I was rushing out of my house on a Thursday afternoon and my phone fell squarely onto the pavement. As I picked it up and gingerly turned it over in my hands, I gasped. The screen was cracked, utterly and completely. It was a moment so steeped in idiocy that I almost laughed at myself. If you drop a phone it breaks, right? Except that it hadn’t and I’d dropped it a million times before. Maybe this was just its time to die its little death or maybe this was a particularly horrible fall. Whatever it was, it happened and it was over.
Later, at the store, my conversation with the girl replacing my phone went a little like this:
Helpful Girl: So if you’re phone is backed up, I’ll delete everything on it and get you started with a new one.
Me: It is.
HG: Ok, is it backed up to the cloud?
HG: (concern on her face) What did you do to back it up?
Me: My husband plugged it into the computer and made a copy.
HG: Ok, if you’re sure you have a copy…
Me: I am…?
Did I mention that I’m a Business Analyst for an IT company? That I used to recruit for that same company? That I regularly talk with customers about what we can do for them and how we can ease their pain points with technology-based solutions? If you’re rolling you’re eyes at me, that makes two of us. But as I’ve discovered, working in technology isn’t all about the technology, it’s about the people.
[pullquote]Working in technology isn’t all about the technology, it’s about the people.[/pullquote]I always knew I wanted to work with people. To say it better, I always thought that getting paid to talk seemed like a really great way to make a living. I got into recruiting right out of college, talking to high school juniors and seniors about why John Carroll University might be a great fit for them. From there, I thought maybe events was the place for me and ended up planning author events in a bookstore. And while there was a certain appeal to that position (namely the organization aspect) that worked for me, I realized that I had lost touch with the names and faces of people that had made recruiting so much fun.
After a move to the D.C. area, I ended up in Federal recruiting, learning the business of consulting. I have to admit, I didn’t love it at first. Recruiting at the big firms I worked for seemed like more of an endless turnstile than an opportunity to really connect people and places.
It wasn’t until I came to AIS that I began to love recruiting, that I began to understand why the technology mattered, and what we delivered to our customers. I talked with people that weren’t just looking for their next job, but were trying to find a home amongst like-minded, technology-focused people in a positive environment. And not since that first time at my alma mater, I felt like I could really put people in places they belonged. People want to felt heard and understood. Not like you’re filling requisition 000122132, but like you’re their friend who happens to have ample amounts of time to find them a job.
Switching to the client services side of things hasn’t been that different. Our customers need to be heard. Often, they are working with outdated technology and legacy systems. They have to keep up with the pace of tomorrow with yesterday’s tools. They are underfunded and overworked. They are trying to do huge scopes of work with limited resources. I think sometimes it must feel like renovating a house. You have a massive project and you’ve come up with a hard-won budget and the issue in front of you is not only the amount of work, but finding the right person to do the job. To find the wrong person would be worse than never renovating: even if the house falls down around you, at least you didn’t spend the money frivolously. But if you hire a contractor that never shows up or fails to deliver, you’re out the house and the money. And all of your neighbors will know.
People might think that technology exists independently of the softer skills, the daily yeses and nos of client interaction, but the truth is that they are two sides of the same equation. If we have all of the technology but none of the ability to discuss and explain what we can do, then the technology is useless. And if we have all of the talk but none of the ability to back it up, we’re left equally ineffectual.
Recently, our client came to us after a solution had been deployed. They wanted minor changes to an existing application, changes that would help them sell the solution to their colleagues and would ease their interaction with what we had developed. We had no active contract in place and the changes in question were not part of the original design. We talked about it with them anyway. We discussed what was needed, how long it would take, and problems they were trying to solve by implementing this solution. Ultimately, this conversation didn’t solve the problem; the development team used the tools at their disposal to implement a fix. But the conversation was the first and last step in that solution. Without the conversation, the openness of communication, our client would have been dissatisfied. In the end, we had them convinced of our dedication to the solution and to the technology.
My days talking to clients about things on which I have only the most tenuous grasp sometimes leave me a little confused. I wonder how I ended up here instead of an elementary school teacher, or a writer, or a high school literature teacher (the three things I always thought I’d be). The truth is that people led me here. My desire to interact with people and find solutions for their very human problems led me to technology.
In a room full of clients who don’t know what they want, talking about high-level technology will never win the day. Talking to them about their concerns and problems, the issues they face, and where they want to go, will always serve the purpose better.
Technology companies that forget this will never be able to leverage all of their incredible talent in the marketplace. And companies that are all talk will succeed initially only to be revealed as completely hollow. It took me a long time to realize that I’m not as out of place in technology as I once thought. If people are your passion, technology might be great, if unexpected, place to find them.
Our people are AIS’ greatest asset. If you’d like to join our team, check out our careers page.