully this helps to give us a level head about how we submit those customer support tickets and interface with people who are just trying to understand and resolve our problems as quickly as possible. If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn it’s that kindness and appreciation toward others is how you get the quickest and most favorable results from anyone. I highly recommend this approach when working with absolutely anyone!

Often we have champagne requests on a beer budget.

And finally, the reason technology is often a thankless job is because most people have champagne requests, but a beer budget to support them. What I mean (and we are all guilty of this to some degree) is that we want everything to be good, fast, and cheap – when really you can only ever pick two. So, we buy or subscribe to some sort of technology for a modest price and when we run into our first glitch or limitation we expect the tech team to drop everything and reconfigure their platform to meet our demand. That can be a stretch even if you’ve paid a hefty fee to have a certain technology custom created for your business, and even more so if you’re merely a subscriber to technology that’s created for the masses (i.e. any social media platform, Zoom, Hootsuite, Mail Chimp, etc.).

My final point here is to be realistic with your expectations and demands of technology. Will you run into glitches and limitations from time to time? Absolutely. Will they cause immediate death or irreparable damage to your business or brand? Most likely no. Be reasonable with your requests, and keep in mind your level of investment. Most importantly,  even when you get frustrated with technology, be sure to recognize the humans behind the tech that are just like you and working hard to make a living and make lives easier. And then remember to thank them!

Do you have a personal experiencing navigating a technology challenge that has impacted your business’s productivity? I’d love to learn how you felt and how you responded. Please consider sharing your story in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “The (Often) Thankless Job of Technology

  1. Thanks Shirley on your plug for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions. In America they are under-appreciated and short in supply. And because we are a market economy and customer driven society, change order has become a necessary evil that drives up costs and prolongs schedules. Which leads to the good-fast-cheap dilemma you pointed out.
    To bring back the glory days of the NASA Apollo engineers and the likes, we have to do our part as consumers and value technologies and not take them for granted (your points). And we need to start early in the pipeline as in education (i.e. preschool) to make the investment for our future. Thanks for sharing.

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