Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails
That’s what little boys are made of!
Sugar and spice and all things nice
That’s what little girls are made of!”
Have you ever heard the phrase: “It takes all kinds to make the world go ’round?” Well, it does. Especially in Information Technology. But, I’m of the opinion that IT people come roughly in two flavors.
- Technicians (or Engineers)
- Consultants (or Analysts)
What’s the difference you say? Well, here’s my definitions:
Technicians are technical. They understand the *how* of a technology, how to make it run, how to service it, install it, create it. They’re great with machines, coding, and complex troubleshooting. Often they’re the kind of people that just can’t stand to *not* know why something broke and want to fix it no matter how long it takes.
Consultants look at business process and are more interested in why and where and who and what rather than the how of a particular technology. They may also be very technically capable, but they generally marry superior customer service, business analysis, and communication skills with that technical capability.
Here are some common questions I’ve heard about technicians and consultants:
Q. Can you train technicians?
A. You can give people knowledge about a technology, but it’s much harder (if not impossible) to train the intuitive grasp of *how* technology works. Contrary to what most people think, the creation, operation and support of technology is as much an art as it is a science. It changes so rapidly and the complexity is so overwhelming that if all you have is book knowledge and you don’t just “get it” you’re not going very far. This is one of the real advantages young people have in growing up with technology that their parents did not… they just get it since they’ve been dealing with it their whole lives.
Q. Can you train consultants?
A. You can train consulting skills for sure. You can teach people to look at business process and to consider the business implications of using one technology or another. You can train people to be good with customer service and you can educate them in the use of written and verbal language skills. But, once again, there’s a certain something that separates good consultants from technicians. You have to not only “get it” the same way a technician does but you need an intuitive grasp of how people think and how they interact with technology.
Q.Can a technician become a consultant?
A. Certainly! I did! I think we all begin as technicians. You only develop an ability to see the larger picture and the business savvy required for consulting over time and with experience. It requires development especially of your communication skills, both verbal and written. If you didn’t learn to spell and your grammar depends on Microsoft Word’s spell checking you’re in for a hard ride as a consultant.
Q. What’s wrong with being a technician?
A. Absolutely nothing. We need both technicians and consultants. Technicians do things with the actual technology that consultants just can’t. Someone has to make this stuff! Someone has to code the applications and build the servers. But would you put a technician in front of a client and ask them to deliver a presentation to C-Level management? Definitely not. It’s not a good use of their skills and they probably wouldn’t enjoy it.
So, which is better? Technician or Consultant? It depends on your business needs. And since I’m a consultant, would you like a presentation on the topic?