Options

A "What do you do for a living?" response to non-IT people

RHELRHEL Member Posts: 195 ■■■□□□□□□□
I'm sure this is going to seem like a very silly post to some people; however, I ALWAYS dread it when I'm asked this and struggle with providing an answer that is A) accurate and B) understandable to your average non-IT person.

I understand that most of the time, this question really is just a formality of small-talk and the person asking probably doesn't even care about your response... And really, I think I'm often better off just making something up: "I'm an uhh... I'm unemployed." At least this response will almost guarantee no follow-up questions! :)

I guess I am stuck somewhere between rambling on and on to try and actually clarify what it is I do and selling myself short. My official job title will confuse someone, and nearly any response with the word computer or technology in it will lead to a follow-up of... "So you're help desk...?"

Yeah, I suppose it is partially an ego trip. I've given in and said, "Yeah something like that." just to move topics... But at the same time, I'm not help desk. I'm something entirely not help desk. I enjoy my job and enjoy talking about it, but it becomes very difficult to non-IT folks.

My wife explained it to me once -- yes most people comprehend that computer systems comprise the infrastructure of most businesses; however, they're not aware of the complexities within IT and that there are actual people running these systems.

Beyond that, explaining the OS/UNIX portion of it... Forget about it. icon_sad.gif

Ending my rant now... Does anyone else ever encounter this dilemma? What's the best way around it?
«1

Comments

  • Options
    Tom ServoTom Servo Member Posts: 104 ■■□□□□□□□□
    My answer - I do IT stuff. 9 times out of 10, that has satisifed any non-IT person that is asking. If they ask additional questions, I say I do IT security stuff. That is where my explanation stops, unless the person is genuinely interested, which is very very rare. I may sell myself short, but I have no reason to try and impress friends, family, wife's friends, etc.
  • Options
    iBrokeITiBrokeIT Member Posts: 1,318 ■■■■■■■■■□
    All the time. Know your audience. Keep it light and general. I tell people "I am professional nerd that works with the company's technology infrastructure."

    If I tell some non-techie that I work with a medium sized VMware vSphere 5.1 environment it produces a glazed over look on their faces and follow up questions where I have to explain myself further. No thanks....

    Also when dealing with the "can you fix my broken X" i usually refer them to a local computer shop as their rate is cheaper than mine unless I owe them one.
    2019: GPEN | GCFE | GXPN | GICSP | CySA+ 
    2020: GCIP | GCIA 
    2021: GRID | GDSA | Pentest+ 
    2022: GMON | GDAT
    2023: GREM  | GSE | GCFA

    WGU BS IT-NA | SANS Grad Cert: PT&EH | SANS Grad Cert: ICS Security | SANS Grad Cert: Cyber Defense Ops SANS Grad Cert: Incident Response
  • Options
    aftereffectoraftereffector Member Posts: 525 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I work as a battalion S6 in the Army, which is something that half of this website probably isn't familiar with. I explain my job as "managing computer security, so like if there is a virus on the network, I manage the incident response to fix the network". Most people know what viruses are, and most people understand what fixing problems on the network is about, so I rarely have to keep talking :)

    I generally leave out the more confusing parts of my job entirely - like the parts where I am in charge of LOS and BLOS RF systems, communications security, various tactical C4ISR assemblages, and so on. No one is going to care about any of that.
    CCIE Security - this one might take a while...
  • Options
    citrus_sugarcitrus_sugar Member Posts: 35 ■■□□□□□□□□
    I tell people I get in my hamster wheel and make the internet work. They're usually satisfied with that. If they ask for details, I'll just say I'm in IT and they usually don't ask further unless they're a fellow techie.
    Goals for 2014: Summer Internship, Graduate, Net+, Sec+, CCENT
  • Options
    SweenMachineSweenMachine Member Posts: 300 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Yeah;; I just say I work in IT -- Everyone knows what IT is these days, so I just leave it at that... If they wanna know more, I will ask.. but if I ask someone and they say "I work in Sales for Blahblah", I don't start grilling them either... lots of fields are very specific and lots of jobs are very niche. not just IT

    -scott
  • Options
    BGravesBGraves Member Posts: 339
    I'm with Tom Servo, I just do "computer stuff"
    Explaining beyond that to anyone other than my wife is a nightmare.
  • Options
    jeffgibbsjeffgibbs Member Posts: 25 ■□□□□□□□□□
    I work as a battalion S6 in the Army, which is something that half of this website probably isn't familiar with. I explain my job as "managing computer security, so like if there is a virus on the network, I manage the incident response to fix the network". Most people know what viruses are, and most people understand what fixing problems on the network is about, so I rarely have to keep talking :)

    I generally leave out the more confusing parts of my job entirely - like the parts where I am in charge of LOS and BLOS RF systems, communications security, various tactical C4ISR assemblages, and so on. No one is going to care about any of that.

    as one signal guy to another - dont you hate how everyone in the Army assumes that a a signal guy you automatically know how to connect any proxima to a laptop? As though you are taken aside and given a secret class on them.
  • Options
    diggitlediggitle Member Posts: 118 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Just be careful with using techie, computer guy, IT guy, tech guru unless you have the time devoted or desire for taking questions and possibly fixing people's computers. I learned my lesson when I got a call from a random person with my area code (I live in another state now) that was fielded by my mom......lol Just recently I got a call from a friend (while at work) whom wanted me to scope out, price and install a security system for his lawyer, due to him thinking his secretary was stealing money from him....lol Although It's cool getting my name out there getting calls when at work isn't always cool.

    When i was in Iraq (04-05) everybody wanted to learn how to make free calls. Yea like im going to jail for that.
    c colon i net pub dubdubdub root
  • Options
    pitviperpitviper Member Posts: 1,376 ■■■■■■■□□□
    I just say I build and troubleshoot complex voice and data networks. It’s enough info for those that care to ask further questions while at the same time suggesting that I don’t give a flying crap about your home/kids computers. :)
    CCNP:Collaboration, CCNP:R&S, CCNA:S, CCNA:V, CCNA, CCENT
  • Options
    networker050184networker050184 Mod Posts: 11,962 Mod
    diggitle wrote: »
    When i was in Iraq (04-05) everybody wanted to learn how to make free calls. Yea like im going to jail for that.

    That is how I got most of my cool souvenirs back in '03! Let the infantry guys make some calls home in exchange for something interesting.
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
  • Options
    puertorico1985puertorico1985 Member Posts: 205
    I usually say "I work with computers." Sometimes that has lead the conversation to "Oh so you fix computers? Well, let me tell you about this problem I have."

    That has only happened just a few times, but more times than not, that ends the conversation with non-computer folks.
  • Options
    kohr-ahkohr-ah Member Posts: 1,277
    I usually tell people my job is to ensure my company's internet keeps working.
  • Options
    Alif_Sadida_EkinAlif_Sadida_Ekin Member Posts: 341 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I'm an ETL Developer. Try explaining what ETL and data warehousing are to non technical people....

    I usually just tell people I'm a database developer and leave it at that. Close enough.
    AWS: Solutions Architect Associate, MCSA, MCTS, CIW Professional, A+, Network+, Security+, Project+

    BS, Information Technology
  • Options
    instant000instant000 Member Posts: 1,745
    I tell them that I work on computers for a living.

    Then comes the follow-up questions, where they try to get free advice on a computer issue.

    At this point, my usual advice is that it would be cheaper to buy another computer. :)
    Currently Working: CCIE R&S
    LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/lewislampkin (Please connect: Just say you're from TechExams.Net!)
  • Options
    BundimanBundiman Member Posts: 201
    I also say I make sure that computers can talk to each other and keep the bad stuff from the internet from getting to the computers
    Bachelor of Science, IT - Security Emphasis (Start Date: Apr 1st, 2013)
    Bachelor of Science, IT - Security Emphasis (Completed: Apr 25t, 2014)
  • Options
    UnixGuyUnixGuy Mod Posts: 4,567 Mod
    I don't like that sometimes "IT" is looked down upon, when I say IT I usually get a negative response, but who cares anyway :)
    Certs: GSTRT, GPEN, GCFA, CISM, CRISC, RHCE

    Learn GRC! GRC Mastery : https://grcmastery.com 

  • Options
    ande0255ande0255 Banned Posts: 1,178
    I usually just say "When you check your facebook at work, I'm the one that makes your computer load the webpage," and when they say facebook is blocked at work, I respond with "I'm the one who does that too."

    Usually gets me one or two dirty looks out of the group icon_cheers.gif
  • Options
    NovaHaxNovaHax Member Posts: 502 ■■■■□□□□□□
    This is a question I hate dealing with too. If I tell people I'm in security, they think I'm the guy driving the golf cart around the Walmart parking lot. Saying I'm a hacker takes too much of an explanation, because of all the negative connotations. Saying a penetration tester gets even weirder reactions. These days, I just tell people I'm a consultant and hope they don't ask any other questions.
  • Options
    Master Of PuppetsMaster Of Puppets Member Posts: 1,210
    NovaHax wrote: »
    This is a question I hate dealing with too. If I tell people I'm in security, they think I'm the guy driving the golf cart around the Walmart parking lot. Saying I'm a hacker takes too much of an explanation, because of all the negative connotations. Saying a penetration tester gets even weirder reactions. These days, I just tell people I'm a consultant and hope they don't ask any other questions.

    Absolutely :D I have yet to meet someone who reacts with something other than a blank stare when I respond to the question 'What do you do?'. Only my friends understand because they are in IT. I usually say computer security because people have no idea what network security is, for example. After it has become obvious that I have said something they have never heard before, I add "computer stuff" :D . I really don't like this question because it never leads to anything meaningful other than leave the people asking baffled.
    Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for.
  • Options
    stryder144stryder144 Member Posts: 1,684 ■■■■■■■■□□
    I used to say, "I work in telecom". They usually followed up with, "but your wife said you work in IT, I didn't realize you worked on telephones". I then follow up by saying that my primary duties involve drinking lots of Dew and listening to heavy metal while monitoring phone calls...what's your phone number?! I didn't ask them to invite me to their parties, so not being invited back is worth it, to me!
    The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don't let them put you in that position. ~ Leo Buscaglia

    Connect With Me || My Blog Site || Follow Me
  • Options
    Heracles004Heracles004 Member Posts: 50 ■■■□□□□□□□
    My most common response to the question is I work with computers, I make them talk to each other securely. Keep it short, simple and move on. This is good enough for most people.
    .
  • Options
    markulousmarkulous Member Posts: 2,394 ■■■■■■■■□□
    I'm at a help desk so I just say that people call in with computer issues and I fix them. Pretty self-explanatory even to the layman.
  • Options
    jibbajabbajibbajabba Member Posts: 4,317 ■■■■■■■■□□
    My standard responses are

    "You wouldn't understand" - and if questioned anyway I come up with the most complicate buzzword nonsense
    "I'd have to kill you if I tell you" - and if questioned, see above :p
    My own knowledge base made public: http://open902.com :p
  • Options
    5ekurity5ekurity Member Posts: 346 ■■■□□□□□□□
    NovaHax wrote: »
    This is a question I hate dealing with too. If I tell people I'm in security, they think I'm the guy driving the golf cart around the Walmart parking lot. Saying I'm a hacker takes too much of an explanation, because of all the negative connotations. Saying a penetration tester gets even weirder reactions. These days, I just tell people I'm a consultant and hope they don't ask any other questions.

    LOL..I get the exact same thing. I just say I work in Information Security or Computer Security, and they must miss the first part and ask "Oh so your like, a bouncer at the door?" - umm...kinda, but not really??
  • Options
    zidianzidian Member Posts: 132
    My response is typically "I write software." This works for most people. However, I have had a number of people ask me to write facebook for them so we could be rich together.
    WGU BS-IT Software | Completed 9/30/2014
  • Options
    wallpaper_01wallpaper_01 Member Posts: 226 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I say IT, some say "what sort of IT?", I start explaining and usually their eyes wander with lack of interest.
  • Options
    linuxloverlinuxlover Banned Posts: 228
    I hate this question. I always say "computer stuff" which is enough for a lot of people but then you have these [insert an insult here] who don't have any interest in what you do but still ask a follow-up just for the sake of the conversation and you need to reply again with more details. Then I freeze with boiling in my head and I just say "what's the difference, you woudn't understand anyway" and then they say "yea but still tell me" then I have to explain it and they just look at me saying "yeah I don't know what you're talking about". Y U MAKE ME ANGRY!?
  • Options
    the_Grinchthe_Grinch Member Posts: 4,165 ■■■■■■■■■■
    I use to say I was in waste management just to avoid getting the "my computer is doing this" questions. Know I can say I'm a regulator and avoid the IT question all together.
    WIP:
    PHP
    Kotlin
    Intro to Discrete Math
    Programming Languages
    Work stuff
  • Options
    NyblizzardNyblizzard Member Posts: 332 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I'm looking forward to the day when I can say "It's classified"
    O
    /|\
    / \
  • Options
    pitviperpitviper Member Posts: 1,376 ■■■■■■■□□□
    Meh, the question really doesn't bother me – I probably care less about what the asking party does then he/she cares about my profession. I do hate the fact that all levels of IT are lumped together, including the so called genius’s. “oh, my son works at the apple store – you guys have a lot in common”…

    I work with a lot of mortgage bankers - I tell them all of the time that all they do is "sell money". They don't like that either :)
    CCNP:Collaboration, CCNP:R&S, CCNA:S, CCNA:V, CCNA, CCENT
Sign In or Register to comment.