For anyone who has worked in a “front line” customer facing telephone support role, the answer is almost always am emphatic “YES”. I tend to agree with my colleagues for one simple reason – embitterment helps you succeed.
Why do I think IT folks need to have a sprinkle of bitterness be in this field? The fact is that IT, like roadkill removal, is truly a thankless job. Sure, guidance counselors, parents, and the media will all tell you that “Computers are the way to go” for a good salary, benefits, and career advancement. The problem with that mentality is that it’s not the mid-1980’s anymore. More and more jobs are being moved to parts of the world where wages are lower and, to be perfectly frank, people are willing to do the crappy jobs that North Americans think are beneath them.
To be clear, I’m not saying that working in IT is the hardest, or worst, job around. IT workers are taken for granted, much like the aforementioned roadkill removal worker. Most people enjoy driving to work on a road free from dead animals. When an animal gets run over and left for dead, the roadkill removal person is dispatched to “dispose” of the remains. When was the last time you sent a “thank you” card to your roadkill removal person? To that end, when was the last time you sent a “thank you” card to a member of your IT department? Show of hands?
Now let’s jump back to my original topic with a metaphor: an IT career is like a human body and, in order for your career to live a long and healthy life, you need a nice thick layer of skin to protect you from infection. The “infection” in this metaphor referrers to the emotional challenges that every IT professional experiences during their career. In order for IT personnel to adequately quote with the critical thinking required to overcome most IT related challenges, a “thick skin” is a requirement — one that I believe should show up on most job postings.
Working on the front lines of an IT organization let’s you experience what it’s like to sympathize, and empathize, with those who are having the problems. It lets you develop valuable customer service and communications skills while you work towards making the customer happy. Along the way you’ll have numerous bad experiences which will serve as lessons that you can use to make yourself a better person.
No matter what role you hold within an organization, you have customers to answer to. This is something that working the front lines forces you to remember. Good or bad, working in the trenches teaches you valuable life lessons that will only help you grow as an IT professional.