Monday, January 16, 2006

Computer Consultant Competency

My job involves working with information technology people from various clients, and often with consultants helping our clients with new hardware or software or whatever.

I come across some impressive titles (ike IT Director) and completely silly ones (computer guru). As strange as this may be, I am finding that the more impressive or assuming the title or the more likely I'll have to do most of the work. Or worse, fix the "work" that someone else has done.

Allow me to state Lee's Law of Computer Consultant Competency: the competence of a computer consultant is inversely proportional to the perceived importance of their designation.

Correlary 1: the harder a computer consultant tries to impress you with their knowledge the less likely it is they know what they are talking about.

Correlary 2: the harder a computer consultant tries to assure you everything will work the less likely it is they will get it right the first time.

I've mentioned before how it annoys me that people pretend to know what they don't. Psychologically, it is probably due to my own incomplete attempts to be completely transparent and genuine in my interactions with others. While social norms may define the extent to which we can be open in a given environment, there is still a difference between misleading people and not showing your hand.

It is those people who, professionally, mislead people regarding who they are and what they are capable of that annoy me the most. Field engineers and tech who mislead their clients are far more likely to blame a third party (say me, for example) for their own incompetencies. At least one client things poorly of my employer because some IT Director screwed up and blamed us; the client did not let the facts influence their opinion in the matter, either.

Thankfully, incompetency is in the minority. It is not a tiny minority, but it is less than half the cases. Still, the average joe has a 50-50 chance of choosing a competent consultant, and it would benefit a potential employer to do a little checking into referrals before hiring.

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