Fighting talk

Published by Matt Setchell on

Having an IT team to manage is something relatively new to me, I’ve had a tech to manage for nearly 4 years, but I now have a senior tech and 2 technicians, and a 4th I line manage at one of the schools we support.

I have three main ethoses for my team to stick to: “Bodge job are not acceptable” “everyone is learning” and “Because that’s the way it’s always been done is not a reason to keep doing something”

I have worked in a couple of teams prior to managing one, at the first place it was a real sense of being in something together, a clear purpose and a camaraderie which is still there to this day.

My best mate was my boss, and next month I am going to be the best man at his wedding. He instilled in me that a bodge job is not acceptable. It makes an already stressful job harder, as you will always have to fix it at a later stage.

By all means get thing working quickly, but don’t leave it there. Fix it. Change it. Sort it.

At my second school, the environment was different, the management style was different. But it taught me a lot. Some things I would avoid, but one thing I took away was “everyone is learning”

The second school taught me that just because I know it, and it’s easy to me, and it makes sense to me, to other people what I do is an alien world and a completely different language. I got shouted down when trying to roll out new things, I got grief for trying new things because I didn’t explain them well enough, but mostly nobody trusted the third and most important phases my team now lives by:

The most dangerous phase in the English language is “we’ve always done it this way”

I saw this tonight on twitter, and whilst I might not have said it in so many words, it struck a chord on the ethos I have been trying to get for my team, and I’ll be putting a big picture on the wall in the office tomorrow with it on.

You won’t be able to find me someone in IT who has not dealt with that weekly . Even if someone is sat working on a new system you have implemented that they originally opposed, they don’t trust your sinister ideas of change.

All IT people are people who just want to fiddle and make people’s lives harder, because they can. Not for any real reason.

I have been there, I still am on a regular basis – but I have confidence born out of lots of fuck ups, and lots of won battles. Within a month of starting this job, I decided with the head that I would rip everything out. And start again. I’ve done it at 5 schools now.

It’s not easy changing the way someone does their role. But it is precisely because people do not understand what we do that there should be a bit more trust coming our way. I don’t know about heart surgery, but I would sure as hell trust a heart doctor.

We can make things easier and quicker if we understand the bigger picture more, if we get people to trust that we know what we are doing, like people trust doctors. (Do not attempt any medical solutions however, as this will not end well.)

But here is a key point many techies miss: you have to earn that trust. Learn people’s roles, listen to their issue before blindly rolling out change and only then, if you are still sure you are right, push through changes.

At the end of the day, we know how to make things easier with technology. We don’t know how to teach, and we don’t know how to manage sites and facilities or be a TA. We know technology, and the best way to make use of technology is to make it easy. To make it easier to do something. And to do it better.

Sometimes this means you make unpopular choices, and people do not always appreciate them, or why you have made it. But they need to understand your role better, as much as you do theirs.

The bigger picture is key here, ICT is now a whole school system, there is no curriculum and admin side, its all one big mesh. People see their role, not the fact that what works for admin, won’t work in science, or PE or won’t be passed by governors. Or even, is frankly illegal.

My final poster I plan to put in our office is this:


Like a lot of jobs, being basically the person that people only speak with to tell you things are not working is tough. It makes having a larger team now really quite a good thing to be able to bounce issues and gripes off each other without losing focus or blowing things out of proportion.

But it does make me and my team work hard to get those messages where people are just saying thanks. We get some 200 tickets a week – we get 2 messages a week saying thanks. And that helps us stop being sad and be awesome again