I am in IT in Canada. Thank you very much

All of a sudden, any talk of the “problems” we face in the IT community, any writing about the “difficult issues” we have to deal with in the work that we do, seems to me more than just a little bit pathetic.

Worse than pathetic, any discussion along this line is beginning to feel like the whining of a bunch of spoiled brats. And I (sheepishly) put myself very much in that spoiled brat category. From the perspective of a comfortable airline seat heading westbound at 7:00 on a Tuesday evening, I’m feeling pretty stupid.

For the third time in as many weeks, I’ve been asked to comment on the things that keep me awake at night as an IT professional in Canada. Up until a few minutes ago, I was thinking the question was serious enough to be the focus of my next column. Up until few minutes ago, I’d considered it a serious question.

Having filled up on Canadian Airline’s wine and cheese in the Empress lounge in Toronto’s Pearson Terminal Three, I was riding the courtesy shuttle to my departure gate. While we cruised along, I had my nose buried in a National Post article: “Stocks Spawn a Million More Millionaires.” Really. The article also touched on the meltdown in the value of the holdings of some IT entrepreneurs, including a Canadian whose net worth on paper had recently slid from $3 billion to $760 million. And I was wondering about how the Nasdaq retreat had affected the value of my own RRSP holdings, and I was thinking about this column.

And then we stopped the shuttle/golf car thingy to pick up an elderly and seemingly disoriented lady who “wanted to get to Calgary to see her new granddaughter for the first time.” She was sitting patiently on a bench at gate C27, waiting for someone to help her get to gate B17, because she was just “too tired to walk any further.”

Ten minutes before her flight left, patiently waiting for help, she was fortunate enough to catch the eye of the Canadian Airlines person driving the golf cart.

If she caught his attention, she’d have never have made the long walk from C27 to B19, and she’d have missed her ‘plane.

As we rolled through the terminal, this tiny old woman told me how excited she was to be going to Calgary, how exciting but scary the flight was going to be, how she was glad she didn’t have to walk all the way to the gate, how excited she was to be seeing her new grandchild for the first time. She apologized to me for her “babbling” and, out of courtesy I suppose, asked who I was, what I did and where I was going.

I told her I worked with computer people. And that I was coming back from speaking at a conference in Toronto. And that I was going to Calgary too. She smiled and nodded. I’m sure that nothing I said meant a damn thing to her, and it shouldn’t have either.

And how did I feel as an IT professional in Canada? Spoiled, more than a little stupid, and grateful.

Grateful that I was born and raised and educated in Canada; grateful that by some toss of the cosmic dice, my daughters aren’t among those in the world who are sick or starving to death. Grateful that I don’t have to live in the middle of a civil war.

Grateful that I/we work in a business where most of us are educated to some degree, where I/we get to work inside, even when it’s 30 below outside, and no matter how stressful it gets, it’s unlikely that anyone will die as a result of what I/we do or don’t do. How is it I had missed all this?

Thinking about it as I sit in my comfortably upgraded business class seat nursing a scotch and water, I’m feeling pretty stupid. I’m in Canada, I work in IT, and I’ve got/we’ve all got a job that more than 99 per cent of the world would love to have for half of what I/we get paid.

What keeps me awake at night as a Canadian IT professional?

Nothing. Not a damn thing. And thank God for that.

Hanley is an IS professional in Calgary. He can be reached at [email protected].

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