Thursday, September 25, 2008

Evolution of an accidental techie

I have always been a fan of the Accidental Techie book by Sue Bennett (even if she hasnt returned my recent emails). I enjoy the structure that they suggest for these new nonprofit techies to try.

The book goes through:
  1. Job intro
  2. Inventory your tech
  3. Supporting your staff and tech
  4. Assessing and purchasing
  5. Disaster prep
  6. Funding
  7. Resources



I think all of that is fabulous. But a good friend of mine always hated the term Accidental Techie, he would (and still does) say that there should never be anything ACCIDENTAL about how you manage your tech. I would nod my head and agree, but tried to avoid starting that same old soap box speech from coming out. Luckily it seems that the term is being used less, but is that because they are gone? NO, I dont think so.

Anyway, that is not what I want to focus on. As a part of job search here is one thing I want to talk about, as we grow in our jobs as a nonprofit techie are we helping our organization be ready for the future?

Each day we learn more about our jobs, we develop new skills and refine old ones. We improve the way our org works, we get new tools and our jobs mature. But do we ever take the time to make sure our org will be able to support itself when you leave? Maybe you think you will never leave, but you will.

We take pride in saying things like our job is "anything that plugs in or turns on" or "jack of all trades" or whatever. We will do everything and anything to keep our orgs running. As a new task arises we just add it to our list. We continuously expand and grow our scope of work and responsibilities. But do we ever take the time to rewrite our job description to match that?

You might say, who cares if the job description doesnt match, dont we all spend 60% of our time under that category that says "other tasks as assigned?"

Well here are the problems that I see with that:
  1. You cant get credit for something that isnt documented and you sure make it tough to measure the effectiveness of it.
  2. When you leave, how will they ever know what you did?
  3. When you go to build your resume it would be easier if your job description was accurate.
  4. Job descriptions are a great way to frame a conversation with your supervisor about what is most important and where to spend your time.
  5. Helps clarify department structure and new hires
I want to focus on that last one, helps claify department structure and new hires. Hopefully you will eventually be able to increase your staff size to meet the growing needs of your org. When that happens, how will you define that job and the skills you need? Often we will create the job based on an immediate need or just offset some of the technical skills we lack or focused on a specific new software/hardware we just purchased.

I think we can often be too short sighted in how we hire because we dont understand our own job as technology decision maker well enough. Or more importantly the organization doesnt understand the role of technology. This comes from an accidental techie that has grown into an IT Director in one org and that organization has never know anything different.

So you just continue to hire more technical staff, a web coder, a database expert, a widget builder, citrix pro, etc. But you never look to see if you have enough strategy, project management, group collaboration, mission focus, content experts, etc.

And why do so many jobs have to be a silo? Would it be the end of the world to have an overlap\connection with other departments like marketing, fundraising, etc.

Anyway that is my thought for the day.

14 comments:

SueB said...

Hey I'm glad u like the book! Sorry if I haven't responded to ur emails I've been oot for a couple of weeks and teaching allot! Please email me again!

alerts said...

You these things, I have read twice, for me, this is a relatively rare phenomenon!
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