Thought for the day:What Donald Sutherland can do for IT

Incisive columnist and IT expert Colin Beveridge looks at a hot issue of the day.Donald Sutherland is a great actor and his 1994...

Incisive columnist and IT expert Colin Beveridge looks at a hot issue of the day.Donald Sutherland is a great actor and his 1994 film Disclosure probably encouraged a lot of people to join our industry - that was some mean, moody software house he was running.

The film was all about corporate intrigue and sexual politics, set against a background of bleeding-edge technology and the first honest celluloid representation of our everyday working life... Not.

But wouldn't it be great if that was how the general public really viewed us, instead of being classified as just a bunch of overpaid nerds? We would be fighting off red-blooded new applicants and the so-called skills crisis would evaporate overnight.

Even in 1994, software was considered sexy. Not any more, though.

Somewhere in the past eight years, we seem to have moved from the Formula One end of the veneration spectrum towards the dustcart - sure IT's an essential job but I wouldn't want my child to do it.

Sadly, many of the younger generation do feel this way about an IT career. We have an uphill fight on our hands to overcome their reluctance. Our talent pool will become increasingly shallow unless we can reap the intellectual harvest that we need to sustain us in the future.

So what can we do to improve our public image and attract the best new brains?

First, we can take another leaf out of Donald Sutherland's back catalogue - Kelly's Heroes. His character, Oddball, was a tank commander, operating deep behind enemy lines, who insisted that his crew maintained a wholly positive attitude at all times - "don't hit me with those negative waves" was his instant response to dissent or doubt.

Like Oddball, I think that we are our own worst enemy by not speaking up for ourselves when others hit us with "negative waves". Week after week, month after month - we sit back and watch while our downbeat image is carefully burnished and diminished by the technophobes.

Every IT failure, no matter how small, is widely reported and analysed ad infinitum.

No doubt other professions face the same difficulties as us, the difference is that they usually enjoy a balancing mechanism - public appreciation of success, interspersed with perceived failure.

So what we need is to report a steady stream of IT success stories. Let's blow our own trumpet every now and again - let the world know that we can add real value, not just achieve the mundane.

We can all play our part in this - by promoting successful projects, both internally and externally. Let's celebrate excellence occasionally, rather than brooding on the disappointments. It will bring back some balance to our world of technology.

Finally, something that we can all do immediately to promote our public image. At the moment, that grand old bastion, BBC Radio 4, is conducting a poll to find the best-regarded occupations in the country.

Why not cast your vote today for the only two IT categories listed: computer programmer and IT technician? Every bit helps.

How can ITers improve their public image? >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Colin Beveridge
is an interim executive who has held top-level roles in IT strategy, development services and support. His travels along the blue-chip highway have taken him to a clutch of leading corporations, including Shell, BP, ICI, DHL and Powergen.

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