IT: red in tooth and claw

Most of us have a list of things that we’d like to do before we shuffle off this mortal coil.

Some people’s lists include such things as base jumping naked off the Empire State Building or hiking across the Hindu Kush in the dead of winter in nothing more than Speedos and flip-flops.

My list used to include “seeing a tiger in the wild” but Miles Baska, aka Gibbsblog Irregular Voice No. 1, sent me a link to a video ( that made me revise my catalogue. The video made me think that if I am going to leave that particular goal on my list it really should be the penultimate item coming just before “Expire with the satisfaction of a life well-lived.”

Go watch the video and tell me: Don’t you think the elephant jockey should be carrying a larger stick, or perhaps — oh, I don’t know — a gun? Anyway, Miles followed up the link with a tale from his youth of encountering a badger while on his motorcycle. When he stopped to “get a better look, the badger turned, and without so much as missing a stride, reached up and swatted my leather boot with its claws, slashing through the boot and the thick sock, and drawing a little blood from my right foot.”

Miles promptly gunned it out of there.

Miles pointed out that the Discovery Channel plays a dirty trick on us because it makes us think of wild animals as playful but if you should “join them in their habitat … you have placed yourself somewhere in the middle of the food chain.”

I thought this to be an interesting observation and one that is relevant to the information technology world. At the top of the IT food chain is the alpha dog himself, the CEO. Below the CEO are the beta dogs: The CIO, the CTO, the COO, the CFO and so on. Below them, well, it depends on the organization, but somewhere down the bottom, at the end of the IT food chain is where most of us start off.

The problem is when you place yourself in the IT food chain, where do you fit in? Who shows you their belly and who do you show your belly to?

Let’s say you are a new guy in IT. If you are smart you’ll find your place in the pack as quickly as you can. You’ll get on by getting down and doing the job and proving that you’re worthy to be included in the hunt.

But how do you get ahead? Simple: You work your way toward becoming top dog and the faster you get ahead the safer you become because, if times get tough (e.g. there’s not enough food to go around) and you are a low dog, you’ll be turned out into the wilds of unemployment without a second thought. Business is just like nature: Red in tooth and claw. But of course, we are not animals. No, we are humans and how do humans compete?

Next issue: WWMDII — What Would Machiavelli Do In IT? Now, I must go and re-write my list of things to do. Note to self: Avoid badgers.

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