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My Title Smells Funny

March 31, 2017

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smeall as sweet.
– Romeo And Juliet Act II Scene II

My title changed this week. My company did a small reorg. I ended up the odd man out; no longer part of my previous team and somewhat at loose ends. I now report directly to a senior vice president in IT and “dotted line” report to a vice president in operations.

My old title was no longer accurate since my previous team continued without me.

I don’t really have a title for you. See what you can come up with.

That was the direction from my new boss. I briefly considered both the grandious and the mundane.

Supreme Ruler of the Universe

was quickly rejected. Besides, I think there are already several people requesting that title.

The Other Guy

was equally dismissed. I did think it would be funny to introduce me as “Well, this Rodney the other guy.” Yeah, it would be funny exactly once and we just used up that single attempt. I arrived at a core function of “IT Operations.” My role bridges two different departments so it made sense to give a nod to each side. The challenge was in finding a noun to go with those two adjectives. My manager literally pulled up Google and started searching during our meeting.

  • Director – Too much overhead. While it fit my organizational level, directors have numerous direct reposts.
  • Manager – A fairly generic term, but my previous role had included the word manager and it might confuse people
  • Administrator – “System Administrator” is a well known IT job role, so that almost fit. But, it lacked the gravitas that my role might need
  • Specialist – It’s vauge, but serious. The role I’m in was created as a special one-off position

“I like it,” my boss declared. And so, I became the one and only “IT Operations Specialist” in my entire company. But, will people respect me? Without the weight of the organziational structure from my old team, will I be able to get the buy in from various organizations that I need?

Here’s a truism of business: If they don’t respect you, no title will change that.

I worked for Microsoft and my entire team was renamed from “Training Specialists” to “Program Managers.” In most companies, Program Manager is a respected title. In fact, several of my team mates were excited. “Now those programmers will have to talk to me.”

They assumed that if they couldn’t get on someone’s schedule, simply changing their title while maintaining their role, would make a difference. It didn’t.

You get people to help you by helping them. You get people to trust you by trusting them. You get people to care about your projects by caring about their projects. You might ask, “How can I show people I care about them and their projects before I ever meet them? Isn’t that where a title helps?”

Sure it does. But, I’ve known some people with vice president in their title who wanted resources from my team, but had no real claim on them. But, they figured since they were a “VP” I should simply do what they asked.

I’ve also had peopel in other teams say, “Rodney, I’m happy to help you out on your project. It’s not normally something my team does, but you’ve helped us in the past.”

My role hasn’t changed, just my title. I don’t imagine most people will even notice. Most of them already simply think of me as “Rodney, the other guy,” or “supreme ruler of the universe.”

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

One Comment
  1. Rodney, the Hoopy Frood Specialist?
    you sure appear to know where your towel is.
    Even if you just use that for some conferences as that always leads to lots of interesting discussions.
    Its what I’ve used Chaos Adventurer for many times when my ‘real’ title would be problematic some way. I’ve also as a gag signed up others with fun titles for some local vendor expos such as Comdex when they had many all over. “Virus Queen” was the most useful as part of changing her behaviors that had her the top source of infections in that shop at the time.

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