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10 Mar 10 Tips to Working With IT Nerds

(By Megan Brimmer)

I’ve encountered a lot of different people during my time in the working world. From the spunky VP of Marketing, to the by-the-book operations manager to the eccentric economic think tank president who starts his mornings off by reading 5 different newspapers, each in a different language.  Before I started working at SCM Connections, I’d seen all the different personality types.  Or at least I thought I had until I met the most fascinating type of them all: the IT nerd.

The IT nerd is indeed a rare breed.  Often a fan of home brewing or a coffee connoisseur, these men and women are the road warriors, the late night owls, the people who can talk about Game of Thrones like it’s really happening (hint: don’t burst this bubble if you want to survive).  So how does one work with this tongue-in-cheek, pie-in-the-sky, “oops-did-I-just-slip-into-internet-jargon-again” species?  Here’s what I’ve learned.

  1. Plan for the unplanned. Part of the fun of working with IT nerds is that they get really passionate about the weirdest things at the oddest times.  Think you have a full day ahead?  Cancel it all!  We’re building a website.
  2. Get out of their way when they want to get their hands dirty. You can’t stop gravity just like you can’t stop a nerd from diving deep into whatever project they’re working on.  When they’re waist-deep in it, do what you can to remove their roadblocks.  Chances are they’ll resurface with just the solution you were looking for.
  3. Ask them to teach you. IT consultants are often excellent teachers.  Part of their job is to train their client counterparts so that when the consultant walks away, the clients knows exactly what to do.  If you’re even remotely curious about the work at hand, you have an excellent resource standing right in front of you.
  4. Check in on them. It’s not neuroscience: if there’s something cool to work on, they won’t want to pay attention to the details. Who wants to get their expenses in when they could be working on IBP?!
  5. Be internet jargon savvy. When they inevitably start dropping acronyms like TLDR AFAICT and FOMO, you don’t want to find yourself asking WAYTA (What Are You Talking About).
  6. Know what they’re excited about. There’s an inner nerd in all of us and it turns out, the stuff IT nerds are working on can actually be pretty cool stuff.  The key is knowing what the cool stuff does and why it’s cool, not necessarily the technology behind it (although any nerd worth his salt will disagree).
  7. Keep your head above the weeds. If you’re the client or the project manager or anyone else who is not the IT nerd on the project, getting too close to the weeds can suck you in and never spit you back out.
  8. Hide your iPhone. If there’s one thing an IT nerd hates, it’s a Mac product.
  9. Be aware that the IT nerd has both a short and long attention span. (There’s a little Schrödinger’s Cat for you.)  If it’s not something that’s interesting to them, don’t plan on holding their attention.  If it’s something interesting, you’ll get emails from them at 2 a.m. about all the cool stuff they’re learning.  Many times, I’ve seen one of our nerds work for 11 hours straight, on the same thing, getting up ONCE for coffee.
  10. Surround yourself with the nerds. Think they’re crazy for digging deeper into a project than you’d ever care to go?  That’s why they’re the IT nerds.  They don’t stop until they know how to solve a problem inside and out.  Want a solution?  Go ask a nerd.

And now I ask you, IT nerds of the world, what have I missed that you would add to this list?  Tweet us @scmconnections.