One of the big themes this year for Microsoft (and I just saw it on the PASS Summit site) is about IT Heroes. Perhaps I'm just hard to live with today, but I don't think there are too many heroes in IT. We work hard, we make a big contribution, but for the most part being in IT isn't glamourous - it's a support role and we tend to get overlooked unless we goof! Language is important to me, I think the words we use mean something, and for me heroes are the members of our armed forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, firemen that go into burning buildings, policemen that fight the good fight, etc. If you're in Iraq providing IT support I'll gladly call you a hero. Maybe your definition varies, but when we teach our children about heroes, don't we want to use a better example?
For all my grumping though I think it very easy to feel under appreciated in our business. Sales guys tend (I'm going to stereotype a little here) to be the stars and prima donnas of the business, following by marketing, and then followed by whatever people are actually doing the operations end of hte business. Unless you sell software IT guys are enablers, but just support staff just like the secretary, janitor, plant guy, etc. Business needs them all to run and we shouldn't in a more perfect world treat some as more important than others, but it doesn't work out that way.
But back to under appreciated. Few outside IT really understand the challenges and complexities we face, or understand the impact the work has on us as we try to build things they can use against a spec that makes a mirage seem solid, or understand how hard being on call is on family life, or the many extra hours required to apply patches, upgrade servers, etc, etc. And even within our profession it's easy to get pushed into a reactive mode where on Friday afternoon you look at the todo list from Monday and realize you haven't started it yet. Makes it hard to head home with that 'I had a good week and earned a good weekend' attitude.
I used to work at a teleservices company managing a team of developers and DBA's, with a payroll for my team of more than a million dollars. The entire team was overhead! The 'doers' were people on the phone making $15-$20 an hour. Figure it took a minimum of three people on the phone to pay for having one person on my team. That's 40 people we had to hire and maintain just to afford my team. And would any of us trade what we make for what they make in order to get more recognition?
What that means for most of us is understanding that we may have to fight for some recognition, and that in most cases we just have to understand that our quiet contribution is an important part of the business, but it's not the business, and businesses focus on the people that directly drive revenue.
Not sure I've made my case well, but I'll wrap with this; all employees deserve to be recognized for their contributions, but few employees are heroes. Let's find a different word/way to celebrate our particular contribution to the business world.