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Beware the labels you apply to yourself

Earlier today I went to a meeting in my capacity as a school governor and like you do in meetings where you’ve never met people before you often introduce yourself and explain a bit about your background and skills etc.

Well I broadly introduce myself as someone who is interested in Social Change but works (in a professional sense) in and around the areas of Web, Communications and ICT as well as social enterprise business models and I’d like to help my school and the wider learning community improve outcomes for children – nothing too complicated but saves me going on an on about what I believe in…wouldn’t want to bore people I’ve not really met yet, plus we were limited for time.

It was a very interesting meeting and had a very wide range of skills and interests in the room from Head Teachers (Primary and Secondary) to School Administrators to Solicitors to Architects to Procurement people and well me!!

The first thing that made me chuckle and got me thinking about the label I had given myself was that the projector didn’t work – so one person commented “ask the IT guy!” Well obviously I got up and pushed some buttons and looked like I knew what I was doing but it was someone behind me who actually turned the plug off and then on again which actually resolved the problem – that old chestnut!

But what I found interesting about this was the assumption that I knew how to fix it, just because I said I was interested in ICT meant I knew how to fix projectors to other people :) ICT is a very big domain and most (not all) people think it is all pretty much the same…

The funny thing about this to me, is that I do not consider myself an IT guy, however that is informed by my interaction with far more technically gifted people than I, but sometimes (and generally too late to change anything) I forget that simply saying IT to most people means that you can fix the computer, as well as probably being able to build one, fix the projector and sort out the broadband or wi-fi problems as well….Lesson learned and note to self: change my introduction and be more specific when describing my interests.

However I will get my chance to contribute in an area I feel confident in as I was the obvious first choice for a sub group around communications and websites.

So not all bad….but I fear that I will become the “IT go to guy” from now on…

Filed under: School Governor Tagged: communications, ict, web

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Jeff Ribeira

How true this is! I had a similar realization recently as I was telling a friend that I love backpacking. After our conversation I realized, “wait a minute. I haven’t actually been backpacking really in over 10 years! Can I really define myself as a backpack enthusiast if I haven’t been in so long?” I didn’t do this intentionally mind you, I think it’s more of a product of not realizing how fast years go by, and continuing to define myself based on memories of “younger” years. I do still love backpacking, and would go given the opportunity at the drop of a hat (my rationale for concluding that the “backpacker” label could still be used…), but the whole situation really made me think about how I define/label myself, and if I am doing so accurately. But also, what labels are based on the me from the past, and which are based on the me now, and perhaps I should be giving the me now a bit more credit.