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3 Questions: ICT "Suits" vs "Hoodies"

I'm doing some work for an IT association and my roles is to approach a segment of the tech 'community'* that views this association, and any association that has an office, with scepticism and a great deal of, "What's in it for me?"

I have used a broad brush label to name this section of the tech 'community'* - "hoodies".

Another purely Wellington focused label could be, "that end of town" (think Manners St, Courtney Place, Cuba Street end of town) as opposed to "the other end of town" (Lampton Quay and north).

My hypothesis:
The underlying drivers of all ICT workers are the same, but the manner of engagement is very different

'community'* - why use the asterisk?

OK, let's get this out of the way first. Many MANY use the word 'community' when referring to those that work within the ICT / tech / computer industry. This is not something peculiar to Wellington or New Zealand as you'll see it being used across a lot of tech-centric hubs of the world. It is normally used when referring to the younger side of the industry, generally those that are either web / cloud / app focused. It's definitely used by / on those that are building their own businesses, those working in these "stay-ups" and those working around the periphery making their money out these organisations.

You will, however, also hear the word 'community' being used those that would've traditionally used the following words:
  • association
  • user groups
  • Special Interest Groups (SIG)
We must be careful when using the word 'community' as it can be a common mistake to assume that the grouping of humans has a defining attribute, "common values" (source: Wikipedia - Community). Some 'communities' that we refer to are based around a 'common technology', 'a common event' or even just 'a common timing'. I know, it's grey not black & white, but my real point is that we think about the word before just slapping it upon a disparate group of people ... as I have done with "hoodie" and "suit".

Oh, and there is a different between 'membership' and 'community', especially all you really have is an email list; what you have there is an audience.

"Hoodies" vs "Suits"

So this band of 'communities' I've labelled as "hoodies", are they really that different to the "suits"?

I believe that when you scrape the surface of the "hoodies" they are made of the same stuff (outlooks, drives, triggers, interests, and skillsets) as their counter parts in the "suits". I also believe that when you do this mental comparison at the younger age range the thinner that surface layer is.

Old buggers that mostly live in suits have actually come from a different tech world. A world of the "IT Dept" that was full of "black magic" and could easily tell 'the business' to go away because you don't know what you're asking for and the implications; Ian Apperley calls these "dinosaurs". No, not everyone of an age wears suits, thinks like that, and looks down on others with such contempt, but many do.

Younger "hoodies" and "suits" however have grown up in a tech world where design thinking, agile, voice of the customer, and the iPhone is normal. They have grown up with the Web as the first delivery platform and the consumer world of the web means, "NO TRAINING". What does this mean, the centre of focus in their lives, both "hoodie" and "suit" is the user/customer/client and not the computer/process - they have a common human view of the world.

OK, so there are some differences, but the younger one gets the less there is.

Having had a small part of this conversation on Twitter I am drawn to the idea put forth from Chrius Comrac (@ranganui): 

You might 'be a hoodie' to the core but if you work with clients that expect a "suit" you will amend your outward behaviour and even dress-code and same goes for the culture of the organisation you work within. This incongruity can sometimes gnaw away, be careful.

Where's this all going?

My hypothesis:
The underlying drivers of all ICT workers are the same, but the manner of engagement is very different

These are the underlying drivers:
  • not be alone
  • be relevant
  • make a difference
  • recognition where it matters
But how are they expressed differently - check out these simplistic examples - which do you prefer?

Not be alone

  • hoodies:
  • suits: User groups

Be relevant

  • hoodies: Twitter / Github
  • suits: training / email lists

Make a difference

  • hoodies: Code For Good / online activism
  • suits: association advocacy

Recognition where it matters

  • hoodies: Cool companies listed on CV
  • suits: post-nominals

Simplistic I know, but an example of how underlying drivers can be expressed very differently.
With this knowledge I have both an easy task and a difficult one. Luckily the association I am working with covers all of these (they don't say it like that) and have a good handle on the 'suits'. The difficult one is merely to discover how the "hoodies" engage with the work the association does around the drivers.

3 Questions for you:

  1. Is my hypothesis correct, if not, why not?
  2. Are my "tech" underlying drivers complete, if not, what's missing?
  3. How do you think "hoodies" engage best?
Tweet me @MiramarMike, leave a comment or even email me ...

note: I have used some sweeping statements, especially when talking about "them" - there is NO rule that rules them all and I celebrate each and every exception that breaks anything I have said above.

Also see: