Monday, 12 December 2011

The Magic Wand Theory

If you've been working in IT for a long time, like I have, at least it feels like a long time, you probably have experienced the effects of the magic wand theory. This theory could be formulated like this: 
There is an employee/consultant that has sufficient knowledge of a system and/or technology that he or she will be able to fix any issue with said system or technology as if by waving a magic wand.
At least management seem to think that this theory holds true.

I feel very strongly about the magic wand theory as I've been on both sides of the theory: The Apprentice and The Wizard.

The Apprentice

I joined my current company fresh out of university and consequently there were massive gaps in my knowledge, I was the Apprentice to the consultant Wizard. We ran into several issues during the first weeks of live running for an application and time and time again the consultant would repeat the troubleshooting steps that I had carried out. Sometimes he fixed the issue, sometimes he didn't, but the reality that I was an apprentice meant that whenever there was something unexplained or that I could not explain satisfactorily, The wizard would be called. Ordinarily he would be just as stumped as I was and it was through collaboration and analysis that we managed to sort the issues out. Yet the perception that I was still an apprentice never quite faded.

The Wizard

I only became a wizard through the process of acquiring an apprentice, i.e. somebody with less experience than me. In a similar fashion as when I was an apprentice, my apprentice's opinions were ignored and almost always required my confirmation, even when, as was the case most of the times, I was in agreement with my apprentice, but such is life in the world of IT support.

It is quite revealing how disconnected middle management is from upper management on this issue. The former is an ardent supporter of the magic wand theory and can be quite willing to provide perks and salary increases (within their limited power) to keep wizards from leaving, whereas the latter just cares about the bottom line and is pushing for off shoring as if it were going out of fashion.

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