The world of technology hit my life head-on by my career choice in 1998. I had lost my job as a data entry international pro-rater at Continental Airlines and was desperate for a new job. I came home from my day and found a card coiled up in my doorknob. It was an invitation to visit a local technical school that provided training in Accounting, Secretarial, and Microcomputer Systems Technology, each training complete with an Associates of Occupational Specialties degree. Being very good at what I endeavored, I took the invitation and visited the school where I subsequently enrolled in the Microcomputer Systems Technology course. I found right away that I was quite adept at this field of expertise, completing all tasks well before the men who I shared a classroom with, and excelling on the tests and everything else, well above that of my classmates. I was a pioneer-a woman in technology who was doing well.
Directly after my classes, I found that it was easier to find a job than many of my classmates as well, probably because I possess a minority surname, and am a female. I was two points in a quota, even though I am not personally from a minority race. I hit the ground running being able to keep up with my co-workers with a short training on the job period. I learned quickly that there was a difference of opinion as to what it was perceived that a woman in technology could do and what was fact. The first few months that I was employed at my first job, I was treated like a subordinate by everyone that I was working to assist. I learned quickly how to smooth over this perception by smiling confidently and informing those around me that when I was able to do their job then they could take over mine, but in the meantime, I should like to do my job. This attitude soon won over the internal customers I was charged with helping with their computer hardware failures.
Years went by, seventeen of them to be specific, and I worked many different jobs all in the Information Technology arena. Some of my jobs were technical and customer service oriented and few of them were administrative, but still in the IT department, being a parts administrator and software evaluator and tester. Always at the mercy of the customer, technology took a front seat to my physical well-being.
My current employment has brought me to my project. I work for a very small company called Consultech Network Systems, Inc. This company employs two technicians and one more administrative employee, along with the owner who hired me on his past knowledge of my experience and work ethic. I was placed at a shipyard in Galveston, Texas where I was to take over technical support of twenty eight people who were working to refurbish an off-shore oil rig. They depended heavily on their computers for drawings, communications and other technological pieces of equipment. Odin, this company, was so dependent on their computers that they had great demands of the technician. If their Blackberry phone stopped picking up emails, or if their computer stopped communicating with the internet, or if they infected it with spam or spyware, it was my responsibility to clean up the system, make the Blackberry work, make the internet come back up, or whatever they wished, as soon as they wished it.
Most of the customers were pleasant and easy to work for, but the assistant project manager was an animal of another breed. Don McGee is a very demanding man. He would speak condescendingly to his employees, and speak ill of those he had no control over. He chose to believe that because of his position he should have access to all files on all computers and all network resources. He did not understand the idea of computer security. When his computer went down, or if he believed that his system should do something, he expected more than immediate response (Szewczak, & Snodgrass, 2002). Don was notorious for making me work through lunchtime so that he was not inconvenienced. After lunch, of course, everyone else returned so I missed lunch many times during the week. Don's idea of technology was that everything should work just the way he chooses to have it work regardless of whether it was possible or not. When things did not go his way he made it very clear how dissatisfied he was and did not care whose feelings he hurt in the process. To Don the technology was more important than the well-being of the technician who was to help with the operations of it.
Strictly speaking Don is a technophile. He would request the near impossible, wishing to connect two monitors to a single port on a laptop, wishing to have all the greatest equipment available. He was sure to request the impossible on a daily basis and I was able to accommodate most of his requests by appeasing his better judgment (Carnegie, p.118, 1981). In order to get what I wanted, I made it seem to Don as though it was his desire. This worked quite effectively; more efficiently than telling him that I did not know something, which typically works when you are dealing with someone (Chitwood, 2002).
I always considered Don my problem child, the one who demanded the most from me. He did a very good job at it. I was at my wit's end for about two weeks when he was hired until I did figure out his personality and the kinds of issues that he demanded. He actually suffers from an imbalance in power-control (Siegel, 2007). He has a great need to be in power over all those who he is involved with, whether socially or professionally. With me his power came from his requirements that his technological devices all worked to his liking. To delay in getting his phone to work with the blue-tooth headset, or when his email sits in the outbox two minutes too long then he will call me on the phone regardless of the hour or the day of the week. Don required information as well as unreciprocated attention. When teaching Don how to do something on the computer he was receptive but so full of questions that it would become frustrating. He did, though, wish to know what to do instead of being dependent (Lightman, Sarewitz, & Desser, 2003). With knowledge, though, came more work for the technician because knowledge in the wrong hands is not good knowledge. Don would expand his horizons by experimenting with the helpful information he'd been provided.
Because of Don's strong personality and inability to waive authority to others, he has alienated not only his subordinates but also the analyst who is responsible for helping him. The squeaky wheel does not get the grease when the analyst is not under the reign of the assistant project manager, and instead he got avoided and thus not assisted as often or as diligently as he would have preferred. Don is finding it much more difficult to find help now that I've been relocated to the Houston area for technical support, and only being available for telephone support to the Galveston offices which are going to be disbanding in the next few months. Because of the over-spending for technology that was not necessary, and the lack of true management Don is soon to be unemployed. The other future for Don would be that those who are his superiors keep holding a blind eye to his abuse of the system and the technology that exists around him. He should realize that expensive technology is not always necessary and that he should attempt to use more human contact and resources in order to obtain the goals of the company (Szewczak, & Snodgrass, 2002). Don's dependence on his computer and Blackberry are akin to treating them like they are his employees or his family. Without them he does not know what he should do. When the network went down he was helpless, walking around waiting for something to happen that was not going to happen. It would have been quite easy for him to walk out to the rig and check up on the renovations, but instead he began to panic because he was unable to make a phone call or use his computer (Reeves & Nass, 2008).
Poor Don. He doesn't know what kind of a monster he has allowed himself to become. He is such a strong-willed man with a powerful set of tools to use for the benefit of his own personal enjoyment. He used his authority to gain access to all the toys in the hopes that he would win the game, just to find himself captive by the very technology he was endeavoring to obtain for employment and entertainment. Don used his tools for good and for bad, using his email system to bully those who would not bow down to his will, or those who really had no recourse but to read and respond accordingly to his badgering. Don did not use his tools in a positive manner and he did not maintain his technology etiquette. If you wish to instruct someone or discipline them you should do it face to face in a private setting, not rant and rave and copy the corporation in an email reprimand (Grote, 1995). Don needs to realize the choices he makes, try to work better with those around him, and cease the demands against the technicians and the staff that he works with. His tools and "toys" are not to be used to abuse the personnel, and are not as important as the well-being of the lives of those around him, including the analyst whose job it is to ensure that the equipment is all running smoothly so that the operation can also run smoothly. I hope he learns quickly before it consumes him.
Carnegie, D. (1936/1981). How to win friends and influence people, Revised Edition, New York: Simon and Shuster.
Chitwood, R. (2002). Don't be afraid to admit what you don't know, World Class Selling, Puget Sound Business Journal Article, president of Max Sacks International, Seattle, Wa.
Grote, D. (1995). The Proven Strategy that turns problem employees into superior performers, Discipline Without Punishment, Amacom, New York.
Lightman, A., Sarewitz, D., & Desser, C., (2003). Promise and Peril, Living with the genie, pg. 57, Washington, London, Covelo: Island Press.
Reeves, B. & Nass, C. (2008). The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television and New Media Like Real People and Places, Apple Research Laboratories, ICS University of California, Irvine, retrieved on February 19, 2008 from http://www.ics.uci.edu/~jpd/publications/media- review.html.
Siegel, L. (2007). Theories, pattersn, and typologies, Criminology, 9th edition, pg. 266, Thomson Wadsworth, New Jersey.
Szewczak, E., & Snodgrass, C., (2002). Human factors in information systems, ch. 5, Hershey, London, Melbourne, Singapore, Beijing: IRM Press.