Tag Archives: being awesome

geek management for non geeks

*I just found this old email I sent to all the organisations that I tech supported. Did it help?*

Dear CEO, Manager, Board,

The right questions are not technical ones. Don’t be blinded by complicated answers.

Most organisations make decisions based on ”it needs fixing urgently!” and “we can’t afford it”. You are trapped into maintaining a hotchpotch of devices. Decisions to make a mass purchase and change are scary but can be cost effective in longer term.

Question: How much is it going to cost over the next x years. Consider purchase price, installation, maintenance and upgrading or troubleshooting. How much staff time is spent/saved/wasted on this?

Question: How long will this last for? Try to have a cyclical plan. ie. This year new computers and internet connection. Next year new printer and other peripherals – unless none of the old things work with the new things. Don’t buy software just before changing hardware. Avoid purchasing something soon to be obsolete OR something that’s just come out. Let other people iron the bugs out and post their solutions on forums for you.

Question: Who will we call on to install, maintain and troubleshoot? If something happens to our first choice (something usually does), who is second and third choice? How easy are they to contact? How quickly can they respond? How expensive? Sometimes you have to rule out a fabulously good and inexpensive IT setup because it is dependent on one person. You have no backup.

Question: What are our backups and redundancies? Who is your tech backup? Where is your data backed up? What if the internet isn’t available? What if this thing or that thing breaks? What if there’s a fire? What if everything is stolen?

Some information:

Average business total IT spend 5% to 15% of budget. (hard to get solid figures) Average non-profit IT spend? 2% to 10%.

Training is rarely included. Training actually fixes most hardware and software problems ahead of time.

Average device life: 3 to 5 years
Average software life: 2 to 4 year

Rephrase that.

Average device life: 3 years for business
3 years plus 2 more years of rebooting while standing on one leg and gluing antennae to your head for a non-profit
Average software life: 2 years for business
2 years plus 2 more years of reinstalling and downgrading while logging on as long gone staffers and losing all your files again if you’re a non-profit.

The reality? Staff in non-profits are cheaper than almost anything else, therefore staff time is constantly wasted on old IT.


I still agree that training is the most affordable and achievable solution to most problems and would now suggest using the ‘5 Whys’ as well. The kick ass image at the top of the post is from Geek Girl Con.

“GeekGirlCon is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting awareness of and celebrating the contribution and involvement of women in all aspects of the sciences, science fiction, comics, gaming and related Geek culture through conventions and events that emphasize both the historic and ongoing contribution and influence of women in this culture.”

Do you have to be a girl/geek/adult/trekkie/gamer to attend Geek Girl Con?

“[GGC is] a convention that welcomes all ages, races, sexual orientations, genders and gender identities, creeds, physical and mental abilities, and familial statuses. We are a gathering for the trekkie, the mathlete, the gamer, the otaku, the braniac, the engineer — a home base where all tastes of geekdom can be sampled and savored. We are GeekGirlCon.”


Awesome is exhausting for some of us but FAKE GRIMLOCK has tapped the motherlode and is distributing it via twitter, blog, posters and maybe even in person. Although it could be kind of scary seeing a giant metal robot dinosaur with a penchant for eating stupid humans.

FAKE GRIMLOCK is my new favorite reading (along with The Bloggess and xkcd), because what he says makes a lot of sense. It also drips with sarcasm, awesomeness and blood. Many technology luminaries (like Eric Ries, Brad Feld, Fred Wilson and CNN) have noticed that FAKE GRIMLOCK carves through all the cream and gets straight to the coffee. I’m still new over here but sometimes I think that America is all froth and foam and eff all coffee. Then I remember stuff like #Occupy and STOP SOPA.

I wish I had some of FAKE GRIMLOCK’s gift for awesome communication because the tech world both fascinates and dismays me. We are changing society right here – punching code through the walls of the world. But all too often the vision is just personal or commercial success.


Roadblocks of gender, race and class are still huge. Sometimes technological advancement is just making bigger roadblocks. Startup philosophy, which emphasizes the individual, is often powerless before huge areas of fail. We aren’t all giant robot dinosaurs and sometimes we don’t share the same visions. For example, feminism is a great conversation killer, because not a lot has changed in last 50 years. Seriously – this 1991 MIT report by Ellen Spertus is still accurate. That’s depressing. It’s great to celebrate awesome women engineers and ceos, but important to point out the systematic obstacles women face in the tech and startup worlds.

Fake Grimlock’s irresistible awesome is up against some pretty immoveable objects, but at least reading @fakegrimlock makes me feel like a raging fury in a good way.