Why Techs Are Cooler Than Other People Think

Lightning EggAre those of us who work in technology really creatives? While we’re still stereotyped as “math nerds,” the truth is our industry is filled with artists and possibly offers more creative outlets than most other fields.

For the doubting Thomases out there, here are a few ways we all tap into our inner Picasso.

We Open the Doors First

Unlike people in most industries, we continuously reinvent, creating a domino effect across multiple platforms.

In order to accomplish our fast-forward innovation we, at nearly all levels of responsibility, have to expect the unexpected and be open to possibilities earlier thought impossible.

We Spend Countless Hours in Undiscovered Countries

Given the fact that projects often involve emerging technologies and the subsequent response to their use, many of the problems we encounter are unique and/or never encountered before.

We Reward Creative Thinkers

The rewarding of innovators has been a huge factor in the evolution of high-tech, especially over the past two decades. For those who wish to flex their creative muscles, success translates into career advancement and a myriad of professional opportunities.

We Are Not Mired in Dogma

Throughout history, open-mindedness has been a signature of cultural and technological advancement. To be able to innovate at our current pace, we thumb our noses at convention, delight in our disruptive natures and have no small amount of pride in bending and breaking rules.

We Are the Medium as Well as the Message

Not only do we invent new capabilities on a regular basis, we manage technology that is now the medium for delivering all communication. In other words, we control the collaborative frameworks that  drive innovation while disseminating almost all of today’s knowledge.

There’s no better place for creative thinkers to hang out.

16 Responses to “Why Techs Are Cooler Than Other People Think”

  1. Although some in IT are “creatives”, or “disruptive innovators” many (perhaps most) or not, because the job neither requires nor encourages either. Those folk use the same, or similar, ingredients, to make cookies, or cakes, or pies, day after day. They are not called to produce anything different; it’s always cookies, cakes or pies and they probably excel at it, and perhaps enjoy it.

    • That may be true to some extent, however we can apply a rule in IT which has proven to be fairly accurate over the past several decades in regards to this question – “the less creative the task, the easier it is to either outsource or automate.” Many people view IT as a commodity, but it is actually only those parts of IT that don’t require creative or critical thinking skills that become commodities. And beyond that, there quite a few flavors of cookies out there and I’m willing to bet we will be surprised by how many new ones are yet to be invented.

  2. I was a successful Software Engineer for 12 years, dealing with many different languages and platforms. I have a whole system that I designed, coded, trained, and then rolled out to the help desk of a large company in 2000, which is still widely used today, currently running over 100,000 printers across America. However, after being smothered by incompetent micromanagers at a different company, I lost my creative desire. You can’t use a bull wip to crank out a picasso. It is unfortunate that a knowledgeable project manager with at least basic management skills is more rare than a competent creative Software Engineer. The only thing that matters is if the Director gets his quarterly bonus. This same Director then wonders why the initial QA release has hundreds of bugs in it, leading to many disappointed customers. The primary customers in a public company are the board of directors and the stockholders. Consequently, creativity, planning, and quality coding appears to be the last priority. I really hope my outlook changes, and that I get my passion back.

    • Hi Morty, you’re certainly right. There’s no shortage of folks in our industry who lack vision or perhaps have just too narrow of one. The thing to keep in mind though is our industry is fairly dynamic – there’s generally always another place where you can find folks who view the world as you do. It sometimes involves taking risks to find those opportunities – in my experience though, thusfar it has been worth it…

    • Hi Jim,

      It seems I’m reading my story here. Its strange how true such situation is in hi tech industry. Managers have zero human/managerial skills. And micromanagement is certainly not the way it shud function. It makes the environment a hostile and negetive place. I’ve lost my passion too to such environs which are especially found in hitech firms — a good example is Qualcomm : such a negetive behavior is encouraged here. Unfortunate.


    • The Heretic

      Jim, you are in good company. I’ve interviewed hundreds of software engineers and I hear this often. It is the number one reason they leave the field in droves. What it boils down to is a poor definition of what a good manager is. Based on the volume of complaints I hear, I’d say that about 95% of the managers suck to put it mildly.

      The trend is terrible. Most mangers fall into two categories: Peter Principle managers and Budget Managers. Good managers are extremely hard to find. Given the nature of the labor impaction they have created, I don’t even recommend trying. It is just too expensive.

      The most disturbing trend that I’m seeing is a shift away from the dominance of the Peter Principle Managers toward management by budget; doing more with less for the share holders short term benefit.

      When I poll pedigrees for the reason they leave a position poor management is the number one reason. It is also the number one reason they are so picky during job search. I’ve found that since pedigrees don’t feed back to the hiring managers simply avoiding the position, the managers are clueless. The mangers simply draw the wrong conclusion that the talent is not there or is difficult to find. The problem is that they are trying to catch a bird with a pool net and loud speakers.

  3. This piece is dead on the nail, according to my own background and passion. To the point of many companies not encouraging creativity, this is very true and has led my latest career foray down an amazing path I didn’t see coming. I work for a big Aerospace corporation, within the Quality department, and not IT. I came very close to moving into an IT position, but my every instinct told me to sit tight, even though my logical brain couldn’t support this. But I followed the instinct, and am SO glad I did, because it worked completely in my favor. Had I taken an IT job within the corp, my hands would have been tied to the myopic singular function to which I was assigned. This is not a judgment – merely how the organization is structured, and I couldn’t see myself thriving in that environment. My attention span is all over the place and I need variety. So instead I remained in QA and began building small applications under the radar (pun intended), which were directly beneficial to my local site, in a way that they had no idea was even possible. At first they did NOT support this, but when non-tech folks see the power of software development – especially when intelligently applied for max business leverage – their entire outlook changes, and you’d think you just created pure magic. So off the clock I continued building useful and powerful small applications (using VBA for Excel or whatever tool I could get my hands on, without having to justify buying Vis Studio in a non-tech role), and since the local management has seen what this can do, they have given me complete creative freedom, written software development into my Quality Assurance job role, bought whatever I have asked for since and given me the liberty to apply it to support our local site, all without getting the IT police involved. I love love love my job as a result of applying this to support their local objectives, and I now have their full and absolute support. Corporate IT is so far removed from this local site’s smaller needs that these needs were never effectively met. By capitalizing on this gap, I have more or less written my own ticket, and it feels wonderful.

  4. RegularGuy

    My experience has been that creativity and imagination in IT take a back, back seat, also. I try to highlight my creative solutions to problems, but all the employers want to talk about is what certifications you have.

    Even worse are the left-brain managers who can’t see any skill transfer from one type of project to another. Unless you have managed EXACTLY the same project as the one they have, they don’t want to talk to you. Instead of looking for someone who has had five years of diverse project management, they want someone has had one year, but who have had it five times.

  5. Your article inspired me, thank you. 8 years ago I left an Oracle DBA job in a mid sized utility company because I felt torn with intuitive, broadminded interests outside of work and a true by the book mentality while working. I did enjoy being a DBA and hoped I’d find a job which satisfied both strengths.
    I was hired at a business that I thought might be a good fit for A FEW years since it involved my hobby, gardening. In a garden center with 25 employees I am their “computer person”, my DBA tasks are few since it’s more of a catch-all position, and computer knowledge isn’t appreciated here. Since I’ve never been the type of person that reads technical documents for the fun of it, I felt after a few years I should completely break from it and find a non-technical job but I still feel a spark when I hear the name Oracle from an outside source (I chuckled when I wrote this too). Thinking there must be a job where I would fit well, possibly as a liaison between IT and other departments I keep an eye on job openings.
    In your article I see your point about using creative skills to solve technical issues, but to truely use your mind on a broad range of ideas, I’m wondering what type of position that might be? So many job postings still contain job descriptions listing the technical skills required and stop there. Are there certain businesses that appreciate creativity more or is it more specific to certain job titles? Thank you.

    • Hi, in my experience there are three main ways to help find opportunities wherein you can exercise your creative skills; 1 – by looking for organizations that have interesting or unusual problems. You can do this by reading job descriptions related to your core skill sets and after awhile it will become clearer what types of companies have more interesting projects. 2 – Add to your skills and try something different – for example you say you’re a DBA – so what about Data Modeling or architecture – this would represent a complimentary career trajectory. 3 – Find projects that are in a start up or design phase and become involved in helping to launch something new. I think it is perhaps rare to ‘drop into’ the right environment on the first try or maybe even the second try – you need to steer a path to where you want to be…

  6. Clay Montgomery

    This article makes some excellent points. I am an embedded software engineer of 30 years and looking back I have noticed that where my work has had the most impact has been on projects where there were fewer guidelines and greater opportunity for creative solutions. But, I have noticed that most engineers do not like treading through uncharted territory. This really creates opportunity for those of us who do. My advice for creative engineers is to seek out smaller companies who do most of their engineering in-house and with less middle-management and avoid companies that use stack ranking like the plague.

  7. Great article!

    I will add two more:
    1) We know the difference between invention and innovation, yet practice both.
    2) We tend to not wait for conventional thinking and opportunities to catch up but rather; we find outlets to create new opportunities for the capabilities we have created.

  8. This assumes there are no standards which is faulty thinking. Granted, there is room for creativity but it is limited in scope to a black box, concealed beneath layers of protocols and requirements. In that case, there really is nothing dramatic about being creative. It is a natural part of the programming approach – you apply the code much like a baker applies their ingredients to selected cookware. Interesting article, though.

    • Hi, I’m not assuming a lack of standards or an excess of faulty thinking. The development of standards, both in terms of protocols and design patterns are creative acts in themselves – with the exception that more of that work is done on a collective level. Being creative doesn’t have to be dramatic, rather it becomes an important of a larger toolset of IT capabilities – something that can be applied on a regular basis.