Adopting the Mindset of the IT Ninja

Lately I see a lot of people, IT Professionals and others, seeking (not always giving) gratitude online for their hard work. Now, first off, it’s certainly earned during these trying times. With everyone working, learning, and, well, living at home – all the time – we are putting the internet, remote access related resources, and various SaaS to a serious test and with few exceptions they really haven’t skipped a beat. IT Professionals are doing amazing things right now to help keep life going throughout this pandemic. But if I’ve learned anything from working in IT for the last 15 plus years it’s that silence is the highest form of gratitude.

I didn’t always feel this way. I, too, often sought feedback and gratitude as a greenhorn Help Desk’er. Gratitude meant happy customers and if people weren’t happy with my work I took it as a learning experience. However, that all changed one day thanks to a promotion from SolarWinds.

I got this promotional email one day. If I signed up for a free trial of some product, participated in a webinar, I’d get an IT Ninja sticker. Nearly identical to the Ninja pictured here:

Copyright SolarWinds

Now, what I thought I was getting was a sticker small enough to slap on the lid of my laptop, so I filled out the form and downloaded the promotional stuff. Six to eight weeks later I had nearly forgotten about the sticker when a long tube arrived in my mailbox. Puzzled, because I didn’t order anything that I was expecting to show up in a tube, I opened it and BAM! It’s a giant wall sized sticker of this IT Ninja! It was about two feet or so wide and three feet from head to toe. It was amazing!

For years this IT Ninja lived in the tube as I tried to find the perfect home for it. So, one day I just decided to bring it to work and I hung it up in the office. At the time as I was an IT Manager for a global manufacturing company. Members of my team were starting to get frustrated. They’d spend literally hours and days working away on projects for people or departments and then receive next to nothing in return for their hard work, often not even a simple “thank you.”

If you can’t change your situation, change your attitude.

One day, as this IT Ninja and I were having our regularly schedule staring contest I realized – we are Ninjas! Ninjas do their jobs undetected! They get in, do their job, and then they get out! They lurk in the shadows and only other Ninjas would truly understand and appreciate the effort that they put in, and the training, discipline, and dedication it takes to be a Ninja.

I shared my thoughts with my team one day during our weekly team meeting and we all agreed and adopted the mantra of the IT Ninja. We understood that fewer help desk calls and complaints meant that people were, generally speaking, happy and able to work with few to no interruptions. We worked hard, we stayed late to do maintenance windows, and we did it mostly without thanks or praises from anyone other than each other. This paid off! We helped each other, we thanked each other, we kept tickets to a minimum and basked in the glow that was the silence from those around us. Our spirits rose and we felt better and more appreciated for the work we were doing.

People that don’t work in IT often can’t even begin to understand what we do. But, that can also be said about jobs outside of IT that we, as IT Professionals, just don’t understand. We often don’t appreciate as much what we don’t understand. We take for granted the stuff that just works and don’t care to peak behind the curtain until it stops working.

So, before you go seeking thanks and praise, pandemic or not, think of the IT Ninja. If you don’t have anyone knocking down your door, blowing up your inbox or phone then you’re doing your job! Bask in the quiet and enjoy being undetected. Show gratitude to your fellow IT Ninjas because only you know what it took to get here.

In, closing, I do want to take a minute to thank everyone for their hard work. I know a lot of people that have been working very hard to transition entire workforces to work from home. Building the laptops, deploying the upgraded firewalls to support additional VPN connections. Rushing through SaaS migrations. Stretching already thin budgets to make it work. You’ve taken entire school districts and moved their curriculum online. Taught your co-workers how to use Zoom, Webex or [insert online meeting tool here]. The late nights. The early mornings. All while home schooling your kids. And the list of extraordinary work goes on. Keep up the amazing work and stay safe my fellow Ninjas!

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