September 19, 2006

Dorks and Geeks and Dweebs, Oh My!

I work in the IT industry, an industry with some real geeks. Really unsurpassed geekdom. I know this because I attended a conference with 300 of my fellow workers yesterday and I'm about to head back for a merciless second day. Looking around the conference room, I was able to group everyone into three categories (politically incorrect to draw such generalizations, I know...).

1. The Geeks. Members of this group are unadulterated geeks. They'd probably even agree. They've got pocket protectors, thick glasses, and no social skills whatsoever. They use PDAs instead of paper, take pictures of slide presentations with their camera phones and wear black socks with sandals. If forced to attend a cocktail party and subsequently forced to speak, they'll speak enthusiastically and only in acronyms leaving everyone else bewildered.

2. The Hotshots. These folks think they've got the coolest jobs in the universe, a universe of which they are the masters. And when you're on a computer on their network, you're playing in their domain. So don't fuck it up. They buy expensive clothes, wear wrap-around shades and drive sporty, impractical cars. Their communication skills far exceed those of the Geeks, but their attitude makes you wish they'd just keep their mouths shut.

3. The Normals...Mostly. Here's where I think I fall (shut up...stop laughing!). See, I dress nice but I don't drive a fancy car. I can talk endlessly about what I do but I know when to shut up. And I can talk about other things too. I don't own a pocket protector nor would I consider wearing socks with sandals and I am modest about whatever mad skillz I happen to have.

Sure, there are some that don't fall as neatly into any of these categories, like the one presenter who spoke for an hour and a half and took tiny swigs of Sprite after every 200 words. Or the guy who walked into the menís room and just started farting. I mean, if you've got to do it anywhere, I guess that's the place but how does one just fart for two or three minutes solid? Oh, and the woman who resembled that freakishly tiny lady from Poltergeist except this person turned out not to be a woman but a strangely effeminate man...with lots of questions.

I'm sure every profession has its freaks, its geeks and its hotshots...but this one seems to have more than most.

Posted by Chris at September 19, 2006 06:20 AM

I'm a Normal...mostly too.

Dad a computer programmer/software creator growing up so know a lot about computers myself and geek out sometimes when true geeks think I am a barbie doll and love seeing their jaws drop as I talk computers.

and yes am up early...or late...damn ADD meds. lol

Posted by: Amy at September 19, 2006 06:35 AM

I totally agree with you. I am a Normal, and buffter/translate between the Hotshot and Geek of our domain. What fun!!

Posted by: josh at September 19, 2006 06:59 AM

I can't really draw those lines in our office. Although, I have made the comment that, "If we were hiring people here based on looks, they'd tell me I was too square and to go away." Lots of people are "hip" or "trendy" and I? Well - I wear striped socks with polos which hardly fall into that category. :o)

Posted by: Emily at September 19, 2006 07:05 AM

I'm *really* a in I know nothing about nothing and I kind of prefer it that way. Heh.

Ok, so if I were to attend a dog grooming conference (and they do have them), I would probably tend towards the mean (average, not cruel!).

Posted by: Contrary at September 19, 2006 07:33 AM

See, Mia normalized you. Now you talk about Mia and then your job! LOL!

Posted by: Maribeth at September 19, 2006 07:45 AM

I hope there's lots of cool swag at the conference, and lots of swag trolls with their big complimentary bags bulging with it.

Posted by: Nicole at September 19, 2006 07:56 AM

My father-in-law would fall into the Geek category--and he'd admit it. He's a chemical engineer/high school history teacher/veterinarian/writer of science fiction screenplays, with absolutey no social skills.

No kidding.

Posted by: Alissa at September 19, 2006 08:01 AM

I don't know what you are talking about. Pocket protectors are hot, man.

Posted by: Fraulein N at September 19, 2006 08:36 AM

There's another category, which a lot of people I work with fall into (me included), but I don't have a name for it yet. We drink coffee made from freshly ground beans, which we buy at the local independent roaster. We wear clothes from the Gap and Banana Republic, but still like to think that we're not like everyone else. And here's the kicker: our favorite radio station has a new slogan, which is "More Pretentious Music" (I shit you not).

So, what would our category name be? Are we normals in denial? Or are we something entirely different, just like we hope?

Posted by: Jessie at September 19, 2006 08:39 AM

I would hope that I'm in the normal category especially in my own little warped world. I have a business conference in San Diego in a few weeks and I'm dreaded the conference part.

I just don't dig all the work talk for 5 straight days. I mean really, how interesting is talking insurance and safety 24/7? Enough is enough and I know when to shut it and walk away slowly.

Posted by: at September 19, 2006 09:10 AM

I have been in programming for about 2 years now. The group I'm in uses Java. Just after I started working here, a co-worker brought in her 6 month old son. My boss made a joke that everyone else thought was hilarious, and I realized that I'd entered a different world. He asked my co-worker if her son was ready to start programming yet. When she said "not yet" He replied with "Well, maybe we can start him on Javascript then" --- Yeah, I'm surrounded by the geeks!

Posted by: ktjrdn at September 19, 2006 09:17 AM

Being normal in your profession unfortunately doesn't prevent you from laboring under the "geek" or "hotshot" label...having been tagged in that manner by outsiders. I imagine you swatting at pesky critics around you, like Frankenstein, and saying "I am NOT a monster!". Except you'll be holding up an "I am NORMAL" sign.

Posted by: wordgirl at September 19, 2006 09:17 AM

My husband's a huge geek in a jock's body.

mmmm ... (sorry got distracted there for a minute)

Which makes him ... fairly normal.

Posted by: s@bd at September 19, 2006 09:19 AM

Hahaaa. My husband works in IT and he proudly considers himself a computer nerd, but I am glad to report that he is not a raging geek and shares the attributes of all three categories you have listed - he has horrible eyesight and would be wearing cokebottle glasses but thankfully there is some technology that makes his lenses thinner, but he does sometimes wear dark socks with sandals (we're working on that one), he drives an impractical sports car, but luckily it's not too fancy and expensive, and he is pretty modest about what he does and only talks about it if you ask him specific questions and express interest. He's got some social skills going for him. He's got hope, right?

Posted by: Sijbrich at September 19, 2006 09:40 AM

I work in IT as well. I think that I pretty much fall into the "normal" category... except my friends don't let me talk about my job anymore. So maybe I'm not so good at being normal as I thought. :P

I'm fine in normal conversation... usually the life of the party, in fact. I just stumble when I assume that people know enough about computers to follow along with what I'm saying. I don't like to talk down to people, so I invariable end up talking over their heads!

It's amazing how so many technical people are incapable of talking to non-technical people AT ALL. We have quite a few people in our department who do good work but whose end-users hate them because they're just too damn brusque.

Posted by: Hope at September 19, 2006 10:02 AM

I work in IT as well. I think that I pretty much fall into the "normal" category... except my friends don't let me talk about my job anymore. So maybe I'm not so good at being normal as I thought. :P

I'm fine in normal conversation... usually the life of the party, in fact. I just stumble when I assume that people know enough about computers to follow along with what I'm saying. I don't like to talk down to people, so I invariable end up talking over their heads!

It's amazing how so many technical people are incapable of talking to non-technical people AT ALL. We have quite a few people in our department who do good work but whose end-users hate them because they're just too damn brusque.

Posted by: Hope at September 19, 2006 10:02 AM

TechDad got hired, in part, because he was Normal enough that he could translate Geek to Hotshot as well as Geek to User.

He's pretty good about not lapsing into technobabble if it's just the two of us, but all of his friends are IT people, my mom is a programmer and my uncle is an engineer, so if anyone else is around, all bets are off.

Posted by: Kate the Shrew at September 19, 2006 10:19 AM

I heard once that a country in South America requires head shots when you post your resume. Thank goodness we aren't that bad in the United States.
I am a geek, and my son is a geek (who the girls are crazy about I might add). I tell him that he should just stay that way because being a geek can pay well! I think geeks are nicer too. My boss always says "You can teach skills but you can't teach nice". He's got a point.

Posted by: Jamie at September 19, 2006 10:39 AM

More than most, but you captured them perfectly!

Posted by: Queen of Ass at September 19, 2006 10:42 AM

Hey... didn't they make an 80's movie about your meeting? You know a bunch of kids at a Saturday detention... lol...

Yeah, Mostly normal. I work for an IT company, and you're right, they can fit into those 3 categories. Luckily, we're a small company, so we're all "normal... mostly".

Posted by: Karen at September 19, 2006 10:46 AM

The academic world has plenty of freaky people too... Oh the stories I could tell. But this comment would never end!

Posted by: E :) at September 19, 2006 10:47 AM

I am the IT person in the normal category. I am definitely skilled in "translating" since I work with a bunch of "hotshot" airplane mechanics. They dont get this IT stuff at all but try to apply their airplane troubleshooting skills to a computer, which sometimes works, and sometimes creates a huge disaster!

Posted by: Steff at September 19, 2006 10:53 AM

I've attended a few engineering conferences - and I have to say, at least the IT one sounds more entertaining. You at least have *categories* of people.. the engineering ones (specifically oil and gas engineering...oy), not so much with the categories. Well, maybe ONE category. SIGH.

Posted by: Kristen at September 19, 2006 10:57 AM

I'd break your Normals down into two groups: 1) those who love technical stuff so much they go home and read O'Reilly books and mod their X-boxes 2) those who dig computers a lot, but don't bring it up over lunch or idle conversation because geez, we get enough of that during those 45 daylight hours we spend entrenched in it.

I'm a Normal-2.

Posted by: Brad at September 19, 2006 11:52 AM

I was a geek of a different color. You know, the kind with sassy hips, cleavage, bouncy blonde hair and serious grrrl attitude. Pockets? Ha.

Alas. That's all in the past. However, tight jeans and pretty blue suspenders to accent my, uh, technical assets probably helped me land my sweetie hobbitt. And that was a long time ago, too.

I miss reading machine code. I miss reading dumps, and most of all I miss trouble shooting. Truly.

161 shopping days until my 50th birthday! Get cracking.

Posted by: bhd at September 19, 2006 11:53 AM

Yea, the lawyering world has a few not so pleasant (or some might say very entertaining) categories:

The proteges: Mostly young, mostly precocious, making entirely too much money for someone under 40. Intelligent, snobby, smarmy and insufferable. Usually given cases that far exceed their ability..they manage to pull it off....and don't miss any opportunities to rub it in your face. You don't want to be friends with these people. Addicted to their Blackberries

The keeper-uppers: Usually young, but age is variable. Always slightly behind on things, always racing to return phone calls and emails. Always behind on work. Usually nice, usually pretty smart (but not brilliant) but woefully disorganized, doesn't usually get better. Fun at parties. Probably don't own Blackberries.

The normals: Sometimes snobby, sometimes disorganized...usually pretty intelligent and usually accompanied with a senior laywer who is keeping them in check. That is why they are normal...that is why they are the ONLY people with whom you want to make friends. Own Blackberries...but have enough class (and common sense) to not be text messaging during dinner parties or casual conversations. Rarities.

Posted by: wn at September 19, 2006 12:00 PM

i think the husband (also in the It industry) falls in the normal category...although he does play xbox religiously. against his friends. online. he.

Posted by: ali at September 19, 2006 12:21 PM

I'm a daughter of an engineering geek and a wife to a normal (well, relatively so...deep down he's really a geek). And my friends and I have another name for the Hot Shots. We call them the Ivory Tower's, for that's where they choose to live. And we all wish they'd stay there.;)

Posted by: Kelly at September 19, 2006 12:37 PM

My husband never fit in in college. He always was dressed too nicely and peppered his speech with big words. Then we went to a professional philosophy conference and, all of a sudden, he fit in! He looked like 80% of the other attendees. It was a little creepy.

Then he went into IT and he really still fits. He's more of a normal, though he certainly has geeky tendencies. Those little geeky parts are endearing, though. Otherwise he would be ultra-smart, cute, and nicely dressed, and I'd be intimidated! Of course, then I'd remember the mullet photos...

Posted by: heels at September 19, 2006 12:46 PM

So if I wear socks with my birks in the winter it makes me a geek? Oh well, I was on the Quiz Bowl team in high school.

Posted by: Heather at September 19, 2006 01:06 PM

At my last job there were 40 employees in IT, and I would swear at least 30 of them were in the geek category. I'm not kidding. No hotshots whatsoever, but the remaining ten I think were fairly "normal".

Of course "normal" is a pretty relative term when it's coming from me. LOL

Posted by: Evil Genius at September 19, 2006 01:24 PM

I was a total geek for about 2 years - nearly twenty years ago. It's amazing how quickly technology has changed - the mad skilz I had back in the day mean nothing today, so I've had to become "normal".
I've got to admit, it's a lot easier keeping up with "normal" than it is to keep up your "geek" status...

Posted by: IFLYG at September 19, 2006 07:50 PM

I constantly feel like I'm fighting against the stereotype that accountants are bean counters. Not all of us are the dorks who wear the green visors - honest. I must admit, however, that there are definitely personality differences between tax accountants and auditors. Luckily, as an auditor I fall into the cool category. But don't confuse me with an IRS auditor - that's a different beast altogether!

Posted by: Beth in StL at September 19, 2006 11:33 PM

I think I fall in the Normal category. I try pretty hard to not let my geekdom shine through. I'm definately not a hotshot. I know that there is so much out there I have yet to learn, and I know that there is more than one way to fix a problem. I know that when I really don't want to talk about work to certain people, I can put on the geek hat and scare them a way. Now THAT is talent. :)

Posted by: molly at September 20, 2006 10:50 AM

My husband is in that industry too and he would totally agree. He does marketing for IT software, so his job is to figure out what those kinds of people want, and how to sell it to them. He was at a conference in Boston recently and came back with some entertaining stories :)

Posted by: SMIT at September 20, 2006 05:31 PM

I just posted a comment and I think it got eaten. So i'm posting again just to see if it always does that, or if your blog has it in for me. Feel free to delete this.

Posted by: SMIT at September 20, 2006 05:34 PM

Nope, it didn't get eaten, it just appeared. And now I'm officially a dork.

Posted by: SMIT at September 20, 2006 05:35 PM

Maybe the fart guy had a colonoscopy the previous day. My dad swears he could (and probably did) fart all day the following day.

Posted by: Melissa at September 20, 2006 06:24 PM

I live where the center of the tech world is located so although that isn't my field, there is a lot of overlap. I know exactly what you mean with regard to all three categories--really made me laugh.

Posted by: Helen at September 23, 2006 01:51 PM