Why Most of Us Will Work Like IT Engineers
Believe it or not, it’s happening. Some aspects presented in this post are obvious in modern organizations and you may ask me: have I been in some kind of a cage or something? But hear me out. There’s a broader context and fresh ideas.
I can’t imagine a white collar worker not being equipped with a computer nowadays. Not that I advocate at all cost for that. It’s just the way it works. Computers amplify our abilities to perform desired tasks. I get more putting less. It’s just the economy.
Let’s state the obvious. Developers work differently than most of us.
I’ve been splitting my time equally between the two worlds recently, so I know that one thing needs to be set first. When I say developers I mean engineers who develop software.
But also data engineers, data scientists, machine learning engineers and similar job titles. It’s a matter of optimal simplification for this post.
Drawing clear lines is a matter of endless discussions. I just want to expand the idea of an “IT guy” for those readers who have the luxury of not paying attention to what they use on a daily basis, focusing on jobs they are paid for in their particular cases. For most of us there is definitely more job-specific depth under terms like “a lawyer”, “a financier”, “a clerk” etc.
Developers’ framework is about different mindset. It’s not that much about tooling. It’s even less about coding syntax, since googling stuff happens constantly. Let’s briefly touch on the most important aspects.
Ants working together
Developers use something called Git. It’s a version control system. It’s a repository. Git is far away from well-known chains of text documents, presentations or spreadsheets that go like:
If it’s placed on an equally accessed on-premise or cloud server, there are primitive ways to handle the mess that just work. Even after 15+ millennia after the ice age people are incredibly adaptive to a difficult environment. But when it comes to e-mail attachments like the above chain thrown “over the fence” back and forth…
The version control framework is the whole universe itself, but in general it’s a fantastic way to collect inputs from collaborators, set universal rules, automatically verify most of the inputs. It clears the broader picture and neatly merges all contributions.
Keyboard is you friend
I’m a bit of a sceptic when it comes to the computer voice assistance in an environment of two people and more working side-by-side. Not to mention there are not to many enthusiasts who would expose their kitchen in front of everybody around. For most business people it’s about using a mouse to navigate, transform and similar tasks, while a keyboard is for typing inputs only.
All of us use keyboard shortcuts now and then, but the space of possibilities is enormous. It’s all about the speed. I’m not talking here about using Vim (complex Terminal-native text editor, used on Unix and similar machines) for e-mails and notes.
There are more and more productivity apps designed to be keyboard-centric. Please at least do an investigation on the ways keyboard-only approach improves experience of Slack and similar communication apps. Even “I only use MS Office” people are more often spotted using Command Line Interface instead of Graphic User Interface to get the job done quicker. Not to imitate “The Matrix” or “Mr. Robot” hacker vibes. But who knows? I literally saw a guy in a coffee shop who launched on his Mac ‘log show’ command so it looked cool while he was ordering. Or was it a weird kind of a screen saver? People are fascinating…
Anyway, if you like your deeply isolated flow states in your mission critical tasks at you job, try mastering the keyboard over the mouse. It’s more difficult to get distracted when you are moving fast.
In the regular business world workers are getting more autonomy. Processes of automating dull tasks are progressing, so more attention is being paid to creative objectives.
Being creative starts with an autonomy. Autonomy means self-serving. That implies not calling for anyone’s help or assistance. You collect what you need, do your job, pass your current “product” to the destination where it is expected.
You will be a part of the great collaboration, built on self-sufficient members, not unconscious cogs in the machine.
To be self-served you need to manage you environment. You will build one on top of a platform that is put in front of you. What does it mean exactly? You will get or already have the tools to monitor what’s happening in the company. Welcome dashboards for everyone. It’s also about querying different data sources for information you need, not calling system administrators or data engineers first.
You will use the desired level of abstraction for different cases. It might be still the user friendly interface and drag-and-drop techniques or a good old, yet more powerful, SQL to dig into a database with much more precision. It’s not uncommon today to use the so called imperative way of handling data, where you basically write some powerful code to get what you need. Product managers today often use the same tools data engineers used 5 years ago. I saw an investigative journalist’s SQL “snippet” that’s 3 pages long and marketing ops team equipped with amazing Python scripts.
The approach is and will be different across organizations, but the idea is clear. Powerful and easy-accessed frameworks create more autonomy. It triggers the creativity that suppose to add more value to the organization you participate in.
An IT specialist who has taken an invitation to read this post may ask me, why I haven’t mentioned Agile, Scrum, elaborated on Continuous Integration (Git brought to its full potential), Continuous Delivery, Test Driven Development, etc. Those are the most popular concepts in the software development domain.
That’s because it’s not that rare today to witness the usage of those ideas outside the IT world. Put aside for a moment the human safety and similar fragile imperatives - the below couldn’t be applied in healthcare, civil engineering, etc.
Small teams, fast iterations through bite-sized chunks of a problem plus obvious, smaller failures and learning from them are conquering collaboration-centric business world. Probably different names attached, but the core is undistinguishable.
The true fun starts when Artificial Intelligence (AI) kicks in. Writing documents and messages (from e-mail to Slack) with correct suggestions popping up from “nowhere” is right around the corner. Automatic CRM entries, optimizations of meeting arrangements with powerful algorithms under the hood and many more have been developed already or are underway.
Definitely there won’t be the great robotization of the workforce and gigantic layoffs in the near future. AI concepts are still far away from the so-called Artificial General Intelligence and especially when it comes to replacing blue-collar fellows, the success rates are still barely visible.
The trends are quite clear, though. It’s about augmenting our abilities and eliminating tedious, yet easy tasks first.
It’s fun to ponder on the torrent of sci-fi ideas flowing someday into our regular world. But the job needs to be done right here, right now. Let’s use some useful solutions at hand.