IT Professionals Day is celebrated every year in order to recognise the exceptional work that all IT professionals carry out 24/7. Often, IT pros go without acknowledgement for the job they do – typically, staff only go to IT pros when something is broken and they need it fixing. Not only do IT pros manage these situations, but also every other piece of technology that is running smoothly. So, to appreciate these valuable employees, we spoke to industry experts on what IT pros do and how best to support them.
Take care of your IT pros
Given the stress that IT professionals are under when trying to maintain the entire IT infrastructure of their businesses, Craig Hinkley, CEO at WhiteHat Security, suggests that one of the most important ways to support them is to look after their mental health.
He said: “These skill shortages represent a widespread threat to the security of all of us. Not having enough trained workers for the organisations that we trust to protect our data leaves us all vulnerable in one way or another. Furthermore, the organisations that are adequately equipped with enough cybersecurity professionals tend to still be overworked, highly stressed and prone to burnout.
“Whether you are a CEO of a leading organisation, or simply a friend or family member of someone who works in the industry, spread the word about this problem. The safety of our digital lives is at stake and we all need to do our part in raising awareness of these issues. If you or someone you know needs help, contact ADAA, a nonprofit national organisation committed to the prevention, treatment and cure of anxiety and mood disorders.”
Alan Conboy, Office of the CTO at Scale Computing, also encourages business leaders to recognise the challenges IT pros face.
He said: “Whether in a team or working solo, IT pros spend their days ensuring that their business is safe from IT challenges like downtime, server failures, capacity problems and upgrade issues – and that’s not all. Their commitment to their role means that the rest of the organisation doesn’t have to concern themselves with the business IT infrastructure at all. But, everyone is guilty of forgetting to thank their IT teams for the excellent work they do, usually only remembering to appreciate them when a problem arises.”
Conboy said that we should all take a step back from our work and thank the IT professionals who make every working day that little bit easier.
Never stop learning
To continue to excel in their role, Richard Hamaker, HR Business Partner at Leaseweb Global, recommends IT pros take the time to expand their knowledge.
“One of Leaseweb’s core values is ‘never stop learning’, a principle that comes easily to most IT pros. Thanks to the nature of their roles and environments, IT pros are constantly learning; sometimes making mistakes, but learning from these and developing knowledge and expertise that ultimately adds immeasurable value for our end-users and customers.”
Hamaker encourages IT pros to add curiosity to the mix. He says that being curious enables us to challenge an idea to make it better, but doing so in a collaborative way that supports shared experiences, lessons and viewpoints.
“Today, many organisations including Google are abandoning the requirement for IT job seekers to have a college degree,” said Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise. “For IT Pros, there are two relevant facts here – first, it shows the rapid pace at which IT skills need to be updated and the recognition that a fixed degree cannot keep up with the evolving requirements. Secondly, it underscores the value IT pros can bring in leading and mentoring the next-generation workforce. Continually educating yourself on new emerging technologies such as cloud computing, data management, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning keep your skills current, and proactively mentoring new recruits on valuable data centre skills you have makes you indispensable leaders in an organisation.”
Agata Nowakowska, AVP at Skillsoft, suggests that upskilling can also help IT pros to cope with the pressure they are under by increasing their ability to deal with complex situations.
“There is a huge amount of pressure on IT professionals to respond quickly and perform under pressure. By its very nature, the position is byzantine with the specific requirements for technical fluency varying greatly from one company to another. IT pros need to continually upskill – either on the job or by studying for an official IT certification to keep up with the constant evolution of technology.”
Business leaders can also support IT pros on their learning journey by providing training and resources, according to Sascha Giese, Head Geek at SolarWinds.
“IT pros may have an idea of where they want to go, but the path to career confidence isn’t always easy, as mapping out the appropriate skills and acquiring them can be challenging. A good example is the role fulfilled by IT pros working in the public sector, which has many facets and extends far wider than in other industries. From a healthcare perspective, when managing and securing data can mean the difference between life and death for a patient in A&E, the behind-the-scenes work of IT professionals ensures this life-saving data is accessible when it’s most needed. To help shoulder this responsibility, organisation leaders need to work with IT pros in addressing the need to upskill, investing in the relevant training and resources, and therefore supporting them in gaining confidence to take on current and future tech demands.”
Practical ways to help
Neil Barton, CTO at WhereScape, says that as well as training, there are other ways in which business leaders can assist their IT professionals in their daily tasks, for example with automation.
“IT professionals are on the front line every day ensuring the company’s data infrastructure is armed and ready to deliver critical and prompt business insights. On top of this, the role of the IT professional itself is continually evolving and expanding given emerging technologies and changing organisational needs.
“Data infrastructure automation arms IT with not only the tools needed to design, develop, deploy and operate data warehousing projects with the fastest time to value possible, but also provides the ability to offload the repetitive and mundane hand-coding required with traditional development approaches. Giving IT back additional time, through automation, provides IT professionals more opportunity to both stay current with evolving technologies and be more strategic in serving the business.”
Gijsbert Janssen van Doorn, Technology Evangelist at Zerto, suggests that investing in resilience can also help IT pros to keep their business running efficiently.
“Regardless of the level of risk, organisations need to be protected and available 24/7/365. This can put enormous pressure on IT professionals, whose responsibility it is to ensure the business maintains IT resilience in the wake of any disruption.”
van Doorn says the best thing a company can do to support the IT pros that keep things running is to invest in tools that can help them enable resilience – combating downtime once and for all. This essentially means tools that are easy and simple to use, multi-purpose, work across all types of infrastructure and are ready to adapt to the ever-evolving innovation needs of an organisation. He says that it’s tools like this that are critical when it comes to IT pros being able to focus on ensuring the IT is running smoothly, rather than spending their precious time recovering from downtime that could have been prevented.
“Most IT pros spend extended periods of time sitting in front of a computer,” said Christophe Clerc-Renaud, Senior Sales Director, EMEA at Ergotron. “While it’s understandably the nature of the role, sitting for too long can put enormous strain on the spine and back and lead to serious health implications. With over 80% of office-based workers in the UK spending anything from four to nine hours daily sitting at their desk, IT pros, and businesses, should look to increase active working environments. Implementing technologies such as sit-stand solutions offer the ability to move more in the workplace and help avoid health risks. While we celebrate the hard work IT pros have done all year round, eliminating constraints from how they work and engage with tech means that they are better able to contribute and add business value through tech skills and expertise.”
How IT pros save the day
IT professionals are some of the most vital employees in a business, partly due to their ability to manage legacy technology, Hubert da Costa, SVP and GM EMEA at Cybera, says.
“It can be a tough job – and I think we’re all guilty of taking these folks for granted at some point. Not only does their role involve maintaining network security and uptime but balancing increasing demand for bandwidth with (often) very lean budgets. As an example, take the challenge of managing legacy WAN technology. Thinking about the costs alone is enough to make your eyes water! And then if you layer on the rapid adoption of cloud IT and the significant number of applications being deployed within a business, you’ll appreciate that today’s IT professional has a really tough job on their hands. While there are technologies available to help alleviate a big chunk of the pain associated with both the performance and budget aspects of their job, be sure to take a moment to appreciate and thank the IT professionals taking care of your IT infrastructure.”
Craig Fulton, Chief Customer Officer at ConnectWise, reveals how IT pros’ experience with everything from network management to threat detection makes them invaluable.
“Not a day goes by that businesses and customers don’t benefit from the hard work of IT professionals. From system administrators to network engineers, IT support technicians and many more, each and every one of them plays a vital role in leading the charge for technology innovation and business success.
“In addition to acting as the backbone of an organisation, IT professionals spend their time troubleshooting and protecting businesses from security breaches and productivity-killing downtime. That’s why initiatives like IT Pro Day give us a chance to hail them as the true heroes of technology, helping organisations achieve their full potential.”
“The IT Pros tasked with ensuring security in a modern enterprise are faced with huge challenges every day,” said Stephen Gailey, Head of Solutions Architecture at Exabeam. “Each time a device or user interacts with a corporate network, the activity is logged. Thousands of logs are created every day and some are much more dangerous than others. To the untrained eye, each individual log may seem insignificant.
“It takes a truly skilled eye and the latest technology to detect a real threat as it forms amidst the clouds of uncertainty. In today’s business environment, IT pros have their work cut out. They know there are hundreds of adversaries out there, but with so many distractions, spotting the real threats takes skill. This is why IT pros deserve to be fully appreciated.”
Appreciate and celebrate
“There’s no getting around the fact that software is now fundamental to success in business today,” said Bob Davis, CMO at Plutora. “It’s so ingrained in operational functions that every organisation is now a software organisation and has to be run as such. This puts great value on the IT pros that ensure their companies keep pace with the constantly changing world of IT.
“We also know that IT professionals provide more than smooth operations and well-oiled software – they impact the bottom line. When done right, IT pros choose, build and manage the software that can allow organisations to intuitively address the needs of customers. Business in today’s climate moves at light speed and customers demand instant gratification that must be satisfied in days and hours, not months. This means your organisation’s technology must be able to react to the customer’s needs and provide solutions at a pace that makes your customer more successful. This focus requires strong IT teams and the expertise they provide to stay ahead. This role within organisations will become more and more essential in the years ahead and with the value that skilled IT professionals provide, organisations will be able to embrace change, identify value and create processes that deliver success.”
Jon Lucas, Co-Director at Hyve Managed Hosting, said: “If ever a modern job role needed more appreciation, it’s that of the IT professional. Diverse as they are, the various roles of IT pros are fundamental to just about every organisation out there. Many IT professionals are expected to perform minor (often major) miracles as a result of unpredictable technology failures or the most basic, avoidable user errors.
“This is invariably when they are most appreciated. In reality, IT pros spend much of their time delivering creative and innovate tech solutions which make the world a better place. So, IT Pro Day is a great chance to shine a spotlight on their wider work and achievements, and the fantastic opportunities and experiences a career as an IT pro can bring.”
Gregg Mearing, Director of Operations at Node4, highlights just why businesses need to appreciate their IT professionals, not just on IT Pro Day, but all year round.
“Today’s IT professionals are like the cogs in a well-oiled machine – while the machine is running smoothly, you know they must be working so you don’t often feel the need to look for them. In a business, IT pros are there to ensure that challenges are faced, downtime is avoided and issues are dealt with as efficiently as possible, all while the rest of the company unknowingly goes about its day-to-day purpose.
“Businesses should recognise the vital role that these employees play; in Managed Service Providers especially, their knowledge and expertise of the company’s IT infrastructure is invaluable. Helping ensure that the technology and equipment runs efficiently is a major responsibility to hold and these people do so with skill and confidence so that you don’t have to. And it’s this ongoing problem-solving ability that we should all appreciate our IT pros for.”