Where are the “business geeks”?


I saved this HBR podcast a while back and it just popped up again yesterday. I went to find the source article and I could probably write a blog on each of the “8 Things We Hate about IT”, but there’s one that is jumping out at me today…

#7. IT is Stocked with Out-of-Date Geeks. It’s not good when you learn about social networking from your 12-year old at home while IT is still trying to cope with email. Then, when you try to brainstorm with IT about how to apply new technology, you get paternalistic responses akin to the look that parents give their children when they play dress up.”

I think Susan Cramm is dead on here: there are many people in corporate IT departments who are an embarrassment to the technology profession. Their companies are eager for new ideas about how they can apply technology, but frustrated that their IT department doesn’t have any or distrustful of any recommendations because that same IT department cannot solve very basic needs. What Susan doesn’t mention is the other, more rare and dangerous type: the super geek who is very excited and knowledgeable about their latest and greatest pet technology, but has no idea what to do with it practically. Those people end up wasting tons of money buying tools or doing custom development that should either be bought much cheaper or shouldn’t be done at all.

So where are the “business geeks”? What IT needs is talent that loves technology, but loves it for how it can change their business and their industry. I see this knowledge and passion in my VC and entrepreneur friends, and in many of the junior technologists who have grown up with technology, but I rarely come across it in the more senior ranks of the corporate IT shop. Why?

I had the pleasure of a phone call with an old friend and colleague last night. He’s one of those very rare business minded, totally techie guys who always has three different pet projects going on that could change his business or industry. He sent me an email this morning with all the ideas he wanted to talk about further and it was the highlight of my day. He gave me hope. They may be rare, but those types are out there and companies would be wise to snag that talent while they can.