The Bad, the Good and the Great IT Guy – Part I: The IT guy that everyone loves to hate

In this day and age, it is not easy to be an IT professional. We get hit with so many different issues on a daily basis. Not only do we deal with difficult technical challenges every day, but more often than not, we deal with difficult customers as well. However, unless you want to change fields and not work in the IT industry anymore, this is just going to be the reality for the rest of your IT career. So, my suggestion is this: Do not be the bad IT guy that everyone loves to hate. 

The IT guy that everyone blames for all their problems and despises seeing. Instead, do your best to read this post with humility and make sure you are not making the same mistakes that many bad IT guys make.

If you are not an IT person but have somehow landed on my blog, hey, you might as well stay and read what I have to say. You might actually find some validation for your negative feelings towards your company’s IT department. You may find that you are not insane and you are in fact working with a bunch of bad IT guys (yes, somehow for whatever reason, bad IT guys often come in bunches). And I know you probably have some emotionally charged words to use when describing these IT guys you work with every day.

This is a three part series. I will talk about the bad, the good and the great IT guys. Yes, legend has it that great IT guys do exists. For all the IT professionals reading this, I hope to help you, in this three part series, to move from whatever level you are at onto the next level.

Without further delay, let’s check and see if you are making some of the mistakes that bad IT guys make.

Here are 8 things that bad IT guys do (under the assumption that they are smart moves), which in the long run will ultimately hurt their careers.

#1: Blame the customer.

Probably one of the worst things you can do in your IT career is to blame your customers. Let me give you a couple of examples of how this usually plays out.

Customer A: “My computer keep bluescreening, I really need some help to get this fixed.”

Bad IT guy: “Did you install some non work related software on the system? Or go to some questionable web sites?” (Asked with an intense look, silently expressing the thought, What the heck did you do this time?)


Customer B: “I was on a conference call and the call dropped right in the middle of the call. Is there something wrong with our conference service?”

Bad IT guy: “No, our conference services are very reliable. Were you on a cell phone or in some remote location where the reception was poor? The call probably dropped on the other end.”

If you, as an IT guy, respond like this to your customers, you might want to change your tactics quickly. While the answers you give might not be false, blaming the customer is no way to build a good long term relationship.

#2: Throw out fancy terms to confuse the customer.

Do you ever encounter customers who come by frequently with some really trivial questions? Without knowing exactly what caused their computer problem, you throw out some really fancy terminology or some sophisticated sounding answers in order to sound smart and ultimately, to drive the customer away.

Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom/

Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom/

Let me give you an example:

Customer (a finance admin): “I was doing some work on our ERP system today, but it seemed a bit slow. Is there anything we can do to speed that up?”

A smug IT guy: “There is probably nothing we can do; the ERP system is actually hosted fairly far from us for security reasons. Its network is set up in a complicated clustering setting and whenever data goes to the site, each packet is required to move through multiple IP peering that is outside of anyone’s control. It is a good thing though because it protects good guys from mixing with the bad guys.”

Using fancy terms might get you the results that you want for the time being (ie. customer leaves your desk), however if you keep using this tactic, one day you will encounter someone who is just as technical as you or even more technical and you will look like a fool and lose credibility. Trust me, I have seen this happen a few times.

#3: Give different excuses for a repeating problem.

Here’s an example:

Customer A: “Hey IT, I keep having trouble printing to this printer. I thought you said you guys fixed it last week?”

A self-proclaimed smart IT guy: “Oh, we did. This is a different problem. Let me take a look. Something went wrong with your application; just reboot your system and try again.”

Giving a good excuse to get a customer to go away only works for a short time. If the problem continues to come back, no matter how good the excuses are, you will ultimately look bad.

#4: Over promise and under deliver.

This one is self-explanatory. Though your intention to always want to say yes to a customer might be a good one, when what you have promised never comes true, your good intentions will do more harm than good. Don’t say, “I’ll swing by”, but never show up. Or “I can fix that next week” and forget to follow up. Do this a few times and people will think you are unreliable.

#5: Use obsolete technologies and make everyone who wants new technologies look like spoiled brats.

Using outdated, obsolete technologies is actually a very pervasive problem in the IT industry. Yes, understand that in the world of IT, resources are not always plentiful. Ensuring that everyone in the entire company is using the latest cutting edge technologies is not always feasible. However, chronically using old technologies without making an effort to strive for better technologies and solutions can lead to many frustrated, demoralized customers. Always make an effort to bring new, good technologies to your customers.

#6: BS your customers.

This point does not only apply to IT professionals, but to anyone who wants to have a long successful career and maintain your credibility. Sometimes it is far easier to just BS or lie to your customer to “solve” a problem or create an illusion that everything is fine and dandy. But little white lies can get you in trouble as quickly as they got you out of trouble. 

Here are a few examples that you, an aspiring IT professional, should never do or even consider doing!

Example 1:

The CEO drops by IT and says, “A colleague of mine just lost all his email because their IT team never backed up their Exchange Server. We backup our Exchange every day, right?”

An evil IT admin, who is willing to say just about anything to get out of trouble and potentially look good doing it: “Yes, I believe our email team says (creates a back door so that just in case something goes wrong, he can blame the email team) our Exchange is configured in a cluster setting and has full backup running all the time. We should be fine.” (Answer given though he/she knows nothing about the email infrastructure.)

Example 2:

A marketing customer: “Hey, is our web server communication encrypted?”

Bad IT guy with a quick reflex: “Oh, of course. We would never deploy a server without making sure it is secure.” (But the truth is that everything is communicated in clear text.)

Don’t think that these are outrageous examples that never happen. The reality is that it happens all too often. Don’t be caught in these types of scenarios. Don’t BS your customers. Know your stuff, otherwise the consequences could be surprisingly severe.

#7: All talk, but no data and no results.

This is another sign that distinguishes the junior IT guy from experienced IT professionals. Junior IT guys tend to do a lot of talking and give customers a lot of answers that are actually just guesses. They like to call these “educated guesses”, however at the end of the day they are still guesses. But experienced IT professionals do good research and support their claims with real data, and their results show that they know what they are talking about.

#8: Talk badly about their own IT department.

Image courtesy of stockimages/

Image courtesy of stockimages/

This is almost like the unforgivable sin in the working world. In IT we sometimes have a very high workload and have to work overtime and all, but in no situation should you ever complain to the customers about your teammates or your boss. That is a suicidal career move. There are some junior IT guys out there who, maybe in the hopes of gaining sympathy, start complaining about their own work, their teammates and even their boss to their customers.  Ultimately these complaints will simply discredit the whole department over time and will eventually reach the bosses’ ears, thus being a suicidal career move.

Lastly, why am I telling you all this? Among the IT professionals mentioned in the real life examples above, one guy got fired, while the other few never got a promotion. Therefore, if you want to have a vibrant successful IT career, be sure to never commit any of these 8 “IT crimes”.

Come back frequently for parts two and three of this series. In those upcoming posts, I’ll be talking about what makes an IT guy a good IT guy, and of course, what distinguishes a good IT guy from a great IT guy.

Have you witnessed any of these IT crimes being committed in your workplace? Have you yourself, in a desperate situation, committed one or two of these? If so, no worries. It is not about how you have failed, but how you can get yourself out of those mistakes, and how you can change your ways from bad to good. Please share your experiences with me.


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