It’s a paradox but the more people actually see you doing your job, the less successful you are. This also applies to cloud service providers, telecomm companies, wireless providers, etc.
Whenever you’re providing a core infrastructure service, something people rely on the same way they rely on the lights turning on when they flip the switch, the only time they really notice what you’re doing is when it’s not working. Think of the last time your customers had an Internet or email outage, or you couldn’t enter an order. You probably had a lot more people inquiring after your business at that time than when the whole system was happily humming along.
When things go wrong, everyone figures out who you are and where to find you…fast.
This can create a problem for your career path as it’s hard to advance in a perfectly stable, boring network environment (though that’s exactly what an organization wants you to do). It gets to be a no-win situation.
It leads to what I like to call the Hertvik paradox.
If nothing ever goes wrong, higher-ups may think you aren’t doing anything
If things are blowing up and they see you fixing them, they may think you don’t know how to do your job
It’s a semi-hopeless situation but the solution lies in education. In a future column, I’ll talk about what infrastructure people can do to be noticed in a good way (as opposed to programmers who can seem downright flashy when they roll out a new app). But for now, it’s worth noting the following for most infrastructure.
- Boring is beautiful
- Invisibility is your friend
- You have more influence than you think
(first published on August 19,2013. Updated on December 27, 2013)