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Everything I Needed To Know About IT I Learned from Logan (Part One)

Level 17

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"When the student is ready, the teacher appears."

I mentioned this idea back when I revealed that the Marvel® movie, Doctor Strange, offered a wealth of lessons for itinerant IT pros (and a few for us grizzled veterans, as well). You can find Part Four here and work your way back from there.

It seems inspiration has struck again, this time in the unlikeliest of cinema experiences. There, among the rampant gore and adamantium-laced rage (not to mention the frequent f-bombs), I was struck by how Logan1 held a few IT gems of its own.

It behooves me to remind you that there are many spoilers beyond this point. If you haven't seen the movie yet, and don't want to know what's coming, bookmark this page to enjoy later.

Your most reliable tool could, at some future point, become toxic if you aren't able to let go and move on.

In the movie, it is revealed that Logan is slowly dying from the inside out. Adamantium, it seems, is not exactly surgical-grade metal, and the toxins have been leaching into his system. Initially held off by his healing factor, the continuous presence of the poison finally takes its toll and does what war, enemies, drowning, and even multiple timelines and horrible sequels could not.

One good lesson we should all draw from this is to keep evil shadow government agencies from lacing our skeletons with untested metals.

But a more usable lesson might be to let go of tools, techniques, and ideas when they become toxic to us. Even when they still appear to be useful, the wise IT pro understands when it is time to let go of the old before it becomes a deadly embrace.

When you see some of yourself in the next generation of IT pros, give them the chance to be better than you were.

Logan: "Bad sh*t happens to people I care about. Understand me?"

Laura: "I should be fine then."

(Later) Logan: "Don't be what they made you."

Many IT professionals eventually reach a tipping point when the adrenaline produced by the new, shiny, and exciting tends to wear off, and the ugly starts to become apparent. Understand, a career in IT is no uglier than other careers.

There are a few potential reasons why the honeymoon phase tends to be more euphoric, and the emotional crash when the work becomes a grind more noticeable. It could possibly be because IT is still a relatively new field. Maybe it’s because IT reinvents itself every decade or so. Maybe it is because the cost of entry is relatively low. In other words, it often takes no more than a willingness to learn and a couple of decent breaks.

And when that tipping point comes, often a number of years into one's career, it's easy to become "that" person. The bitter, grizzled veteran. The skeptic. The cynic who tries to "help" by warning newcomers of the horror that awaits.

Or you become a different version of "that" person, the aloof loner who wants nothing to do with the fresh crop of geeks who just walked in off the street in the latest corporate hiring binge.

In either case, you do yourself and the world around you a great disservice with such behavior.

In the movie, Logan first avoids helping, and when that option is no longer available to him, he attempts to avoid getting emotionally involved. As an audience, we know (even if we've never read the "Old Man Logan" source material), that this tactic will ultimately fail. We know we'll see the salty, world-weary X-Man open his heart to a strange child before the final credits.

What's more, the movie makes plain the opportunities Logan throws away when he chooses a snide remark instead of attempting to get to know Laura, that strange child.

So, the lesson to us as IT professionals is that we shouldn't let a bad experience make us feel bad about ourselves, or about our career. And we certainly shouldn't let it get in the way of being a kind and welcoming person to someone new to their career. If anything, we - like Logan at the end of the movie - should try to find those small kernels of capital-T Truth and pass them along, hopefully in ways and at moments when our message will be heard and received in the spirit in which it is meant.

Persistent problems need to be faced, fixed, and removed, not ignored and categorized as someone else's problem.

Near the beginning of the movie, the reaver Donald Pierce tracks down Logan and asks him for information about Gabrielle, the nurse who rescued Laura from the facility where she and the other child mutants were being raised. Donald makes it clear that he isn’t interested in bringing Logan in for the bounty. He simply wants information.

Again, because of his drive to distance himself from the rest of the world, Logan takes this at face value. Even though it is clear that Pierce intends no good for whoever it is he was hunting, Logan is happy it just didn't involve him.

And of course, the choice comes back to haunt him.

Now I'm not suggesting that Logan should have clawed him in the face in that first scene because, even in as brutal a movie as Logan, that's still not how the world works. But what I am saying is that if you let Pierce be a metaphor for a problem that isn't directly threatening your environment right now, but could come home to roost with disastrous results later, then... yeah, I am saying that you should (metaphorically speaking) claw that bastard’s eyeballs out.

I'm looking at you, #WannaCry.

Even when your experiences have made you jaded, hang on to your capacity to care.

Tightly connected to the previous thought about encouraging the next generation of IT professionals is the idea that we need to do things NOW that allow us to hold on to our capacity to care about people. As Thomas LaRock wrote recently, "Relationships Matter More Than Money" (https://thomaslarock.com/2017/05/relationships-matter-money/).  I would extend this further to include the idea that relationships matter more than a job, and they certainly matter more than a bad day.

In the movie, no moment exemplifies this as poignantly as the line that became one of the key voiceover elements in the trailer. In finding a family in trouble, Charles demands they stop and help. Logan retorts, "Someone will come along!" Charles responds quietly but just as forcefully, "Someone HAS come along."

But that isn't all I learned! Stay tuned for future installments of this series. And until then, Excelsior!

1 “Logan” (2017), Marvel Entertainment, distributed by 20th Century Fox

22 Comments
MVP
MVP

Well put adatole​ !

One line stood out above all others, for me:

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This applies to all aspects of our world.  A few poisons come to mind, like prejudice, narrow-mindedness, greed, absence of altruism.

It also applies to paranoia, blindly allowing principles of freedom to be compromised in reaction to fear, real or perceived.

Are we resigned to living in a world where governments routinely insert taps into network nodes like AT&T and Sprint, to make copies of all conversations and data flows, and to analyze them for loyalty or threat or crime--without specific intent?  Gathering all data and analyzing it and storing it for future accusations may be beneficial, or it may be a path straight to a world Orwell envisioned in his book 1984.

We decide.  We raise children with--or without--prejudice.  We make laws or cause them to be removed.

Do what makes a better world for all--not just for one race, one religion, one economic level, or one anything.

Level 9

Well stated! I'll have to go back and read your other movie related IT gems!

Level 12

Very succinct analogy for my chosen career not to mention my Day-to-day experiences. Never really compared the movie to my everyday long-term environment before but yes I can see that now.

Initially I was going to comment with a S.A. response (I mean how could I not considering my name?) but after reading your blog and thinking about where I am in my career (much closer to the end than the beginning) the words are very correct,

  • My dependency on "legacy tools" just because I know them instead of kicking them to the curb and not focusing instead on learning new ones that may better provide what I need,
  • I should be reaching out to share with the up and coming young techs but also dropping my shields to listen and learn from them,
  • but especially the Jaded paragraph, it can be so easy to slip into that (at least for me), battle-weary as I am, occasionally forgetting that it is the professional relationship that matters, and when respected and kept intact are more about the job many times than the actual IT support is.

Thanks for the reminder.

logan-1.jpg

Love it adatole​ . I wonder what other films could offer a similar message?

Level 17

Well, I've already talked about the I.T. lessons in Dr. Strange. It makes you wonder, doesn't it, what else you could find.

(he looks pensively into the camera).

Which is my way of saying "yes, this is an ongoing idea I'll be pursuing."

Level 17

I am also much closer to the end of my career than the beginning (well, if you consider the usual retirement age. Like my father, a lifelong musician, I plan to keep working until I can't see the notes on the page any more. For more nuggets of his wisdom, see here: What Makes an IT Professional? ).  So I understand how you feel. But to quote another sage greybeard:

"Youth can not know how age thinks and feels, but old men are guilty if they forget what it is to be young."

- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

MVP
MVP

Level 20

I can relate to the way things change when you get older.  Some stuff starts to hurt more, some stuff starts to not work as well anymore.  I suppose we're wiser now but also that pretty much leads to getting jaded about some things.  I like to think I haven't forgotten what it means to be young and excited about technology.

MVP
MVP

Open eyes and the willingness to grow, change, progress. Good points you have made here.

Level 16

My retirement is pretty close now, yet I still enjoy going to work every day

The most enjoyable part is seeing the next generation of IT Rock Stars getting their start.

When I made my leap from Help Desk schlub and really set my career in motion I joined an up-and-coming managed web hosting company. This was late 90's. I was surrounded by people my age, predominantly mid 20's to early 30's. We were eager, strong, full of energy, and known for our, "...entrepreneurial spirit." What I found most odd was that I was surrounded by an inordinate amount of History, Journalism, Political Science, and others... majors from colleges. I was a Criminal Justice major. We all had found our ways into IT.

Well, the DotCom bubble burst, the bottom fell out (Who knew that www.tieclip.com wouldn't last?), and the money ran out. Many of us left (sometimes willingly, and in my case not), and those of us who remained became bitter old vets nostalgic for the glory days as we got sold and resold eventually ending up with Verizon.

The majority of my Facebook friends are ex-Digex folks. It's a brotherhood/sisterhood whose bonds are strong. However, I have noticed an interesting trend the past few years. Much of the world class talent who I used to work with, and that is not an exaggeration, are quitting IT... walking away from it all. They are in their late 40's or early 50's now and they want to do something completely different with their lives and follow new passions. Their passion is no longer IT if you can imagine that.

They have adapted to the landscape. In some case they knew when to quit and get out. Most of us had our glory, albeit fleeting, and have come to realize that we'll never have it again. So instead of being poisoned by nostalgia they have decided to move on.

Level 12

Wow! Your Dad nailed it!  Great words and a solid outlook on what makes a Professional more than just a skill-set, it requires a passion. Which by the sounds of it your Father has and evidently passed on to you.

"If you're not 30 minutes early, you're an hour late,"  Something I practice I am always early for work, I like to get organized to begin my day before it begins and get my head in the game.

Thanks adatole

Level 13

Open eyes, be a sponge

Level 21

I also can relate to how you change in IT as you become older more seasoned in your career.  Even more so I can relate to the problem of holding on to tools too long as they become toxic.  These were some great pointers and really gave me a chance to look at myself and how I may have some opportunities to make some positive changes in myself; thanks for this!

MVP
MVP

More seasoned...in my case that could mean salty.  Certainly in many cases it could mean crusty !

Level 12

Yeah sometimes I am like that too - like a

pretzel.jpg

both Salty and Crusty.....

MVP
MVP

I resemble that statement.

Norm!  (Crosby)

adatole​, you hit the Proverbial nail on the Proverbial head!  Great message.  I like what you said, "But a more usable lesson might be to let go of tools, techniques, and ideas when they become toxic to us. Even when they still appear to be useful, the wise IT pro understands when it is time to let go of the old before it becomes a deadly embrace."  I would add, too, that that bit of wisdom applies equally well to all peoples, not just IT.  The difficult part becomes when we must "let go" of the toxic ________ (idea, tool, technique, situation, person, what have you), especially if you have become attached to it/them.  Letting go is a simple prospect but it certainly is not easy; if it was, everyone would do it.

Maybe you should consider a position in the "IT Shrink" biz, Leon: You could have people come and lay on your "couch" (which is actually a THWAmmoCK), tell you their troubles while you appear to be listening when really you're in your SW instance on your tablet playing Network Super Hero, pay you a fortune and then leave feeling like they're on top of the world!  Man, I'd sign up for that!!!

Keep up the great work, Leon.  We appreciate you!

MVP
MVP

Nice analogies for IT, but also for life in general. So often we just "go with the flow" and aren't proactive in what happens with our life. Things get so busy that it is often the easy route.

Level 13

nice Article

About the Author
In my sordid career, I have been an actor, bug exterminator and wild-animal remover (nothing crazy like pumas or wildebeasts. Just skunks and raccoons.), electrician, carpenter, stage-combat instructor, American Sign Language interpreter, and Sunday school teacher. Oh, and I work with computers. Since 1989 (when you got a free copy of Windows 286 on twelve 5¼” floppies when you bought a copy of Excel 1.0) I have worked as a classroom instructor, courseware designer, desktop support tech, server support engineer, and software distribution expert. Then about 14 years ago I got involved with systems monitoring. I've worked with a wide range of tools: Tivoli, Nagios, Patrol, ZenOss, OpenView, SiteScope, and of course SolarWinds. I've designed solutions for companies that were extremely modest (~10 systems) to those that were mind-bogglingly large (250,000 systems in 5,000 locations). During that time, I've had to chance to learn about monitoring all types of systems – routers, switches, load-balancers, and SAN fabric as well as windows, linux, and unix servers running on physical and virtual platforms.