Job titles, and why they are important

As part of my role, I am involved in recruitment within my team. This involves reading through a lot of CVs and application forms and trying to work out some sort of correlation between a person’s job title and what they actually do. And it’s not as easy as you would think.

Take for example the humble Sandwich Artists (sometimes known as Sandwich Architects) at Subway. This role has nothing to do with art or architecture, and everything to do with making sandwiches to order, and could easily be misinterpreted when skim reading a CV. Similarly, it might be possible to misunderstand what a Nail Technician actually does, as well as misunderstanding what type of nails their skills relate to.

We have this problem in IT as well.

In IT we are blessed with legions of IT Managers, Network Specialists and Computer Officers who may have had the same job title for 15 years, even though what they do now bears no relation to either what they did 15 years ago or what other people with the same job title do now. This is particularly noticeable at conferences, where the same rough skills set might be described in 20 different ways on people’s name badges, but it also makes recruitment a bit of a minefield.

We also have a few more esoteric job titles, including a few Data Architects and Infrastructure Architects (who again are nothing to do with architecture). It’s often difficult to make a stab at what some of them do, and sometimes even the (proud?) bearers of these job titles are a little hazy about what they actually mean.

There is also the issue of job titles that only refer to a small part of what someone actually does. I’ve fallen foul of this one myself a few times, and think that is is very important that managers review the job titles, job descriptions and duties of all of their staff on a regular basis to ensure they are still fit for purpose.

It makes me think we need some sort of unity, or at least a naming convention. Should managers have to manage people, or is it fine for them just to manage a service? What makes someone a specialist, an analyst or an advisor? And shouldn’t we make job titles easier for people to understand, both internally and externally?

Maybe then we might have a chance of working out what someone does without having to read their whole job description.

Coming soon…

I have so many things I want to write about right now. Starting with some of the really productive conversations I’ve been having with staff and students about how they use IT, and ending with everything I’ve learned over the last few days at the UCISA conference in Edinburgh. I reckon that’s probably at least a few thousand words of writing, but as I’ve got a few other things to get finished first, I thought I’d at least make a list for my own benefit.

  1. The move towards phones and tablets and away from traditional computers, and what this means for service delivery and support.
  2. Why job descriptions, job titles, and what we actually DO at work should be as closely aligned as possible.
  3. Balancing innovation and stability.
  4. Google Apps, live@edu, and email for life.

I think that covers most of it for now.

Thinking about netbooks (who doesn’t?)

What I want from my next netbook/small laptop:

  1. As much battery life as possible (I’ve heard 14 hours quotes is possible)
  2. The ability to easily upgrade the memory to 4Gb
  3. A keyboard and trackpad that I can learn to love as much as my current Dell Mini
  4. A decent screen resolution, but a fairly small screen size
  5. The ability to run either Mac OS X or some flavour of Linux on it

I think I might be describing the 11″ Macbook Air (which I can’t justify buying, not even for work), but I probably should start thinking about a replacement for my Dell Mini as it’s 2 years old, quite battered, and only lasts about 2.5 hours away from the charger.

But in the meantime, for my upcoming trip to Edinburgh I’ll be relying on the mini, a 50% share in the work Macbook Pro, plus possibly a loaned iPad (we’re going to the UCISA conference in Edinburgh and they seem keen to loan all sorts of tech out to delegates).

A few notes on minimal Linux installations

I figured it was time I got round to finishing off a few blog posts that have been sitting around in dropbox for what seems like weeks. First off is my attempt to build a really fast and light installation of Debian or Ubuntu for netbooks and virtual machines.

This setup will work using either Ubuntu (alternate or server CD) or Debian . It will give you a basic graphical environment, with a web browser, mail client and terminal, and can be built upon with other software (should you find you need any other software). I find this most useful as a virtual machine, or as a minimal installation for a laptop that will largely access a more powerful machine remotely.

1. Install a minimal installation of Debian/Ubuntu. This involves just installing the base packages with no additional package groups. Once you’ve done this, reboot and you should find yourself at a terminal prompt.

2. Install the following packages (as root): x-window-system-core xserver-xorg gnome-core gdm and network-manager-gnome. Once you’ve done this reboot, and you should find yourself at the graphical login prompt.

3. You should find you’ve got epiphany, evolution, gnome-terminal and not a lot else. You can then add anything else you need through apt/aptitude.

I’ve set up a few of these, and find them useful for development, testing and generally having a computer that I can set up easily, break, and then restore to a fixed point in time.

I’d like to pair this setup with a netbook with a decent screen resolution, long battery life, and more than 1Gb of memory. But that’s a subject for another post.