Dress code for IT professionals.

The other day I was discussing how to dress as an IT professional. What you wear signals a lot about you. Now dress codes depends a lot about culture and nationality and context. The clothes that makes you blend in at a fashionable club in Berlin, may make you stand out in a PHP user group meeting in Boston. From where I came the south suburbs of Stockholm, we dressed in white T-shirt, jeans and worn out clogs. That was sort of a standard uniform of my ‘college’ days. And this is how I dressed when I started to work. It was practical and comfy clothing, I was absolute uninterested of fashion and clothing and not interested of making an impression (still I am by the way). 
But as the years progressed I got more and more qualified work tasks and gradually  my IT skills grew. I began to appear on user group meetings holding presentations about software development, MRP applications, job control, database administrations, security to name  few. Still most often wearing T-shirt and jeans, I started to realize that even though my skills were good few really listened to what I said. At that time the 1980ties most people were older than me dressed in strict business  suites.  At a database software user meeting in Munich, I appeared in neon-green pants with leopard pattern T-shirt and sneakers. Although the questions I raised were both relevant and important (I had found some serious deficiencies in the software) no one took any notice. Coming home I discussed this with my at the time very new and much loved girl friend (now my not so much loved ex-wife). She had a better understanding of dress codes and told me if I wanted to be taken seriously I had to dress seriously. She took me out and bought some business suites, pinstriped shirts and some ties. And that made a difference, now people did not only listened to what I had to say, they asked for advice. Soon after I was recruited by a Norwegian software company as a consultant. As a consultant I always dressed in decent business suites, I worked as a successful consultant for some 15 years in Holland, Sweden and Boston US (for a short time). I been on assignment in most west European countries, part of my success is the changed dress code.

I was recruited by a consultant company in mid90ties specializing in software for  mobile telephone operators. The owner and CEO was my junior by 15 years, he hired some youngsters and me. He once told me ‘I hired the best computer technicians in Stockholm dressed them up in smart business suits and deployed them as management consultants. You I hired for the age and looks!, I needed someone that looked senior, trustworthy and intelligent’. He also said ‘when you visit a client wear an ordinary business suit not an Armani, and go in an ordinary car’. I think that was very wise of a newly rich guy not 30 years old. This was an advice some SAP consultants working for Ericsson beginning of the 2000, had not heard. At that time I had many friends working with IT for Ericsson. They were annoyed by and  envied the SAP consultants and they told me many times, ‘of course you have to charge that much when you dress in those fancy suites and drive those expensive German cars’.
Later when we started our SAP migration project we told our consultants (that did dress in normal business suites and drive ordinary cars) to remove their ties when they went to our factories. The consultant boss tore off his tie and said happily we will not wear ties in this project. This was out of respect for the factory workers and not to create artificial barriers between them and us. And that is very much what dress codes are about, IT professional or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment