What do you do for a living?

Posted by Gina Rosenthal in work | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

I shared a link on Twitter today that I got from the Systers list. The link was to this Dr. Dobbs article, which has since been edited. Basically it’s an article about gnuplot, and there was a link in the first paragraph to a naked lady.


I shared the link and pointed out that antics like this are probably one reason there aren’t more women in IT. This led to a flurry of responses from the (male) storage bloggers who follow me:

The guys had the first reaction of whoa, girls can be in IT if they want. Which to me can’t be true or there would be more women.

Next the conversation morphed from the women in IT issue to the issue of what do we actually do? What is our field? If we could define the field, could we attract more people (male and female to the field?)

This is an interesting question. I asked – can you explain to your family what you do for a living? Everyone who answered said no.

I know I can’t explain what I do. I just say I write technical training for the stuff my company sells. You know, computer stuff. If I try to explain what storage is, let alone how important the software I am currently writing training for is to managing network configuration and ensuring compliance to company standards and PCI DSS standards, I get that look. You know the glazed over look of what the heck are you actually saying!! You have always been such a weird girl!

I think this is a valid question. If we can’t explain what we do for a living, can we expect to attract qualified people to the industry? And especially can we expect to attract women and minorities to the field?

One thing my organization has done is developed a generic storage curriculum that is taught for college credit on campuses worldwide. It is a way to put educate undergrads about the storage industry, so it’s a start.

What else can we do to educate people about our craft, thereby encouraging them to join us?

Maybe another time I’ll try to tackle the women in IT issue.

3 Responses to What do you do for a living?

  1. Dave Spencer says:

    I would think that any professional field that requires specialized education and is then a sub-specialization requires a lot of explanation, unless it’s something people interact with every day (say, a doctor, or a dentist).

    This is especially true if that education is in the sciences. Think of the same question being asked of someone who works at CERN.

    I think you could certainly make an argument that because these fields are relatively opaque when it comes to the average person, that the average person has little opportunity to be drawn to these fields.

    (As a side note, there are a lot of answers to “what we do” because there are so many of “us.” A UNIX sysadmin and a pure research guy working on genetic algorithms are both “computer people” to their families, but we know very well that their education, background, and working environment are different.)

  2. gminks says:

    I think your side note gets at what I am thinking of….we’re in the field so we inherently understand that a UNIX admin and the research guy do two different things, but still do “computer stuff”.

  3. MadKat97 says:

    “girls can’t be in IT” is just way to broad. I’ve known a number of women in IT (at least in software development … operations may be a different story.) The question to me is: why would a woman choose IT rather than a different line of work? And what’s IT anyway? and here we go again…

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