IT People Are Not Chuck Norris

Common Misconceptions and Myths About IT Professionals

Even as an IT Professional of over 20 years with expertise in many areas of technology, information security, and regulatory compliances, I still cringe when I think about some of the assumptions that many non-technical people have about us. These misconceptions are pervasive and ultimately misleading and unfair. Whether you’re an IT professional yourself or work with IT professionals, understanding these misconceptions and assumptions can help you appreciate the unique skills and expertise that IT professionals bring to the table.

Misconception 1: All IT Professionals Are the Same

Many people assume that all IT professionals are the same, and that they possess the same skills and expertise. However, this is far from the truth. IT professionals are as vast (if not even moreso) than any other profession. From web developers to custom software programmers, from network engineers to cybersecurity experts, IT professionals range the gamut. You wouldn’t go to a general practitioner for a cavity, you wouldn’t go to a psychiatrist for a dislocated hip, you wouldn’t go to a divorce attorney if you were on trial for murder. Each of these professionals has their own unique abilities and lumping them together will not only set them up to fail if you need help, but you will be setting yourself up for disappointment. 

“IT professionals maintain computer and network infrastructure. Not fridges, toasters, or air conditioners. You call someone else for that. And often IT pros specialize in a specific area. You shouldn’t expect a database or security expert to know how to repair a printer.”

Peter Tsai
Head of Technology Insights, Spiceworks

It is important to understand the different roles and responsibilities within the IT field and appreciate the different skills and expertise each professional brings to the table.

Misconception 2: All IT Professionals Know How to Use Every Application

Dovetailing nicely with the first misconception, another common myth is that IT professionals know how to use every application in existence. Whether it’s assuming your desktop support guy is intimately familiar with Excel formulas, that your Network Administrator would be the perfect guy to photoshop that jerk photobombing your vacation out of the picture, or that your Web Developer can train you on how to use QuickBooks, you’re probably not going to like the outcome.

While it is true that many IT professionals are familiar with a variety of applications and software, it is unrealistic to assume that they know how to use every single one, especially if the application is for a specific job role (such as bookkeeping, data entry, marketing, etc.). IT professionals often have to learn new software and applications just like anyone else, and it is important to remember that they are not omniscient.

Misconception 3: My IT Support Helpdesk Can Drop Everything Immediately And Prioritize Me

One of the biggest myths about IT support is that the helpdesk is always available immediately for your issue, or they can drop everything and prioritize a single request. However, IT professionals are often dealing with multiple requests and priorities at any given time and cannot always drop everything to attend to a single issue.  IT professionals strive to provide timely and effective support, but it is important to understand that they may not always be able to prioritize a single request over others. 

Bonus! Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure you get the best helpdesk experience:

  • Be pleasant and acknowledge that you understand how busy the team is and that you are appreciative of any help they can give you.
  • Provide a few time windows that you are available over a few days of time and ask if any of those time windows work for them to assist you.
  • Respectfully let them know how impactful a particular issue is to you and how it is impacting your work.
  • Thank them when they are done and provide positive feedback to their manager or to the vendor.

Misconception 4: This Shouldn’t Take Long… (Hindsight is Always 20-20) 

Another common misconception is that IT issues should be resolved quickly and easily, and that any delay is due to incompetence or lack of effort on the part of the IT professional. However, IT issues can be complex and time-consuming to resolve, and (as the section title says…) hindsight is always 20-20!

It is important to understand that delays or difficulties resolving an IT problem can arise due to any number of compounding (and confounding) factors. There is nuance to most issues. Even if issues, on the surface level, appear to be similar to other ones you have experienced or other colleagues have experienced, there may be a certain uniqueness to yours that makes it different enough, and the standard troubleshooting methods aren’t working – this can lead to more research and protracted downtime. It’s also easy to judge after the fact what could have been done differently, but at the time such an issue is being addressed, there may have been limited information or options available, or traditional methods of troubleshooting are not working.

Trust me, IT professionals want to get your technology issues and projects squared away as quickly as you do (often times even faster than that). 

Misconception 5: Anyone Who Can Use Google Or ChatGTP Can Replace an IT Professional

Finally, the last myth I want to address is the myth that anyone who can use Google or ChatGPT can replace an IT professional. IT professionals possess unique skills and expertise that cannot be easily replicated by a layperson or even an AI language model. IT professionals possess a deep understanding of complex systems and technologies, and have the expertise to troubleshoot and resolve complex issues. While laypeople may be able to find solutions to basic problems using search engines or chatbots, they lack the expertise and training to handle more complex issues. Even the best Googler or prompt-writer won’t have the fundamentals necessary to filter out the difference between poor advice from a search result or AI chatbot, while an experienced IT Professional will be able to determine if the search results or AI is accurate. 

Even ChatGTP agrees.

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