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The show must go on: behind the scenes on IT Pro Day

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

 On the third Tuesday of each September, organisations across the globe unite to recognise and celebrate the IT professionals in their businesses. Whether they are system administrators, database administrators, or network engineers, all IT-related employees are acknowledged for their hard work behind the scenes, ensuring operations are running smoothly and efficiently. In light of this anniversary, fifteen IT professionals come together to give their thoughts on why IT Professionals Day is such an important event.  

Keeping up-to-date

“There’s no getting around the fact that software is now fundamental to success in business today,” says Bob Davis, CMO at Plutora. “It’s so ingrained in operational functions that every organisation is now a software organisation and has to be run as such. This puts great value on the IT pros that ensure their companies keep pace with the constantly changing world of IT.

“We also know that IT professionals provide more than smooth operations and well-oiled software–they impact the bottom line. When done right, IT pros choose, build and manage the software that can allow organisations to intuitively address the needs of customers. Business in today’s climate moves at light speed, and customers demand instant gratification that must be satisfied in days and hours, not months. This means your organisation’s technology must be able to react to the customer’s needs and provide solutions at a pace that makes your customer more successful. This focus requires strong IT teams and the expertise they provide to stay ahead. This role within organisations will become more and more essential in the years ahead, and with the value that skilled IT professionals provide, organisations will be able to embrace change, identify value and create processes that deliver success.”

Neil Barton, CTO at WhereScape, commented: "IT professionals are on the front line every day ensuring the company’s data infrastructure is armed and ready to deliver critical and prompt business insights. On top of this, the role of the IT professional itself is continually evolving and expanding given emerging technologies and changing organisational needs.

“Data infrastructure automation arms IT with not only the tools needed to design, develop, deploy and operate data warehousing projects with the fastest time to value possible, but also provides the ability to offload the repetitive and mundane hand-coding required with traditional development approaches. Giving IT back additional time, through automation, provides IT professionals more opportunity to both stay current with evolving technologies and be more strategic in serving the business."

Todd Krautkremer, CMO at Cradlepoint, agreed, pointing out, “The impacts of cloud, mobile, IoT, and big data have re-scoped the IT professional’s role quite significantly over the last several years, and there is little sign of this abating. Driven in part by the advent of 5G, the rise of the wireless WAN is the next big thing that IT pros are embracing to support business imperatives. Numerous reports, including Cradlepoint's own market surveys, have shown that the folks in the corner offices are becoming enamored with 5G and the bevy of new business applications that it enables, and it’s easy to see why. 5G promises a wireless WAN that can be deployed instantly, delivers multi-gigabit performance with single-digit latencies, can be ‘sliced’ into multiple virtual networks to support different types of business traffic, and provides in-the-packet-path cloud computing at the carrier edge.

“What every grizzled IT veteran knows from experience is that the marvels of 5G won’t happen overnight. However, 5G deployments are starting to happen now. The one piece of advice I can offer as a former network engineer myself is to develop a ‘Pathway to 5G’. The wireless WAN wave is coming fast, and being prepared will make you a hero in the corner offices.”

Constantly learning

When asked about what demands are facing IT pros today, Agata Nowakowska, AVP at Skillsoft, said, “There is a huge amount of pressure on IT professionals to respond quickly and perform under pressure. By its very nature, the position is byzantine with the specific requirements for technical fluency varying greatly from one company to another. IT Pros need to continually upskill – either on the job or by studying for an official IT certification to keep up with the constant evolution of technology."

Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise, was similarly concerned, stating that "today, many organisations including Google are abandoning the requirement for IT job seekers to have a college degree. For IT Pros, there are two relevant facts here – first, it shows the rapid pace at which IT skills need to be updated and the recognition that a fixed degree cannot keep up with the evolving requirements, and second, it underscores the value IT pros can bring in leading and mentoring the next generation workforce. Continually educating yourself on new emerging technologies, such as cloud computing, data management, artificial intelligence and machine learning, keep your skills current, and proactively mentoring new recruits on valuable data centre skills you have makes you indispensable leaders in an organisation."

Richard Hamaker, HR Business Partner at Leaseweb Global, further emphasised the importance of curiosity: “One of Leaseweb’s core values is ‘never stop learning’, a principle that comes easily to most IT pros. Thanks to the nature of their roles and environments, IT pros are constantly learning; sometimes making mistakes, but learning from these and developing knowledge and expertise that ultimately adds immeasurable value for our end-users and customers. This IT Pro Day I’d encourage IT pros to add curiosity to the mix. Being curious enables us to challenge an idea to make it better, but doing so in a collaborative way that supports shared experiences, learnings and viewpoints.”

Sascha Giese, Head Geek at SolarWinds, also agreed that “IT pros may have an idea of where they want to go, but the path to career confidence isn’t always easy, as mapping out the appropriate skills and acquiring them can be challenging. A good example is the role fulfilled by IT pros working in the public sector, which has many facets and extends far wider than in other industries. From a healthcare perspective, when managing and securing data can mean the difference between life and death for a patient in A&E, the behind-the-scenes work of IT professionals ensures this life-saving data is accessible when it’s most needed. To help shoulder this responsibility, organisation leaders need to work with IT pros in addressing the need to upskill, investing in the relevant training and resources, and therefore supporting them in gaining confidence to take on current and future tech demands.”

Safe and secure

The challenges faced by IT pros don’t stop there, as Stephen Gailey, Head of Solutions Architecture at Exabeam, explains: “The IT pros tasked with ensuring security in a modern enterprise are faced with huge challenges every day. Each time a device or user interacts with a corporate network, the activity is logged. Thousands of logs are created every day and some are much more dangerous than others. To the untrained eye, each individual log may seem insignificant. As Sherlock Holmes once said, there is a clear distinction between seeing and observing. It’s only when all of this activity is linked together that the real picture begins to emerge.

“It takes a truly skilled eye and the latest technology to detect a real threat as it forms amidst the clouds of uncertainty. In today’s business environment, IT Pros have their work cut out. They know there are hundreds of adversaries out there, but with so many distractions, spotting the real threats takes skill.”

Craig Hinkley, CEO at WhiteHat Security, concurred that cybersecurity is playing an ever-increasingly large role: “As the pace of cybercrime continues to grow, demand is outpacing the supply of security professionals who can help combat the ever-increasing threats. Cybersecurity Ventures estimates the total of unfilled security jobs will reach 3.5 million by 2021. These skill shortages represent a widespread threat to the security of all of us. Not having enough trained workers for the organisations that we trust to protect our data leaves us all vulnerable in one way or another. Furthermore, the organisations that are adequately equipped with enough cybersecurity professionals tend to still be overworked, highly stressed, and prone to burnout.

“On IT Professionals Day, please join me in helping bring attention to this serious matter. Whether you are a CEO of a leading organisation, or simply a friend or family member of someone who works in the industry, spread the word about this problem. The safety of our digital lives is at stake, and we need to all do our part in raising awareness of these issues.”

Protection must also be considered for internal threats, too.

“Regardless of the level of risk, organisations need to be protected and available 24/7/365,” says Gijsbert Janssen van Doorn, Technology Evangelist at Zerto. “This can put enormous pressure on IT professionals, whose responsibility it is to ensure the business maintains IT resilience in the wake of any disruption. This can be a huge task, as highlighted in a recent survey in which 91 per cent of IT professionals said their business experienced a tech-related disruption over the last two years.

“The best thing a company can do this IT Professionals’ Day to support the IT Pros that keep things running, is to invest in tools that can help them enable resilience – combatting downtime once and for all. Essentially, this means tools that are easy and simple to use, multi-purpose, work across all types of infrastructure, and are ready to adapt to the ever-evolving innovation needs of an organisation. It’s tools like this that are critical when it comes to IT Pros being able to focus on ensuring the IT is running smoothly, rather than spending their precious time recovering from downtime that could have been prevented.” 

The bottom line: make your IT Pros feel loved

Christophe Clerc-Renaud, Sr. Sales Director, EMEA, Ergotron feels it is time for us to care more for IT professionals' wellbeing, pointing out how “most IT pros spend extended periods of time sitting in front of a computer. While it’s understandably the nature of the role, sitting for too long can put enormous strain on the spine and back and lead to serious health implications. With over 80 per cent of office-based workers in the UK spending anything from four to nine hours daily sitting at their desk, IT pros, and businesses, should look to increase active working environments. Implementing technologies such as sit-stand solutions offer the ability to move more in the workplace and help avoid health risks. While we celebrate the hard work IT pros have done all year round, eliminating constraints from how they work and engage with tech means that they are better able to contribute and add business value through tech skills and expertise.”

“If ever a modern job role needed more appreciation, it’s that of the IT professional,” emphasises Jon Lucas, co-director, Hyve Managed Hosting. “Diverse as they are, the various roles of IT pros are fundamental to just about every organisation out there. Many IT professionals are expected to perform minor (often major) miracles as a result of unpredictable technology failures or the most basic, avoidable user errors.

“This is invariably when they are most appreciated. In reality, IT pros spend much of their time delivering creative and innovate tech solutions which make the world a better place. So, IT Pro Day is a great chance to shine a spotlight on their wider work and achievements, and the fantastic opportunities and experiences a career as an IT pro can bring.”

Craig Fulton, Chief Customer Officer at ConnectWise, believes that IT pros deserve more recognition all round.

"Not a day goes by that businesses and customers don't benefit from the hard work of IT professionals. From system administrators to network engineers, IT support technicians and many more, each and every one of them plays a vital role in leading the charge for technology innovation and business success. In addition to acting as the backbone of an organisation, IT professionals spend their time troubleshooting, and protecting businesses from security breaches and productivity-killing downtime. That's why initiatives like IT Pro Day, give us a chance to hail them as the true heroes of technology, helping organisations achieve their full potential."

Alan Conboy, Office of the CTO at Scale Computing agreed, pointing out that “sometimes it’s the services that go unnoticed within a business that are ultimately the most important. This is undoubtedly true of IT professionals. Whether in a team or working solo, IT pros spend their days ensuring that their business is safe from IT challenges like downtime, server failures, capacity problems and upgrade issues - and that’s not all. Their commitment to their role means that the rest of the organisation doesn’t have to concern themselves with the business IT infrastructure at all. But, everyone is guilty of forgetting to thank their IT teams for the excellent work they do, usually only remembering to appreciate them when a problem arises. So, this IT Professional’s Day, we should all take a step back from our own work, and turn our attention to thanking the IT professionals around us who make every working day that little bit easier by taking care of IT issues for us.”

Gregg Mearing, Director of Operations at Node4, concluded: “Today’s IT professionals are like the cogs in a well-oiled machine – while the machine is running smoothly, you know they must be working, so you don’t often feel the need to look for them. In a business, IT pros are there to ensure that challenges are faced, downtime is avoided, and issues are dealt with as efficiently as possible, all while the rest of the company unknowingly goes about its day-to-day purpose.

“This IT Pro Day, businesses should recognise the vital role that these employees play; in Managed Service Providers especially, their knowledge and expertise of the company’s IT infrastructure is invaluable. Helping ensure that the technology and equipment runs efficiently is a major responsibility to hold, and these people do so with skill and confidence, so that you don’t have to. And it’s this on-going problem-solving ability that we should all appreciate our IT pros for not just today, but every day.”

IT industry experts