Originally Published in http://www.southernalpha.com
My wife and I recently moved to the Nashville (just south of Nashville actually) from Silicon Valley. We were drawn to this city over others because of nearby family, great schools for our kids and the fact that it had a growing tech community that would allow us to continue doing what we love for work.
Nashville’s investment in technology and programs like Hack Nashville, Healthbox, Entrepreneur Center, Jumpstart Foundry, and Nashville Software School are just a few examples of the strength of the tech and entrepreneurship community here. But, there is something about the Nashville tech community I don’t quite understand – no matter what your role in the industry might be, I keep hearing people lump their teams together under the title of IT.
Now, I am not knocking IT people here, they play a really important role in the tech ecosystem, especially for larger companies. But, for all of my years in this industry I’ve never worked in IT, called myself an IT person, or looked for a job in IT. I am a software engineer.
So, what’s the big deal?
Simply put – IT and engineering are two completely different things. To put it in more traditional Nashville terms, confusing IT and software engineering is like calling an audio engineer a songwriter, although to be fair there are probably several people in Nashville who can do both.
IT is the deployment, integration, and maintenance of hardware and software products to an organization. Software developers/engineers are creators of software. We build apps, launch new products (and companies) and use code to create much of the technology that consumers enjoy every day.
IT and developers work together – in the case of enterprise software, the software that developers create is deployed by IT or, in many cases, is sold to consumers. But, grouping all technology functions together as IT undermines the expertise of each contributing team member. By distinguishing a class of technology workers who are creators, you recognize the way each role works together to bring entrepreneurs’ visions to life. Not to mention, companies must be able to identify and hire for each role with intention.
As Nashville becomes a focal point of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship, identifying the people who help create from the ground-up, those who execute and deploy technology, and everything in between, is crucial. We need to be synchronized with our peers in the industry and across the nation. The top companies outside of Tennessee aren’t hiring IT when they are referring to software engineers, and we shouldn’t be either. Finally, let’s retain the top talent coming out of our Nashville schools and let them know we understand their technology expertise and need their skills here in Nashville.