Why “Pro” in IT Pro?

Once again, it’s an honor to help celebrate IT Pro Day—a recognition of the women and men of IT, who do so much more than simply keep the blinkenlights on. If you follow SolarWinds even casually, you’ll notice among all the tortured taxonomies technology vendors transmogrify, “IT pro” seems to be unique to us. And this year, I’d like to offer my theory of why, here on THWACK, where so many IT pros connect every day.

You don’t have to go far in the world outside technology to see “pro” used in ads to suggest an association with power and capability. No [Heavy|Super] Duty 4x4 pickup ad is complete without mud-bog slow-mo, and diamond plate “PRO GRADE” bolted, welded, or riveted to the screen. “Pro strength” cleaners promise to get out stains amateur detergents apparently leave behind. The retail world is overstuffed with “prosumer” product lines, and the third column of many good/better/best product comparison charts is labeled “pro.” It would seem everyone, even technology civilians, knows what “pro” means.

Or do they?

Consumers aren’t supposed to stash more gear in a “pro” tacklebox—it just has chunkier corners. $100 of “pro” access points are usually better than a single router/AP stashed in a corner, but they’re no brace of Meraki. And worksite pickups are one-ton 350s or bigger, not ¾-ton 250s. In consumer land at least, “pro” seems not to be an actual rating, qualification, or demonstrated suitability to task, but used to evoke an essence. It’s “of the pros,” suggesting something a professional would use while professional-ing. So, the real question is, who is this mythical professional? This legend, who simply improves things?

In technology, you know a pro when you see one. Like a pro athlete, they make everything look easy, or at least for IT, easier. They’re dependable, tenacious, and see problems all the way through to resolution. They share their expertise and eagerly teach others how to succeed. Better, they always seem specially crafted to handle any situation. A pro is someone who walks into the room and says, “I’ve got this,” and everyone is confident they do.

So, when you hear me talking about IT pros, this is what I mean. They don’t “play with technology” on the businesses’ dime—they use technology to achieve business goals. They don’t “spend time in IT” while they look for greener grass—they build rewarding careers keeping evolving tech hype and promise in check. And most of all, they don’t run from Ops—instead, they dive in, company after company, seeking to understand the nuances of system performance from the bottom of infrastructure all the way up to end users.

Perhaps the real IT meaning of “pro” is the same as its Latin roots in late Middle English, meaning literally “for, on behalf of.” Only with IT pros, the “for” is related to users, not just to craft. IT pros—the THWACK community—are working on behalf of end users. They work tirelessly, with a smile, on behalf of everyone who counts on them. IT pros are a skillful lot, but more than that, they woke up one day to decide helpfulness would be their profession, and technology merely their tool of choice.

So, here’s to all of you on IT Pro Day 2019. Thanks for deciding to not only be a part of IT, but making IT a profession, not just an occupation. It’s always a pleasure to work with you.

Happy IT Pro Day,


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