As seen in the January 21, 2002 issue of ...
The Modern Profile of the IT Pro
Despite the popular image represented in "Dilbert," IT professionals are likely to be multilingual, live and work in diverse cultures and eschew white shirts with pocket protectors for black turtlenecks worn on gym-toned bodies.
Unfortunately, the public's perception of the IT geek as a passive worker drone has done more harm to the industry's self-esteem than the collapse of IT budgets and technology stocks.
An antidote would be meeting Janelle Jimenez, 23, of Atlanta.
Her parents are from the Dominican Republic, she speaks three languages, and she grew up on Staten Island, N.Y. Returning from a visit to her fiance in Rome, Jimenez spent the nine-hour flight studying for her Cisco Certified Network Administrator test and spoke articulately about her IT career. Jimenez likes the possibility of connecting different kinds of networks. "Every situation is different because every company is different," she says.
Listening to Jimenez, you'd never know IT was going through a meltdown. "I'm not in it for the money," she says. "I want the experience and opportunity to meet people and learn how businesses use IT." Her technical and language skills should make it possible for her to work in Italy next year.
Could this be the IT industry branded as narrow and uninteresting by the popular press?
According to Judy B. Homer, president and principal of an eponymous executive-level IT recruiting firm in New York, the short-sleeved, taped-glasses look might have defined the IT world in the 1970s, but the ranks are currently filled with men and women of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Now, IT professionals possess the polish and sophistication typically associated with executive managers and customer representatives.
You can, in fact, easily mistake Anthony McCloude, 31, who oversees the LAN and peripherals for airlines at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, for an executive because of his poise and polish. The Englishman, who has lived in Brazil and speaks Portuguese, says upward mobility can be limited if you don't fit the management stereotype.
And there's evidence that fewer are fitting the Dilbert stereotype.
Gina Schiller, vice president of technology recruitment at J.B. Homer Associates, says IT pros now come with non-IT skills to augment their careers. For example, a legal background is useful for negotiating vendor contracts.
Don't buy into stereotypes of IT. Being well spoken, well groomed and well rounded can make the difference in your career. And it won't hurt the rest of your life either.