Markus Laakkonen's Online Portfolio

This is IT

I got requested to draw an IT-technician.

It’s difficult to comment on IT without some thoughts drifting to classical stereotypes. The IT-department has endured a running joke about being placed in a windowless basement, that the workplace is staffed by nerds in a messy workshop where they’d MacGyver any issues that arises so the company can continue earning money. The image of a geek who works with computers during the day and plays computer or board games during the evening does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Almost any TV show that depicts a computer department portrays it in a similar way. We have female managers and lecturers in IT as well as plenty of women working with web/software development and system administration alongside their male counterparts, but classic troubleshooting, network and cabling jobs seem often to be helmed by men.

Picture an IT technician. Is it a woman, and if so, does she look like the people in popular culture?

While IT used to attract a particular type of person with a certain skillset the bar to entry has been lowered significantly as more advanced technology becomes commonplace and systems get designed and streamlined by UX designers instead of engineers. It might still not be a rose garden and you might have to deal with a cave dweller or two, but things have improved a lot. In general, you barely need to know how things work anymore. If you got access to a database and you know how to google then it’s only a matter of ruling out most issues before turning to trial and error.

The technician who previously handled hardware alone might today need to be an ambassador for the company as well.

As the industry changes along with technology we are moving towards more service-based functions as increasingly more services become digitized. Today you don’t necessarily have to configure the respective solutions yourself but instead order services and licenses from larger IT-companies that specializes in a certain field. While more and more services are being rented instead of companies owning their own hardware and staff, finding the right person for the job is getting more difficult for the growing industry. The technician who previously handled hardware alone might today need to be an ambassador for the company as well. With the rapid changes happening in the industry finding competent people might get tricky if we can’t get girls to get involved at an early age. The tired and uninspired voice that responds on the other side of the phone when your computer doesn’t work and asks have you tried turning it off and on again is still often male. Why is it so?

The IT-industry has for many years been failing to attract girls to educate themselves and seek employment, but at least they are now trying harder than ever. Some of the IT-networks organize events where you get to learn how to write code, they hold exhibitions where people code in the dark, and they host workshops about games to entice children and teens to get interested early on. We’ll have to wait and see if the developed networks for children and young people with the aim of inspiring women to get involved in IT will have the desired effect. Here’s hoping that a change is coming sooner rather than later.