Sunday, April 06, 2008

Heroes Happen {everywhere}

Two significant events happened this week which impacted me directly in my chosen field of information technology. One was the CIPS and ICTC Heroes Happen Here Community Connection Event co-sponsored with Microsoft at Conestoga College on Wednesday evening (2-Apr-2008). The other was receiving news that I had been awarded Microsoft's MVP designation in the category of Windows Server Customer Experience for 2008 (my MVP profile is located here).

Events like this have certain prerequisites, one of which is vendor representation and sponsorship. It couldn't really be otherwise. In fact, without Microsoft's involvement, events like this would be far more difficult to organize and to attract attendees. One obvious reason is the swag. You can depend on getting information, sample software, pens, booklets, thumb drives and other assorted goodies at virtually every event. You may not end up using them, but the bag of "stuff" still is an attractor. And some lucky people are always rewarded with door prizes (assuming the event is not too large to make door prizes unmanageable).

But the other key to events having vendor sponsorship may not be as readily noticed but is even more significant - networking with other IT professionals. In the Waterloo Region, for example, information technology professionals number in the thousands. But because we tend to be spread out over thousands of organizations as well, there is a need to see and hear what others are doing and thinking with the same hardware, software, services and architecture. These networking opportunities can either confirm your current practice, or, as is so often the case, open your eyes to other ways of doing things. And, of course, the original attractor in this case is the tools and technology offered by the sponsoring vendor. That's the initial draw, followed by the opportunity to network.

This event had the moniker (promoted throughout similar events in North America and elsewhere) of Heroes Happen {Here}. With IT attracting fewer students out of high school into computer science, systems engineering, and programming in universities and colleges across North America (a legacy, probably, of the Dot Com bust), recognizing and celebrating the contributions of IT professionals becomes even more important. It's true that computer technology is pervasive and that virtually all professions now depend on IT as a commodity (which might also help explain why students are less inclined to view IT as a career choice; after all, everyone has to be knowledgeable to some extent about IT just to get the job done). But the IT men and women in the trenches still deserve recognition.

With IT seen as a commodity by many, recognition outside your place of employment might be critical to your self-esteem. If you're involved in a company where IT is seen as a strategic asset, as a means of establishing a competitive speed-to-market advantage, then your contribution may already be appreciated and recognized internally. But the general public is probably still mystified by what you do and why it is important. Thus, recognition and awards do matter.

And so it was with real pride that I received the Microsoft MVP designation this week. At the same time, events like the one I attended this week and the experience of everyday life in a superb IT organization make me continually aware of just how many heroes there are out there, labouring away and achieving remarkable things, most of the time without the full recognition they deserve. And so I raise my glass both to those, like Microsoft, advancing the profile of IT professionals and to the unsung heroes in the trenches making life and work better {everywhere}.

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