Somehow, I became the Head of IT for my family. Nothing could be more ironic. Trust me.
Tech is not my forte. Given my heritage, I tend to espouse the Polish method when something does not work - hit it a few times and hope the problem goes away. Maybe blow on it like we used to old Nintendo games. Unplug it if it is an emergency. Read a blog if it is life or death. But in reality, I usually close my eyes and hope for the best, or at least for my husband to get home, or for my friend Dave to answer one of my nineteen panicked text messages. Yes, this is utterly non-feminist of me, but it is what it is.
And yet, while sheltering in place with my parents, I have been deemed the Head of IT for the entire WFH household. I know I am not alone.
Millions of grown adults, Gen Zers through millennials up to old hags like me, have moved back to their parents' homes during these times, and judging by the myriad of messages from relatives and friends, it seems that my “promotion” is not unique. But honestly, isn't there someone else that can do this job? Let alone, do it better?
Perhaps the real question I am asking myself while impatiently hovering over my family’s computer with that circle thingy spinning is, why are so many things digital really a covert den of complication, a neatly wrapped package of aggravation that somehow demands someone like me to manage it, even if I am vastly underqualified, not to mention, uninterested?
I mean, my mom has an MBA, my father a Ph.D.. They are not stupid. Furthermore, languages come easily to me; I am native level fluent in three and conversational in a couple others, especially when wine is involved. But digital languages and I are simply incommunicado. Alas, in this Dantian WFH realm I have still been christened the Head of IT.
When learning human languages, the Homosapien interaction ensures that there is no failure, just progress. For example, let us say you are a beginner Italian speaker and travel to Rome. You sit in an ivy clad piazza for your first lunch, salivating for a spritz and carbonara, drooling over, well, everything Italian. You timidly order, conscientious, shy, anticipatory, but quickly realize it does not matter if your exchange lacked precise grammar or pronunciation; the tanned, Apollian waiter understood what you wanted, likely smiled, warmly gesticulated, and helped you along to your pasta dreams. You may have even fallen in love during the whole exchange.
The approach may not have been perfect, but it worked. You got through by fumbling along. That is real life.
Digital linguistics, on the other hand, are binary. The machine turns on, or it does not. The printer connects wirelessly, or you are swearing at whoever is making you print something in 2020 to begin with. In the languages of tech, either what you “say” is effective, or it is as if you did not say anything at all, words spoken to a coded black hole, gently luring you into a frustrated abyss.
In the digital realms that govern our life, you cannot rally back and forth with a breathing human. Instead, you are subjected to agonizing with a wall you cannot see. Yes, techies claim it is smooth, evolving, intelligent. Personally, I just want to bang my head up against it. Well, to be honest, I would probably rather bang my head up against a real wall; somehow I feel like that would be less painful.
As I type this, I realize I am setting myself up for a massive scandal; I grew up in the heart of Silicon Valley, after all. But WFH has obliged me to speak up. Tech is not intuitive for everyone, yet everyone is expected to be fluent in tech.
That said, I must confess that sometimes my newfound role does make me feel like a superhero. Hugs for connecting to a Youtube Live, high-fives for making voicemail function again, happy dances for making the printer work, merely by turning it on. It is not all bad, especially the laughs that accompany fixing some of the issues.
While most of the issues I am asked to fix are not complicated, they are also not instinctual. Ordering an epic pasta in a sunny piazza with a gorgeous Italian is instinctual. Digital matters are inherently artificial, and right now, the world needs real.
Tech giants, make it easier for us mortals. Spell out the minutia, as redundant as it may seem. Give us a step-by-step, sub-bullet point by sub-sub-bullet point, clearly delineated handbook to help us resolve all the issues that do, in fact, arise. And for heaven’s sake, make humans available to help us even for what you consider the most mundane concerns; I am certain that there are plenty of people better equipped and more excited to be the Head of IT for my WFH household.
And while we are at it, I think my fellow Heads of IT and I need a raise, maybe even an enhanced benefits package. At the very least, we need more wine. Actually, maybe that is what those real IT guys at real companies with pony tails and funny sandals are sipping on all day long in their water bottles, after all. Is that how they deal with all of us?
WFH is going to be here for a while; we non fluent techies need help. If we are going to survive, companies need to give us access to genuinely intelligent humans and fire people like me. It is just the decent thing to do.