Identity Crisis for Former Accidental Techie

picture of a woman looking up at a sign that says "I am?"

There are some days that I regret that I’ve been so determined to shed the skin of being an accidental techie. I look back at old blog posts (such as my first on this blog – Welcome to My New Blog) and I wonder why I was so quick to transform away from being an accidental techie. I think there was some freedom that I had when my coworkers saw me as accidental that I don’t enjoy now.

Biggest thing to change? Failures/disruptions were allowed and almost expected where now disruptions are barely tolerated. The word failure to non-techies is also not kindly accepted. I know that for tech changes to happen and tech in general, that failure is a good thing. But in this world of mine now – “Post-Accidental-Techie” – failure is less acceptable.

The next thing that has seemed to change is that the level of worry related to ideas that are a ‘bit out there’. I struggle now when I have a thought that I know is a bit outside of the box for my coworkers. It seemed like it was more acceptable for me to speak those thoughts out when I wasn’t seen as an expert or when I wasn’t expected to know the answers. I think some people chuckled at the ideas that were way out there (I mean, ideas that are out of the ballpark, not even in just left field), and others could see that there was some spark of an idea that could be used. Now I find it is harder for me to find the path out of the ballpark and sometimes I find myself standing around third-base.

Lastly, I really miss the flexibility that the brand of accidental-techie allowed me to be. I could be good in so many different things that it was always changing. Now that I’m in the system as this purposeful techie, I don’t tend to go from project to project so easily. I get bogged down in the details. While it is necessary for projects, I have to wonder if something is getting lost by my mind being focused on those details. I think I sometimes function like there is a whole IT support company in my head. There is one part that is all about the network support, one part is the Microsoft Office expert, and yet another part that knows the Cisco VOIP system. Sometimes they function well together and communicate, but sometimes, the parts seem to be isolated. (Note, these parts don’t have ‘names’ so there is no split personality issue here.)

While I will continue to strive to help other accidental techies move from being accidental, I think I don’t want to lose parts of what made me so good at being an accidental techie. It reminds me a lot of a book that I read several years ago while still at the School of Social Work. It had explained that for almost every social movement there is a time when the term that had seemed so negative almost was reclaimed and used in a different light – that the term changes from negative to a positive force to help promote change. Maybe it’s time to say it is ok to be an accidental techie, that you might not have to go and force all the formal trainings to prove that you understand technology in order to manage the technology. Maybe it’s simply ok to be accidental.

Addressing Tech Change

As I have transitioned into the position of Technology Director, I find myself often having to explain why technology changes and why staff should change also. There are lots of resources out there for explaining how change is going to happen, but sometimes I find myself having to ‘advertise’ change or rather ‘market’ change. Reframing this for staff can become difficult.

Recently I wrote an article for the staff that I work with about some tips for them when it comes to technology change. I’m including it here in case you find it useful. I’m sure that you will find ways to rewrite things to best suit your situation and I hope that this just saves you a little bit of time.

Technology ChangeTechnology happens, it's not good, it's not bad. Is steel good or bad? - Andrew Grove

Technology is continually evolving, so changes in technology are inevitable. Sometimes these changes make things easier while other times the technology changes so drastically that some find it impossible to embrace the new. Those who have to implement new technology also know that it can be difficult for the new technology to be embraced. But when everyone  works together, changes to technology can be a win-win for everyone.

Change can be hard. Technology changes can be even harder if you aren’t comfortable with technology. To provide maybe some guidance, we have some tips:

  • Learn something new everyday – Some people will tell you that this tip will even keep you young. It’s a great habit to get into so that when changes do occur, you are already in the habit of learning. To work on this tip, set up a calendar appointment to remind you to learn something new or put a sign up near your desk with this phrase. Then follow thru with the action – go to a website and search information on something you don’t know. 
  • Keep yourself organized – There are people who do thrive on chaos, but most people would say that if you are trying to learn something new or adjust to something changing, chaos can be a detriment to the process. Take time to clean your technology up – get rid of old documents in your My Documents, keep up with email and don’t let it get out of hand, and refresh your Internet Favorites to include some of your favorite places to get technology tips.
  • Work smarter, not harder – Remember that technology is to be a tool to assist in work, and not a hindrance. If you can embrace the new software is to help out, it will be easier and you’ll adopt to the new functionalities much quicker. It can also take a lot of energy to fight against change or to hold onto the old ways. Invest the energy and try to embrace the new.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel – The beauty with technology change, it is always happening and others are handling it too. There are lots of resources out there on the internet and you should use them. Instead of trying to make a form from scratch, use a template available from Microsoft, or go find one of the millions of free templates that are available on the internet from others who want to share their work to make it easier for others.
  • Sometimes it is best to make a clean break and forget the old way – The best recent example of this is how Weight Watchers changed their weight loss program. The leaders told everyone to forget the old and to use the new. Those members who did that found the new easier to live with. Those members who tried to combine the two found lots of difficulty. Finally those that didn’t try it at all, were discouraged and upset. You will not always have to forget the old, but in some cases, forgetting is good. It will free your mind and allow it to hold onto the new information.
  • Celebrate and reward your successes and help others do the same – Let your coworkers know what you are trying to learn to do and let them know your progress. When you complete something and feel that surge of pride, let others know about it. It makes you feel more confident in yourself and helps you prepare for learning the next thing while it also boosts the morale of others around them. Maybe you then become a motivating factor for someone else to try to learn something new. It’s a win-win!
  • I think I can, I think I can, I think I can – The worse thing you can do is give up. If you believe in yourself, you can make it happen. There are going to be times when it might seem like there is just too much change and too many new things to learn – that technology is just moving too fast! We all get there (even those of us who are creating the technology changes get lost), but if you throw the towel in, you’ll never get thru it. Take on the little engine mentality and keep on telling yourself to keep on trying. You’ll get there.
  • Rely upon your coworkers and identify their strengths – You should never think you need to be good at all things. That will never happen. We have a vast variety of people in our agency and there is a good chance that someone that works near you may be good at what you are struggling to learn. Instead of trying to do it all by yourself, ask around and see if others might know what you don’t. You might be surprised that the person right beside you can turn the light bulb on for you and shed some light on those places you are confused about.
  •  Always be prepared – The Boy Scouts have it right – never be caught off guard and in this sense, always be ready for the next thing to change. Change will continue and things will never stay the same. Be prepared for what will be next and be ready to face it on rather than hide from it!