Meet Roy, an uber-smart computer scientist. Roy has a masters degree from Georgia Tech and is a published information technology author. When I met Roy he was the lead software architect on a critical and high-pressure project. Roy was known for biting the head off of many a newbie. Asking a question or favor of Roy became known as “poking the bear.” It was a daunting and intimidating thing to consider.
Over time Roy calmed down and I got to be pretty good buddies with him. But my early experiences with him stuck with me. I realize today that many non-technical cubicle dwellers might have to deal with similar situations. Maybe you got re-orged this year and you’re having to deal with surly information technology guys for the first time. They speak a different language, wear flip flops and are just strange creatures. How do you get them to like you and maybe actually do favors for you?
Ever been to Fry’s Electronics in Milton? Pay attention the next time you’re walking through the checkout area. You have to walk down an aisle containing nothing but snacks, sweets, chocolate and energy drinks. It is the fuel of the IT world. We’ve got a serious sweet tooth.
Another story… meet Sandra, mild-mannered lady who used to work in our accounting department. Sandra started showing up at our meetings a few years ago. She would bring baskets of candy… big baskets. I’m not talking about candy your crabby old grandpa used to have. She had stuff like Snickers, Milky Way, M&M’s and Almond Joys. This was the candy you actually wanted to get for Halloween. At first we didn’t know what to think of Sandra. But before long she became popular at our meetings. IT guys started swinging by her cube for no reason other than a quick boost of sugar. In the meantime she was asking her questions and getting answers from very willing and helpful IT weirdos. And an interesting side note on Sandra… she recently transferred into our department. The candy basket came too. No, we didn’t recruit her for the sweets (at least that’s not what got communicated to management).
Want to kick it up a notch? Here’s a bonus idea (wondering how I would get to the .14 ways? This is it). Go with the vintage candy. This is the hard-to-find stuff from our childhood. I suggest Fuzziwig’s at the Avenue Forsyth.
Nerdy Pop Culture References
You don’t need to be able to hang in conversation about object overloading and polymorphism. Forget it! Try to bring out the inner pop culture geek that’s already in you. Do you know the answer to life, the universe and everything? Can you name all the members of the Jedi High Council? Do you use the new TPS report cover sheet? Didn’t you get the memo?
If I’m not speaking a foreign language to you, then you can hang with an IT guy, seriously. Embrace your inner nerd.
Don’t Ask Twice
If you are going to poke the bear about something, never ask the same question twice. It doesn’t matter if you’re asking how to sum a column in Excel, generate last month’s revenue report or pilot the Space Shuttle. Write down what is said, put it in a document and save it. Nothing will get you on the IT black list quicker than the same annoying question over and over.
But at the end of the day, don’t be intimidated by IT guys. Even the most grumpy of software geeks can be charmed. Do it well and you might even get them to do your bidding for you.