It's The Job

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item It's The Job

    Tim Mitchell, Microsoft Data Platform MVP
    Data Warehouse and ETL Consultant | @Tim_Mitchell |
    ETL Best Practices

  • I tend to disagree with a lot of things in this topic, for example.

    Tim Mitchell (9/23/2009)

    When dealing with nontechnical people, the highly logical left-brain IT staff may misinterpret the lack of technical knowledge among their creative right-brain colleagues as a lack of intelligence”

    Technical people are not just using logic, in fact developing new things and finding novel solutions to presented problems is a highly creative task. Here at our office we recently did a test that shows what the dominant brain half is of someone. Most people have a dominant side and can see something only from one viewpoint (according to the Yale researchers that developed the test).

    Guess what?

    All but one developer was able to use both sides in the interpretation test and he was primarily using his creative brain half. Some were more fluid in using both sides then others, but the fact that 85% of us could immediately tells books.

    Here is the link to the test with some explanation:

    The explanation is in Dutch, but the test has been developed at the Yale University. The image speaks for itself in every language. Seeing clockwise rotation means you are using the right brain, counterclockwise the left. Blink with your eyes, look away/resume looking or just focus to see if you can change the rotation at will.

    I would go so far as to say that especially developers are far more creative thinkers’ then most non technical people. It is just that their solutions have to be within the constraints of logic for their solutions to be applicable. Hence they need both brain halves to complete the job and good/fast coordination between them.

    As for the interaction with nontechnical people, I don’t have problems understanding or communicating with them, in fact I prefer it over endless non productive discussions with technical people that refuse to see each other’s view in order to be right/win.

    Most non technical people I have worked with were willing to spend time to explain how they work, why and what problems the face and like to see a solution for. They are far more patient and open to alternative suggestions then the technical people I have worked with. For myself there is a win in this too…I get so solve something new and demonstrate my abilities in a productive way (and get paid for it) and get the always desired respect in return.

    This is of course subject to roles and personal interaction. If a customer really want something this or that way and I fails to extract why and I can’t figure it out myself, I just trust him and just make it so. With a technical person I take a whole different position, I know he must be able to explain it to me in a rational way as I know the typical ego. If there is no sound explanation I just won’t roll over in the “contest” and do something because the moon is blue today and was purple yesterday and he did not get to hug his girlfriend because of it.

    Also attitudes can change drastically if there are barriers between technical and non technical customer people, so they can’t interact in a natural productive way. Getting work tasks trough a middleman and get shut out of the creative thinking and interaction process for best fit solutions is a real downer that management brings and quickly turns into an obstacle to proper functioning.

    This is something that I do see as a problem with some business structures, which promote segregation in the name of “improved” management. It’s like shutting off the creative parts of a technical brain in order to make them mindless number crunchers….totally unproductive and in fact inhuman. Of course you get abnormal social behavior then.

    My conclusion therefore is that the misunderstood nature of the technical profession and subsequent classification of it as a cold hard logic, uncreative workforce that is the cause of social abbreviations.

    The world simply isn’t ready for us yet! (pun intended)

  • 3 years ago, i thought the image was a hoax. this time, i really spent time to get it spinning counter-clockwise (for me, it was spinning clockwise. i am left-handed, btw). i had to think of fencing, keeping calm/no feelings, looking at the edge of the picture, etc.

    the article and the response was and are really deep but i like to say, i liked the discussion involved in both. hard for me to take...sides 😀

  • Good write up Tim!

  • I got into computers and software in the late 1970's when we were truly considered to be "Wizards". At that time "Geek" was still a derogatory term, so "wizard" was the complimentary moniker used. Back then, before many people even had PC's at home, it might have been easy to develop an over-blown ego about what I/we do - but I was fortunate that I had some good mentors who did not hesitate to slap me up-side the head and bring me back down to earth.

    But I find reading Tim's piece this morning that the same hints of overblown ego are right in the very words written...

    "1) most technical people are very smart, often possessing above average reasoning and logic skills, 2) most nontechnical people have only a vague understanding of what we do, and 3) we live in a world where a very small mistake could lead to catastrophe, where a few erroneous keystrokes could literally destroy a business or end a career."

    Oh, do you mean this would not apply say, to a marketing wizard? To an accounting wizard? To the CEO of a company? Are you implying that you have a FULL understanding of marketing? Accounting? Being a CEO?

    You see the problem? After 20 years managing technical people I can tell you that the biggest problem in dealing with the egos of technical people is that THEY think they are somehow "different", and in fact, they are not. Any person doing any job in any company has their strengths and weaknesses and yes, believe it or not Tim, some marketing, accounting and CEO guys are also very smart, others have a vague understanding of what they do, and they also live on the edge of catastrophe when they make a mistake. Try talking to any marketing guy who has busted butt to get a client, and then lost them - let me assure you, that IS a catastrophe.

    And therein lies the problem with so many technical people - they think too much of themselves and what they do, and that is why two signs hang in my office that I point out to any new employee on my team...

    One reads "To work here, you are required to leave your ego in the parking lot".

    The other reads "You only get what you give" (in other words, if you pretend to be something important or more than you are, don't expect much different coming back at you).

    Good editorial Tim, but right within it you illustrated the problem with tech people and their ego: Its the myopia of thinking you are something more than just a team member. You're not - EVERYONE, Marketing, Accounting, Administrative staff, the CEO and heck, even the Janitor ALL dress one pant leg at a time. Try to remember that.

    There's no such thing as dumb questions, only poorly thought-out answers...
  • I also have concern with the line "IT staff may misinterpret the lack of technical knowledge among their creative right-brain colleagues as a lack of intelligence." but for a different reason. From my 15 years experience as a database professional in multiple companies in various industries, very few IT people take this extreme view.

    Much more frequently the lack of intelligence feeling comes from observing how many times the non-technical people will make technical decisions without really getting feedback from technical people or understanding the consequences of those decisions. Those are the people who really give the non-technical people a bad image. (e.g. pointy haired boss syndrome in Dilbert)

  • Bit disappointed to be honest, expected more detail and in more depth. nothing pointed out really made me think about the subject in question. Just another rehash of arguments about the typical stereotypes applied against people doing a technical role.

    Are the sterotypes true?, of course. I have worked with people who live for their practical expertise, they are not social or show the slighest interest in anything that involves dealing with another human being. Do they dress like what people assume is geek wise, depends on what generation you are from. I have worked with people with long flowing beards, dressed in shorts, baggy t-shirts and sandals. I know engineers who carry about 20 pens in their shirt pocket and a calculator in their pocket at all times. Do they talk technical and sneer at people who cannot understand them. Yes. I have seen it first hand and experienced it many times. Does it make them a bad person, not really, everyone is different and once you start judging people, where do you stop.

    Does the job make them this way, or is it the job that just brings out the personality that was already there. in my opinion a job will refine or mould you, but the charactistics have to be there in the first place.

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  • I agree with the line "The more we understand each other and our respective responsibilities, the less friction we'll have because of these tendencies.", if that is meant to imply technical to non-technical undertanding, in both directions. I can't tell you how many times managers or business analysts try to hide information from developers (just do what we tell you instead of help us solve this problem) or developers think they know what the user wants without really asking (this is what we usually give them and we haven't heard any complaints).

    Each group has a role to play and where I've seen things work the best is where both sides respect and understand the other's roles and responsibilities. The problem comes when the proper communication isn't in place to get that respect and understanding.

  • The linked article seemed more than a little self-serving and biased to me.

    I've worked with a lot of IT people, and a lot of non-IT people, and the thing I see is that we're all people. The best advice I can give anyone on the subject of ego, et al, is, "it's okay to be the most important person in the world, so long as you realize everyone else is too."

    Property of The Thread

    "Nobody knows the age of the human race, but everyone agrees it's old enough to know better." - Anon

  • As with any generalization, it's only true some of the time.

    We are all people. However are are also unique, and we each tend to do certain things, tendencies, leanings, etc. People in technology, overall, have some similarities. It's not that we're smarter, or that we are better than anyone else, it's that we like technology, tinkering, and flashing lights.

    Currently that gives us some measure of power. And that's often where egos come into play and those IT techs start to think they are somewhat smarter, or better, than the rest of the company. It's the same for CEOs that suddenly think they deserve some quantum leap in respect and salary above the VP slot. It's the same with athletes that reach the professional level and develop tremendous arrogance.

    Not all of them, but enough that it creates a stereotype.

    We're doing a job. It is a little more high profile, more visible, and it's important in the company. Doesn't make us better. Remember that when you deal with others in the company. Most of them are as smart as you, just in their own field, and some smarter.

  • By all means, let's rebrand our weaknesses as strengths. Personally I aspire one day to be my company's CIS - Chief Idiot Savant. 😀


  • I was very interested in the part of peter's post that talks about right and left brain. For those who are interested, I found this website that has the "test" in with an English explanation.,21598,22492511-5005375,00.html?from=mostpop

  • I just read an article that provides some perspective on the "test". Here are some quotes:

    "If the test sounds flawed, that’s not just because one shouldn’t use spinning dancers to characterize their brain strengths. Rather, the test is coming up inaccurate because it provides a crude view of the “lateralization of brain function,” or the concept that each side of the human brain specializes in certain mental activities. "


    "neuroscience-minded blogs like Neurophilosophy point out that doing any complex mental activity requires cooperation from both sides of the brain, although certain processing tasks required for that activity may be concentrated on one side or the other. In other words, saying that “math and science are left brain functions” is an over-generalized statement."


    "... while the typical person might lean more heavily on one hemisphere or the other to do mental tasks necessary for math calculation, the brightest among us can more fully integrate both hemispheres of the brain. "

    The full article:

  • Nice find...I never understood how exactly the illusion worked or how old it is. Too bad it doesn't tell as much about preference and its connectivnes to ones inner workings as some websites wrote.

  • blandry (9/24/2009)

    ... believe it or not Tim, some marketing, accounting and CEO guys are also very smart, others have a vague understanding of what they do ...

    Thanks for the feedback. I'm not implying that technical personnel are superior to their nontechnical counterparts, or that marketing/accounting/executive personnel don't know their jobs. The point was that, in my experience, most nontechnical people don't know the granular details of what we (IT folks) do. Similarly, most of the IT people I encounter don't know all of the intricacies of marketing, human resources, executive management, or groundskeeping. The great thing is that it's perfectly OK. As you wrote, it takes a team to get the job done, and a single person, regardless of their role, can't do it alone.

    Tim Mitchell, Microsoft Data Platform MVP
    Data Warehouse and ETL Consultant | @Tim_Mitchell |
    ETL Best Practices

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