Clinging to Job Titles May Not Be Worth the Effort

How attached are you to your job title? Does it really mean anything? In the traditionally hierarchical world of programming and IT, “junior,” “senior,” “executive,” “programmer,” “manager,” and “engineer” may have meant something specific at one time. But today, not so much. That’s the assessment of Internet Evolution’s Mary Jander, who came across a recent online discussion of the importance of IT job titles (or lack thereof) at the North American Network Operators’ Group (NANOG) and found some intense opinions.

Nearly everyone agrees that nailing down IT jobs these days is a struggle. In enterprises, a network engineer may actually be classified as a Programmer Level 4 by her HR department, and in reality do network design and architectural work on a daily basis. Further, the hierarchy that once characterized IT departments is long gone. ‘There are no kings around here, so titles most of the time are worthless,’ said one respondent.

Some commented they no longer bother putting job titles on their business cards and only give their name and contact information instead. Still, people who have earned professionally acknowledged levels of achievement (or certifications) feel that standard definitions should be in place.

Some thread participants held that IT titles are serious business, that calling oneself a Network Engineer, for instance, should only be allowed for those holding degrees or certifications such as CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert). In some countries, it may be downright illegal to misuse the title “Engineer” unless one has these kinds of specific qualifications.

How do you feel about your job title?

Don Willmott

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