Don’t be That Guy who Says “I am not a Tech Guy”

Have you heard of the recent Bangladesh Central Bank heist? Basically, someone pulled off an elaborate version of That Email From the Nigerian Prince and made off with 101m USD, in the process embarrassing several national banks. They would have taken more, but they were given away by a spelling mistake.

There are many lessons to be learned here for all of us (“check your spelling before you click send” comes to mind). But among it all, one thing stood out for me. Here is a quote from that article I linked above:

[The Governor of the Bank] told reporters that he wasn’t a “technical guy” and was “puzzled” by the theft.

I am not a technical guy he said. He did not elaborate further, convinced in his heart of hearts that everyone knows what he means. We hear that and we all go, “Oh, that makes sense. The guy is not a technical guy!”.

Basically, a national bank gets swindled by 101 millions USD by a bunch of spelling-challenged rookies impersonating the guy in charge (presumably accessing this email with the password “p@ssWord123”, because he is not a technical guy), and the Good Governor defends himself, like: “I am not a technical guy”.

I hear this all the time — and you probably do too:

  • I am not a technical guy says the presenter with the atrocious power point who needs help to even start his presentation;
  • I am not a technical guy says the manager who wastes millions on consultants that build un-implementable solutions;
  • I am not a technical guy says the manager explaining away his ignorance in relation to numbers on which his decisions should rely. — numbers come out of a computer, so, obviously, one must be a technical person to access them.

All of this is too easy to pick on and that is not my intention at all. Isn’t it amazing though, how often Mr. I-am-not-a-technical-guy is actually an ambitious, career-driven workaholic type? It can’t be that hard to figure out that these days a bit of technical understanding works in one’s professional interest. Isn’t it obvious that there will be more technology in our lives rather than less? Regardless on the nature of one’s job, is there a better way to beef one’s performance (and employability) than working on one’s tech-savviness and using technology to one’s advantage? How can people that work all the edges to get ahead miss this one edge?Tech Savviness is a killer skill — acquire it and the impact on your career will be huge.

Right?

I wonder how The Good Governor’s working day looked like. I bet he used to be driven to work every day to attend important meetings and spend the rest of his time sitting in front of some sort of computer thingie. He probably has been doing some form of this basic routine for decades, as he worked his way up the ranks.

Whatever happened to the 10,000h rule? How come the Good Governor and his lot spend thousands of hours in front of a tool without having this tool becoming second nature? How come so many people who obsess about their careers ignore to do the one thing that would assure their relevance in those careers into the future?

How does any of this make any sense?

A tempting, easy explanation is that these are people from the past. They come from a world where workplaces were neatly structured around skills and expertise and these skills and expertise were rigidly hierarchical. That world is no more: even the Good Governor, in his 60s, must realize that. Besides, I — like you, I am sure — continue to run into people a lot younger who display the same curious attitude.

There must be a different explanation.

One curious thing is the easiness with which people agree to their technical incompetence. When did ambitious types start admitting to their weaknesses so easily?

Perhaps what they are actually saying is I have more important things I need to do. Which basically means I am too skilled in other, superior, things to be thinking about this tedious technology. Which is basically a form of This technology thing is below my level.

I am not a Technology Person!

Perhaps what we are dealing with here is a form of micro-elitism, a subtle reinforcement of a clearly perceived hierarchy. Technology must be below The Good Governor, to be performed by lesser people. Like plumbing.

Making the effort to understand why you shouldn’t have a stupid, predictable password on your email when you are in charge of a country’s finances is a slippery slope. If I need to do that now, what next? Must I do my own plumbing?

So if you find yourself, ever, in a situation where you are tempted to say: I am not a technical person, think twice of whether perhaps it is time you should be. And take this unsolicited advice: It is 2016. Whoever you are, whatever you do, technology is all around you. If you are in charge of anything of consequence — plumbing included — goddamn it, use it to your advantage.

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