My Moment of “No Longer Accidental Techie” Epiphany

Portrait of a young caucasian Businesswoman sitting on the floor in front of a laptop with her arms up in celebration.

Image: Stefano Valle / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I remember when I was just starting to play softball. I was in the first grade and I was so excited to play. I could throw the ball really well and I was ok catching the ball. But when I would go up to plate, the softball always looked like it was coming right towards my head and I could not connect with that ball for anything. After the first summer, I wasn’t sure if I still wanted to play, and I knew that my dad was disappointed. Around that time, I was due in for my next eye exam. I started to wear glasses the year before and I did need stronger glasses. When those arrived, I stepped outside of the building, looked across the street well informing my mother, “There is a Baskin Robins over there. Let’s go get ice cream at the new place!”

The irony? Baskin Robins had always been over there – but for the first time, I could see clearly enough to see the sign. Once I said that, my dad had the idea that maybe he should take me to the batting cages now that I could see. I wasn’t so sure about it – but I was young and my dad was excited. I’d like to make my dad happy so I went. That first time the ball game towards me in the batting cages, it no longer looked like it was coming to my head. In fact, I could see where it was and I connected with it. Change a pair of glasses, and suddenly, I’m a softball player.

You may be wondering, what does this have to do with nonprofit technology, isn’t that what this blog is supposed to be focused on? Well, I used this story of new glasses to explain how it felt when I had the moment of epiphany that I wasn’t an accidental techie any longer. It was like I suddenly realized that I was a techie – a real, true techie. It wasn’t a pair of glasses that caused it to happen. It was actually a combination of multiple things.

One of the reasons why I believe this moment happened was that my manager was changing. There was a shake up in upper management when my direct supervisor left the agency for a better opportunity. He was the other person who understood technology and suddenly I was very afraid. I was worried that all technology projects would slow down or worse, end. I was afraid that there would be no more champion of technology there with me. But then my new supervisor looked at me and said simply, “you aren’t accidental”, and then she repeated that to other management.

But that one moment, wasn’t enough for me. What helped me along to this moment, when I truly started to believe that I was purposeful in my job – that I did things that others did when they were classically trained either in a trade school or college in technology fields – was an article by Mark Shaw. The article was originally posted at http://www.onphilanthropy.com/¬†and I just recently found it reposted on TechSoup. It is titled “The Purposeful Techie: Nonprofit IT with Intention” and it reinforced everything that my new supervisor had said simply by saying “you aren’t accidental”.

In his article, Mark identifies simple questions and makes arguments against what people in nonprofits thought accidental techies are. Those were five questions. Accidental? Underappreciated? Randomized? Distracted? Isolated? Without his points, those questions still make me quake because some days, I absolutely feel like I’m distracted with doing more marketing tasks than technology tasks and other days I feel like I’m in a little cave doing Excel spreadsheets to prep data for data import to SQL – but Mark’s article made me take those 10 steps backwards and really look at my role away from the day-to-day aspects.

I hope that you read his article if you are looking for that epiphany – if you are looking for that one thing that helps you know that you do not have to be an accidental techie forever. Then share that article. I shared that article with my new supervisor, members of our Technology Committee, my best friend and even my mother.