Like father, like son: the tale of two techies

It's not often that you come across a father and son who are both out-and-out techies. We searched high and low and found Ian and...

It's not often that you come across a father and son who are both out-and-out techies. We searched high and low and found Ian and Scott Wight. They talk about their fascination with technology and their love affair with the industry

FATHER

Ian Wight, vice-president at Enterprise Services EMEA, the service and support business of Sun Microsystems

My father was a farmer and I was brought up to follow in his footsteps. However, I am seen as the odd member of the family who moved into this strange industry called IT where no-one really works for a living!

I got into IT almost by mistake and have been in it for 20 years now. After university, I started my career at Rolls-Royce doing what I thought was electronics. I soon realised it was all about computers, however, and I began to get interested in them. Then I was offered an IT job which had an extended stay in California. There's no question that the US is where it's all at. Over here, in most cases we're applying US technology - there, they're developing it.

When my son went to university, I really encouraged him not to go into IT as I thought being in the UK wasn't right and that everything was going on in the US. He didn't listen to me though, because it's just what he wanted to do. I'm very proud of the fact that we both work in IT and for Sun. I don't know of any other fathers and sons who both work in IT. When I was his age, I was just on my way to the US, getting into the supplier side.

The major change in the industry I've seen is the demand for labour and skills. Ten years ago, you could recruit anyone you wanted - every one of my people is being headhunted daily now and there is a shortage of skills. Also, there is a huge interest in IT, whereas five or 10 years ago, if you worked in IT, you were considered odd. I remember going to my wife's Christmas party once at a bank. If you said you worked for Sun, they nodded their heads, moved away and didn't want to know. Now everyone wants to know, particularly if you're associated with the Internet.

I like the unpredictability of IT and understanding how different countries are applying it. For example, London is the financial centre of Europe, Finland the mobile centre, Germany the manufacturing centre, and they are all applying the same technology in different ways. I also like dealing with people in all sorts of sectors. It is not just retail or finance or electronics - we look at the whole spectrum of industry. One day I'm talking to Nokia about how it is applying Wap, the next it could be a bank.

The only downside is lack of time. It's not a 9-5 job, particularly as I have to cope with different time zones. The key thing is speed and I think the pressures are tenfold more than they were.

SON

Scott Wight, solution design consultantat Sun Microsystems' City office

My father was one of the main reasons that I was encouraged to go into IT. I don't think anyone else was talking about computers in the way that he was and he was always bringing back cool and interesting kit - like the first Compaq portable. It would be hard not to get excited. It also matched my skills and interests.

I started playing around with computers at school. My father bought me one when I was about 13 years old and I started programming it. I was young enough not to realise how deeply unfashionable computers were. I did later.

When you told people that your specialist area was computers, they would say "you don't look that badly dressed or geeky". Now I have a lot of friends who are nothing to do with computers and they ask me questions all the time, particularly to do with Java. The average person wants to know all about this kind of thing now and I help friends who want to set up a Web site.

When I left university I first went to an engineering company, but after six months, I couldn't think of any good reason not to get into computing. It really is a fantastic industry to work in. I come home four nights out of five with something buzzing away in my head, challenging me. There is always some new technology, some new way of doing something. The industry changes faster than you can possibly keep up with and it is only when you start new skills that you realise whether you like them.

The big issue for me is keeping up with the rate of change. My role in IT has always been primarily technical and I never thought that people management would be something I would take a shine to, but I enjoy it enormously. I would like to take over a small department and progress up the management tree. I would always want to work for someone who is a leader in the market. It's so much more interesting to work for a company that is focused on today's and tomorrow's technology and not yesterday's.

My area is e-commerce. Actually, I have the dubious honour of being the first technical person to work on Sun's first Internet product in the UK. It was a product called Netra and I picked up the support of it very early on. I really don't know anyone else who has their father working in IT. Most professionals in this industry are between 25 and 30, so for most of their fathers, it wasn't even an option to go into computing.

Mothers and daughters?

Do you know of any mothers and daughters in IT? If so we want to hear from you at:cwxtra@rbi.co.uk

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