When people ask me what kind of degree I have, they are likely to get two different answers.
If they so happen to be someone who works in the technology industry, is below a certain age, or is an incredibly well-informed and open-minded individual, I’m likely to tell them I have a degree in Computer Science.
If they are instead someone who only uses a computer to write documents, is above a certain age, or is an individual who is for whatever reason close-minded, condescending, and likes to live in their own little world, I’m likely to tell them I have a degree in Journalism.
Why? Not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed or otherwise insecure about either of my areas of expertise, but because if I tell the wrong people I studied Computer Science, the response I’m likely to get is, “oh you are JUST the person I need! Can you help me sign-in to Skype on my computer?”
I spent the last 6 months working as an IT Admin for a humanitarian organization. Initially I thought such a position would allow me to introduce some influential and widespread tech changes to what I had seen in poverty-stricken areas.
What I found however, is that technology in said organization is not seen as a method to furthering its mission. Instead, technology is seen as a small method to support those who further the mission.
Technology was seen more as IT Support, where the only reason for technology is to write documents, send email, and talk to people on Skype. As long as a staff member can check their email and write Word documents, that is all that technology need ever do.
And when that couldn’t happen, i.e. someone couldn’t sign-in to Skype one day, the kind of virulent hatred and condescension that I faced was astonishing.
“Patrick! You have to help me. Right now. Drop everything you’re doing because nothing you have to do could ever be as important as the issue I’m having. Go to my computer this very minute and fix everything immediately.”
Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs to understand technology, nor that someone should be ashamed or embarrassed about not understanding technology, which is often the case. But when the attitude said someone has towards IT people is to bark orders at them when they have a problem with Skype and then expect them to be completely invisible all other hours of the day, then said someone creates a certain kind of environment.
An environment where having a degree in Computer Science is no longer about furthering technology as a problem-solving tool, creating original solutions that pushes the limits of what technology can do, or being able to tackle a difficult problem using innovation and creativity.
A degree in Computer Science means you are a trained monkey with an “IT Support” badge that looks at the “issue,” promptly Googles it, finds a step-by-step guide that fixes the issue, and follow each step to the word until the issue is fixed. After which you are thrown a treat in the form of, “you are such a genius! I could never do that on my own” compliments at which point you are expected to leave the office and become completely invisible until you are needed to Google a problem once again. This is all assuming the problem can’t be fixed by turning the computer off and then on again.
And hey, some people have no problem with that kind of work. My brother is the kind of person who will do anything if you pay him to do so, and he wouldn’t mind getting paid very very well to Google stuff all day.
But I feel as though technology has many more uses other than simply supporting those who carry out the mission statement of any company, humanitarian organization, or non-profit. I believe that technology should be part of the statement, not the paper on which the statement is printed.
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