Boot Camp Versus Theme Park

Here's a quick True/False statement: The expectation for IT Pros to remain technically competent constitutes a significant source of stress.

Yes or No?

Here's another question: Have you ever attended a skills workshop that had "Boot Camp" in the title?

What if instead of Boot Camp, it had "Theme Park" or "Sandbox" in the title?

Are vendors buying into some underlying IT-industry assumption that staying updated with technology is painful and difficult? Is that how you personally view learning and staying updated?

Are you a pessimist or an optimist?

A recent study published in the Fall 2007 issue of Human Resource Management concludes that for IT pros, keeping skills updated is stressful. It also says that optimistic IT pros are better able to cope with that stress than pessimistic ones. It suggests that H.R. managers consider optimism as a factor in hiring IT pros.

I have to admit, my first thought was "Who are they to say that IT job seekers must exhibit the 'right' personality?"

So I emailed one of the researchers, Hsing-Yi Tsai. Turns out, Tsai and colleagues are trying to help.

"I worked for one year in an IT department of a high school before I joined the PhD program here in Ivey \[School of Business, University of Western Ontario\]. Most of my friends from undergrad and the grad school are IT professionals in various industries. I think as IT professionals we KNOW how fast technical skills get obsolete and how threatening that can be, but others may not know it! From a HR perspective this not-knowing can be a managerial problem in terms of keeping the technical skill level and the well being of IT personnel in the organization… . Writing this paper is my way of saying "I care!" Hopefully \[H.R. Management\] readers will appreciate the efforts that IT professionals must make throughout the course of their work life to stay competent.

I have the image of Sisyphus on my mind when thinking of these weary IT professionals. … But some IT professionals seemed more hopeful than others. I didn't test their personality trait. I could only suspect that optimism may have a role here. Theoretically, optimists react differently from pessimists to the same difficult situations. They also cope differently when faced with challenging demands. It's like the glass-half-full vs. glass-half-empty perception--it varies depending on the individual's attitude. That's why we recommend HR to consider optimism when recruiting IT professionals. (Personally, I believe that people can learn to infuse positive thinking into their mind…)."

I can hear you scoffing even as I write this. But what if your next Boot Camp were suddenly to change its title to Theme Park? Would that change how you approach learning that material? Are there other areas where a simple reframing or renaming of a situation might cause a subtle shift in your attitude and make things easier or at least more pleasant for you?

Or is this mere psychological gobbledygook?

By the way, the Fall 2007 issue of Human Resource Management is a special issue devoted to managing IT professionals. If you want to send a link to your H.R. department so the director can purchase a copy of the article, here it is. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jhome/32249
Good luck with that.

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