Are IT people socially awkward? Debunking 4 IT stereotypes

Ignacio Graglia July 5, 2024
- 7 min read


Let's clear the air from the get-go: IT can be frustrating. We've all had a moment where our interaction with the IT department left us grumbling. But these experiences often give rise to IT stereotypes and myths.How many of those perceptions are still valid today? Are we clinging to an outdated image of what an IT worker is like?

In the latest episode of our podcast, Ticket Volume, we delved into these questions with our host Matt Beran and three seasoned experts: Christopher Chagnon (Senior Development Applications Engineer at MathWorks), Caitlin Price (Associate Support Analyst at Giant Eagle), and Valence Howden (Principal Advisory Director at Infotech Research Group).

They helped us unpack and debunk some common stereotypes about IT professionals.

Read on for the key highlights from Episode 82!



Claim 1: IT workers are socially awkward or introverted

Let's start with the big one. Is there some truth to the stereotype that IT folks are socially awkward? Chris suggests that this perception has roots in the early days of the IT world, when the industry required highly specialized technical skills. Back then, the “geeky” image may have fit because tech was tricky, and those who understood it were seen as different.

But Valence offers a nuanced view. He acknowledges that IT departments once functioned like "black boxes"—mysterious, behind-the-scenes teams that people didn’t interact with much. But things are changing:



"That network technician who never talked to a customer is still deep into technology and doesn’t need those people skills. But the more customer-facing you are, the more those skills have developed over time.

IT has become more integrated into organizations, and with that, perceptions shift. If I'm seen as a ‘black box,’ I’m treated in a certain way. The more integrated I am, the more I come off as collaborative and human-centered."

Valence Howden 
Principal Advisory Director at Infotech Research Group
Episode 82 of Ticket Volume

Caitlin agrees, noting the evolution towards a more inclusive IT industry. She highlights how IT support now often involves customer interaction, necessitating people skills and diverse backgrounds. The shift from a purely technical focus to IT Service Management has driven this change.

Claim 2: The IT industry is predominantly male

Spoiler: Yes, historically, IT has been a male-dominated field, and to some extent, it still is. But the landscape is changing, as Caitlin points out:



I think it still is predominantly male. However, I have noticed that women, or people who identify as female, are definitely becoming a larger portion of that demographic. There are a lot of female leaders in our IT organization, which indicates where the industry is going."

Caitlin Price 
Associate Support Analyst at Giant Eagle
Episode 82 of Ticket Volume

A good example of this shift is Woman of ITSM, who recently came onto the podcast to share with us their experience and the community that they are building.

Throughout the conversation, our guests touched on the “humanization of IT”—a trend towards making IT practices more user-friendly and empathetic. This includes improving how IT professionals communicate with end-users, fostering a culture of understanding and effective dialogue.

Valence agrees that while the industry has seen positive shifts, significant changes in leadership dynamics are still pending. He believes the industry is on the cusp of a broader transformation that will open up more opportunities. 

Claim 3: IT professionals lack fashion sense and are nerds and geeks

This stereotype is one of the more entertaining ones. At some point, the “nerdy” image of IT professionals might have been more accurate, but today, it's largely outdated. IT folks are just like anyone else—they enjoy expressing their personalities, sometimes through their attire.

Chris points out that some of the quirky fashion choices in IT are actually conversation starters:



Eccentricity is a big part of the IT personality. At conferences, people wear the boldest prints and colors—things that make you wonder where they find them. Even I buy silly outfits for conferences because it’s fun and sparks conversations."

Cristopher Chagnon 
Senior Development Applications Engineer at MathWorks
Episode 82 of Ticket Volume

Far from being fashion-challenged, IT professionals often use their style to break the ice and connect with others in the industry. But there is really no connection between IT workers and a lack of fashion sense. Not really. 

Claim 4: Turning it off and on again solves issues

Ah, the classic IT solution. It’s become a bit of a joke, but is there truth to it? Surprisingly, yes, but with some context. In the early days of computing, rebooting could indeed solve many issues quickly because systems were simpler and reset upon reboot.

However, modern systems are far more complex, and while rebooting can sometimes help, it's not a universal fix.

The real issue here is communication. From the user’s perspective, being told to “turn it off and on again” can feel dismissive or simplistic, but there's often a deeper process behind the advice.

Valence emphasizes the need for IT departments to better explain their actions and value. He says that it may look like we’re just restarting your computer, but there’s a process in place and the fact is that effective communication can improve relationships with the IT department and how they are perceived.

Finally, Caitlin suggests rephrasing the approach to be more conversational. Asking users about their problem narratives rather than giving direct instructions can humanize interactions and foster empathy.

Final Thoughts

Episode 82 of Ticket Volume tackled four common IT stereotypes, revealing some truths and debunking others. Whether humorous or serious, discussing these perceptions helps us grow as a community. Our guests brought valuable insights that challenge outdated notions and highlight the evolving nature of the IT industry.

Want to hear more? Check out the full episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyYouTube, or your favorite podcast platform.

Read other articles like this : Ticket Volume podcast

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