Monday, July 15, 2013

How to Handle Your New IT Role As An Engineer

So I got through four years at college, graduated with an impressive engineering degree, and entered the “real world” by getting my first job at an engineering firm. What’s the first thing I noticed? It wasn’t a personalized nameplate in my own, brand new office, that’s for sure.

The first “I’m not in college any more” moment I had was when I walked into work and notice how old the rest of my office mates were.

I don’t care how mature you are or if your only friends were professors and grad students. I, too, have always hung out with people who were about one generation ahead of me, so I can assure you that I am used to some pretty wide age gaps. However, the difference in ages between my peers and me is immense. I lowered the average age of my department by ~5 years just by joining.

When you find yourself in this predicament, prepare yourself for being called the “baby” and for awkward conversations about how your coworkers’ kids (who happen to be your age) are also graduating college. But the biggest obstacle you will be faced with is the responsibility of teaching your coworkers everything about technology. And you will realize how much you take your knowledge of technology for granted when you have to teach someone:
  • How to copy and paste
  • How to crop a photo
  • How to filter junk mail
  • How to do other mundane, simple tasks

Your gut reaction will be to judge these people for their noob-ism because they are definitely judgment worthy. If you are able, you should quietly accept your job as the new IT person in the office. I, for instance, am now the go-to printer fixer in my office. Whenever a printer issue arises, my office mates call their new hire, Ruby, to save the day. And I readily drop my own projects to deal with the issue at hand, because what else can I say when my limited computer experience will gain me fame and glory in the eyes of my peers. However, the time I spend helping my coworkers fix paper jams and changing the toner is time not spent on my real, engineering projects. If you are like me, you may start to resent the naivety of your coworkers when it comes to simple technology issues.

After a period of time, however, you will be able to look past the computer-idiocy of some of your peers. Some of them have real intelligence and practical skills that are applicable and actually quite helpful to the job at hand. Granted, it will take you varied lengths of time to find this knowledge or skills in your peers. Some of them may hide their skills/knowledge for longer than their own lifespan. But with others, you will discover this fascinating, hidden facet of their professional life in just a few weeks.

So the next time you feel like sweeping everything off your desk in a dramatic gesture of exasperation because you were asked how to take a screenshot, just remember that someday your coworkers will impress you.

Best of luck,

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