back to article Don't worry, the halo won't fade from the IT dept when this pandemic is over – because it was never there

Welcome to the latest Register Debate in which writers discuss technology topics, and you the reader choose the winning argument. The format is simple: we propose a motion, the arguments for the motion will run this Monday and Wednesday, and the arguments against on Tuesday and Thursday. During the week you can cast your vote on …

  1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    What we have come to

    So this is what we have come to:

    technology work is better than diggin' a ditch

    Engineers have become a disposable commodity, just like ditch diggers, except that an engineer can always hug their laptop to enjoy some warmth rather than be at a mercy of a mobile coffee van.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: What we have come to

      Have a look how much a Ditch Digger earns, it's not really comparable to that of an IT Engineer....

      "Engineers have become a disposable commodity"

      Definitely, always have been , always will be.. but's that's not necessarily a bad thing.. Were only disposable on non critical systems or at least until an SSII rep lies about the costs of outsourcing to them and the Bean Counters and Manglement actually believes them

      IT moves to quickly, our problem is keeping up...

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: What we have come to

        Have a look how much a Ditch Digger earns, it's not really comparable to that of an IT Engineer....

        Depends on who do you dig ditches for...

        1. Blank Reg

          Re: What we have come to

          Back when I was in university I would take construction jobs in the summer as I could make more than i would at a summer programming job, $15-20 per hour, and that was 35 years ago.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: What we have come to

      "Engineers have become a disposable commodity, just like ditch diggers,"

      This has basically always been true. We get paid more, but we're hired like anyone else and if the company decides they don't need our work anymore, they'll send us away. In the meantime, we earn more money and have a better time finding a new job because there's still a more restricted supply of us. Why do you treat this disposableness as something new? Employers have done this since the employer/employee setup started.

      1. Blank Reg

        Re: What we have come to

        I don't think we're hired like anyone else. The hiring process for software development is insane compared to other fields

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: What we have come to

          I don't think that's true. Each field has its own hiring requirements. Tech people need to demonstrate skills, including occasionally skills they won't need to use in the position, which makes it a longer process than interviewing for an unskilled labor position. It's not all that unusual though, as people interviewing for other kinds of skilled jobs also need to do various things to demonstrate they can do what is needed. Interviews for medical jobs seem to be significantly more complicated, which is possibly justified given the risks to patient safety of someone who doesn't know what they're doing.

      2. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Disposable

        " 'Engineers have become a disposable commodity, just like ditch diggers,'

        This has basically always been true."

        100% exactly right. 41 years ago I was warned of this, and directed not to go into tech because you will ALWAYS be an amortizable 'asset'. Your skills-versus-cost set are always under attack from lower-cost younger workers coming out of uni, and from the perspective of management they always will be. That's the capitalist society that we have been told "works", and yet there is surprise when that competitive structure hit you personally.

        I am not saying that it is pretty. I am NOT even saying that I support it in any way. But these are the basic power structures that we, as capitalist societies, have been told to believe in for the past 3+ decades and, although I wish I could ignore the greed and selfishness, it is the reality around me.

        We cheer our government's statistical analysis unit when they post society-wide gains, yet for the past 20 years a significant part of the gains associated with GDP increase has been on Wall Street. And the only thing Wall Street cares about is quarterly dividends. So the only thing business cares about is quarterly net profits, and you are just a cog in the machine.

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    technology work is better than diggin' a ditch

    And washing cars! You did steal that tag line from Rose Royce ya know...

  3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    "technology work is better than diggin' a ditch"

    Peter Gibbons didn't seem to think so...

    1. nematoad

      Re: "technology work is better than diggin' a ditch"

      "technology work is better than diggin' a ditch"

      Having done both in my time I would have to agree with the proposition. Not only is tech work better paid in my somewhat dated experience you also have the considerable advantage of performing most of it indoors.

      Being a former archaeologist I can tell you stories of digging on sites where the work only stopped because it was snowing harder than we could trowel it away or the time when a site was exposed during building work and we were asked to dig out some footings on a gravel terrace by hand in the middle of a summer heat wave.

      On the other hand being dragged out of bed at two o'clock in the morning to troubleshoot a misbehaving server did take the glamour out of being a sysadmin but the overtime and the fact that the server room was nice and cosy did make up for some of the inconvenience.

      Personally I appreciated being in the background and more or less invisible when doing my IT stuff. Any difficulties with the users were either handled face-to-face there and then or were punted up to my team leaders for them to sort out.

      If I had to chose which to do now I would unhesitatingly chose IT work every time.

      1. Plest Silver badge

        Re: "technology work is better than diggin' a ditch"

        I moan about it a lot, who doesn't moan about their job but overall I don't think I'd have what I have if I hadn't been goaded into IT career by my farsighted father. He got me into computers and by the age of 22 ( the mid 1990s ) I was making more in a year than my father had in 5 years. It's paid my mortage off before I was 48, my father never had enough to afford his own house. I've got enough saved to consider early retirement as an option, my father retired at 64 and just about gets by on his pensions.

        The stress, the late nights, early starts, callouts, constantly having to spend time on your own learning new things but as I say we don't get minimum wage 'cos we have to put our families through grief, cancelled get togethers and missed parties due to a production failure that take 4 hours to fix at 9pm on a Saturday night.

        Thing is at the end of the working road, we won't be one of those poor sods having to get by on state pension alone. It's just a job, moan about it, milk it and get out when you can't take no more!

  4. big_D Silver badge


    but they did apparently buy time for Bill Gates to come up with a vaccine that simultaneously stopped a killer virus and persuaded us to upgrade to Windows 11,

    I want a refund, my vaccine is defective, since I was vaccinated, I've bought an iPad and installed Linux on my Windows 10 PC...

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Time...

      If only they watched this analysis how Bill Gates acts strangely when asked about his meetings with Epstein.

      If that was anyone else, they would be cancelled in no time...

  5. Howard Sway Silver badge

    We saved everyone, but they didn't notice

    That's been a constant theme over the past 25 years of my career - and rightly so. The less visible you are in getting things done, the better you are in my experience. Of course, that tends to be less valued than the loud braggarts who make sure everybody knows how wonderful they think they are. But that's a problem of bad management who can't identify what real talent is, not some deficiency of self promotion by smart people. And perversely, the people who get the most attention and praise are often the useless ones whose systems break all the time, and then make sure they are seen constantly "riding to the rescue" to fix the problems they themselves caused.

    In the end, it doesn't matter. You do this because you enjoy working with technology, and get satisfaction from delivering a good solution to a hard problem, not for the applause and the glory. Go into showbusiness if you want that. Or sales and marketing.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: We saved everyone, but they didn't notice

      To be honest: shades of 2000... nothing happened, because we'd already done all the work beforehand.

  6. Potemkine! Silver badge

    99% agree

    The exception being on " We saved everyone, but they didn't notice.". At least here, people noticed, and were glad we provided them solutions to work from home.

    It didn't last, of course, maybe a couple of days, soon were back the complaints by people having a sh*tty internet connection, and telling us our systems weren't working fine. Back to business.

    1. 43300 Silver badge

      Re: 99% agree

      Yes, indeed - it's never the fault of their internet connection, even when you get them to run a speed test which shows that it is indeed absolutely crap!

      I don't acutally think it's made much difference to how IT departments are viewed long-term - plus it's now our fault that their internet connection / ISP-supplied router isn't up to much, and where RDP over VPN access from personal computers is allowed it's also our responsibility to deal with the assorted issues presented by the very antiquated machines which some of them have.

    2. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: 99% agree

      I'm no "in the trenches" IT guy. I do data analysis, and a bit of sysadmin work. I like automating stuff, making things work.

      So, concerning the role of IT in the pandemic saving the day, I was a user. And I sing praises to our remote-access-configuring and just-get-stuff-and-our-users-working IT wizards. I can appreciate what was done, and what was done well. Sure, not everything went equally well (and those who messed up likely know), but I think that it was a marvel that the more or less sudden and rather absolute lockdown impacted our work so little. Highest management did realise as well, and said so, though I'm not sure how good their memory is.

      "Praise them with great praise!" -->

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: 99% agree

        I think some of the problem is due to the voting mechanism. On all of the other comments sections, at least one person has posted that they find the poll confusing. One reason might be that the against arguments don't agree (Tuesday's says the extra credit will die down while Thursday's says there wasn't any). I agree with Tuesday's, whereas I think today's is a little too negative. I still would vote against, but if I read the vote as whether there was any increase in status without that "forever" on the end, I'd probably vote in favor.

  7. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    There's no doubt that in 2020, the tech industry saved the world.

    Well, at least it would like to think so!

    Personally, I think more credit is due to the healthcare professionals and the various boffins prepared to do research on unfashionable things like zoonosis and vaccine development.

    1. TheMeerkat

      Re: There's no doubt that in 2020, the tech industry saved the world.

      “I think more credit is due to the healthcare professionals”

      Healthcare professionals did their job they are paid for the same way as IT professionals did theirs.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: There's no doubt that in 2020, the tech industry saved the world.

        I wasn't suggesting otherwise merely referring to the hyperbole about saving the world.

  8. Blackjack Silver badge

    When it comes to IT people tends to have short term memories, unless is a disaster, then never ever forget those.

    Is not a job to be a Hero, is a job that can be quite stressing and ungrateful.

  9. skeptical i

    victims of own success?

    A few lifetimes (and industry sectors) ago, my co-workers and I considered ourselves "crisis enablers" because no matter how big an order was or how tight the turnaround time, we did it and did it well. Would respectfully suggest, then, that given how many large, unwieldy, and sometimes insane rabbits get pulled out of the IT hat all the time, one supposes that most users don't really think twice about it (until, of course, something hiccups and of course it's IT's fault).

    Drink up, you've earned 'em. - - - - - >

  10. Dropper


    2020 was an awesome year - I was working for a non-profit that provided very decent low income housing to the less well off in Vegas. In the words of our CEO, "IT knocked it out of the park" when it came time to transition 100% of the office staff to working from home. The move was flawless and took about a week for the 3 of us to get laptops fully setup, patched and delivered to 134 staff.

    All laptops came with docking stations, dual monitors and a decent keyboard and mouse. VPN software was installed, accounts created and connections were tested using hotspots. Remote conferencing was handled by Teams and Zoom. We had already migrated to Exchange online and Office 365. Surveillance, rent collection and project management applications were also browser-based, so as far as software went it was fairly easy to get it all ready to go.

    Another week later and any teething issues were sorted - everyone was able to connect, work and communicate. Job done.

    About a month later all IT staff were called in for a meeting, where it was announced that the entire department was being outsourced. The wonderful non-profit we worked for gave us an entire 3 hours notice before terminating our employment. The reason, we were told, is that despite handling the transition to working from home quickly and flawlessly, despite keeping control over issues and having no long term problems to address.. they did not have confidence we could continue to provide the necessary service as the company grew.

    So absolutely. Don't worry about losing that halo - it was most certainly never there.


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