I’ve been working in the tech industry for the past 25 years, either within an IT department or as a technology writer. In that time period, I’ve seen a few tech stereotypes that often lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, poor work performance and even failed projects. They don't seem to be going away anytime soon. Yet, with a bit of effort and maybe some social pressure, we can abolish these stereotypes once and for all.
1. The geeky guy nerd
At SxSW earlier this year, one of the panel discussions really caught my attention. Megan Smith, the CTO of the US Government, who ended up on the cover of Wired, spoke about the bias in tech toward the tech nerd. She mentioned how TV shows for the last two decades have always shown a guy in the role wearing glasses and fixing a computer. That needs to change, she said, because it has led to fewer women seeking degrees in the tech industry. It has also led to fewer women in executive tech roles at companies of all sizes.
2. The know-it-all support tech
Maybe the tech support team in your company does have a know-it-all, but the problem with this stereotype is that it leads to business units in companies that don’t self-educate, don’t solve problems on their own, and don’t do any training. They just call the support line. It’s amazing to me how persistent this one is in large companies, including a few that are actually in the tech industry. By changing this perception, business units can become more self-sufficient with tech, which can lead to more productivity across the entire company.
3. The dumb IT exec with a smart staff
Here’s another tech stereotype that’s still around. I’ve visited many companies where the staff in a large department view the boss as someone who is out of touch -- a.k.a., she is still using a BlackBerry. It’s a stereotype because many department heads these days do have a tech backbone, but the staff just wants to believe that anyone who is paid more must have weaseled their way into that high-ranking position. Maybe it’s true in some cases, but it’s better to view execs correctly if they do have the training, education, and skills in tech. This stereotypes just leads to misunderstandings.
4. The millennial who grew up with tech and therefore doesn’t need training
I understand the idea of growing up with tech--I have kids. This is a troubling (and widespread) stereotype because it can lead to some bad assumptions about tech prowess. No, that new grad who is only 22 probably doesn't know anything about how to troubleshoot your Website or debug a new mobile app. It’s not just bad for the company to see millennials as tech natives. It’s also bad for the millennials who are viewed as so extremely knowledgeable when they just need some training and support.
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