The Value of IT

This week has been an incredibly difficult one for me, so I apologize now for the length as well as the stream of consciousness.

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I have worked at various companies over the years, and yet one thing stands as the focal point throughout my career. Every single team member that I have worked with has become akin to family, and my current position is no different. The sheer number of hours, the random “fires” that pop up, the fortitude and solidarity of these incredible people has never ceased to amaze me. We still keep in touch even if we no longer work together, and sometimes if the stars align, we even work together again.

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A little over a year ago one of the Developers, Derek, that I worked with was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer and given 6 months to live. To be honest, I didn’t believe him when that inevitable phone call came. As a 38 year old, healthy male, I honestly thought that the doctors made a mistake. I remember hastily packing up my stuff and heading to the hospital where he had been admitted to see if I could get to the bottom of what was truly going on.

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But the doctors were correct. He had cancer and it was not only in his colon, but also his liver and bloodstream. The MRI report said his colon was “riddled with masses”. Sitting in the room with him while he received the news was not only shocking, but heart wrenching, and yet he apologized to me for leaving the team in the lurch. That was his main concern. Not his health, not the fact that he would die, but the team and the workload.

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As time progressed, his health deteriorated and he was in and out of the hospital for months. I would call him during my commute to the office and the conversations we had began to revolve around a few specific topics. Mainly, death and coming to terms with his life, the choices he’s made and whether he actually had an impact on anyone or made a difference.

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IT isn’t an easy industry to be in. Our job is to remain invisible; only called upon if something goes wrong, meaning that we do not get a lot of recognition for the work that we do, much less feel as though we are valued. Those conversations with him made me rethink both my career and my goals in life. Why work in IT? What am I actually accomplishing? What consequence do I ultimately have?

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The truth of the matter is, a lot. We all have an immense amount of impact, whether we realize it or not. IT interacts with more people on a daily basis (more than most of us care to), which has a ripple effect. We help companies grow. We help people’s dreams come true. We help to protect private information. We are entrusted with the proverbial “keys to the kingdom” and act as a gatekeeper to ensure nothing goes wrong, which also means we take on the most risk.

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But there’s more to it than that. The fact that every single person that I have worked with has been willing to sacrifice family time, personal time and other things that they wanted to do, just to ensure that the work gets done shows true character. Even though we may not be well loved or even liked due to the strict guidelines that we have to adhere to, we are ultimately here to protect and help those around us.

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Derek’s condition worsened and he passed away Monday evening, leaving gaping holes in many people’s hearts that will never be filled. Whether he ultimately realized it or not, he had an effect on everyone around him.

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This post is really to remind everyone here that you are all valued, you all have an impact as well as a purpose. While our jobs can be all consuming, remembering to care for ourselves so that we can perform the task at hand is equally as important. Be good to yourselves; you never know who you’ll affect.

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Edit: Thank you all for the kind words, gold and internet hugs. I sincerely hope that Derek’s story helps everyone never forget just how valued you really are.



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