Does IT demand too much commitment?

It's no secret that IT is not a line of work for the strict 9-to-5ers who walk among us.

I've never believed in the dreadful style of IT management that sees level of commitment as directly proportional to hours spent on the job, but I do expect my team to respond in critical situations at odd hours (fortunately, we've succeeded in creating a stable environment, so calls at odd hours are rare). A good night's sleep and relaxing weekends are the rewards for good planning and architecture -- but everyone realizes that we might need to convene a SWAT team to solve unforeseen problems at any point.

That's just the way IT works. For most IT professionals, a generally flexible schedule and stimulating opportunities to solve problems and learn new things keeps the IT game interesting, despite the long hours. (And, of course, IT is fun.)

The dark side of this is that a job in IT can consume every waking hour if you let it. Successfully managing an IT career demands that you achieve a balance between personal life and career -- and to a large extent, the example set by CTOs and CIOs within a company set the overall cultural tone that determines how IT staff approach the issue themselves.

Recently I read the glowing profile of a prominent IT executive that outlined his typical day: 10 to 12 hours at the office, three to four hours online at home at night, usually followed by intense late night conference calls from home with developers. Although the piece painted a portrait of a real get-things-done IT mover-and-shaker who clearly met his performance goals, I found myself feeling anything but inspired by the story as a few details caught my eye.

The executive's wife had banned his use of the speakerphone for the late night developer conference calls so she and the kids could sleep. His assistant noted that during a recent family vacation, he had threatened to check his family out of their hotel because it didn't have broadband.

For me, these particulars add up to an aggressively unhealthy culture that views family as an impediment to IT success.

It's true that, thanks to the march of globalization, the sun never sets on IT, but a healthy balance delivers the best ROI.

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