How Do You Tell Your Parents What You Do In IT?

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I’ve been in IT for over 15 years and risen to senior ranks in my career, and still my folks think I wander the floors in a boiler suit! Do yours?

There is still this huge brush that all IT professionals and leaders are tarnished with, and it was built from the days of the original Star Trek season, the movies War Games and Weird Science, and the like, and also from the images of when IT departments skulking in basements surrounded by tape-reels and fan-fold print outs.

Most people don’t really understand how IT has evolved to become ‘business’. The Information Age came in, perhaps without them noticing.

So as a CIO, IT Manager, Business Analyst, System Tester or Web Developer (etc), are you asked to call your mother’s dear old friend to help them solve the problem with their mouse, or get rid of that annoying blue-screen?

How do you tell your parents what your job is about, if they have absolutely zero context to understand it? If you know of a way that works, then tell me!

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About the author /

Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.


  1. Drew Douglass

    If anyone can figure out a way to explain web development, design, or anything IT related to their parents, you have my respect. I try all the time to explain it to my parents and they just dont get it, nor do they respect it very much (probably goes along with not understanding it).

    I think its just the generation gap, but I’m ok with being the tech support guy for my parents if it means installing FireFox on their machine before I leave 🙂

  2. simonstapleton

    Is that the version of Firefox you install by default when you also install Ubuntu at the same time? 🙂

  3. Dave Crain

    I’m the odd man out in this conversation I think. My mom is in her mid 70’s and regularly hacks around in the registry and uninstalls software. She’s not an IT geek per se, just a smart person who isn’t intimidated by technology and dives right in, albeit cautiously.

    I don’t think this is an issue related solely to IT however. All sectors progress and change and along with that change comes new job descriptions. I work for a company that is heavily involved with manufacturing companies. Talk about misconceptions as to what someone who works for a manufacturing company does! Sure there are still lots of assembly jobs, but modern manufacturing these days involves CAD/CAM computer engineering, rapid prototyping, etc. etc.

    Back when I was moving up the ladder in IT and my parents asked me what I did, I just told them I told other people what to do then took the blame when it didn’t work. They both seemed to understand that.

  4. simonstapleton

    @Dave – give me your mom’s number in case I need to recompile my Linux kernel 🙂 Sounds like a great attitude to have towards technology! Your last point is something my parents understand too – the penny dropped with my dad when I told him I give people orders and they do what I say. I wish sometimes it was so easy!


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