Admin in Tech: Let’s Redefine the ‘Desk Job’

Laura Artman

Business

As with so many articles, term papers, and graduation speeches of bygone days, I’d like to begin with a definition in the hope that it’s so cliché it seems clever again.


administration (noun) : the process or activity of running a business, etc. ; “the day-to-day administration of the company”


It couldn’t be more vague. We get a little more from the list of synonyms, words like managing, orchestration, guidance, care, and my favorite: handling. That’s what we do! We handle it, don’t we? I’m speaking to my fellow administrators. We’re everywhere in a million different industries and across infinite contexts, but that’s what we’re doing. We’re handling it (whatever ‘it’ may be) and doing our best to stay sane in what is most often a support position to the decision-maker(s).


I’m inclined to believe that despite our difference in roles, we administrators face many of the same general challenges. I’ve also come to believe that tech feels like a great choice when it comes to where one goes to flex their administrative muscles and have an opportunity to make a valuable impact.


Admin Work Is Evolving Through Tech


Before we dive into what’s so great about admin in tech, let’s reflect on the historical connotation of the term ‘desk job’. For me, it brings to mind a burned out soul who drags their feet to work each morning at the same time and sits watching the clock as the minute hand creeps toward 5p. They aren’t typically making decisions of great importance or impact. They aren’t an influencer to management. It’s a life of boring routine. It’s even considered a punishment for a cop who goes rogue out in the field (at least, that’s what’s on TV). Now, don’t get me wrong! I appreciate those who live by routine. In fact, self-discipline is lauded as the reason why so many find success in life. I just don’t think any of us grow or change when we’re bored.


What I want to do is to disconnect the idea of working in administration as boring drudgery or a place where admin opinions and ideas go unheard. There’s a more colorful picture to paint in terms of how our shared administrative challenges can be more easily overcome in a tech environment.


Can We Squash This Misconception?


First, let’s tackle the misconception that administrative work is boring and repetitive. Of course there are less appealing aspects of any job (ever), but in general, my experience is that continuous change is what makes working for a growing technology company so much fun. Successful tech products are, by nature, attempting to push the boundaries of what exists now. Even if not operating at the absolute bleeding edge, there’s still an inherent thrill of living in the mindset of, ‘what if…”


Openness to Change is Vital


The key to thriving in this space is a sincere receptivity to change. Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher who coined the phrase “change is the only constant in life”, would probably be dropping truth bombs left and right in a product agency like Crema! It comes down to being consistently flexible and often working under time sensitive deadlines to keep up with forward momentum. To be honest, I’ve even characterized this idea using the word ‘surrender’. Being open to new ideas and changing directions regularly is the norm. If you can hold things loosely while still operating efficiently, admin in tech may be the place for you.


This highlights another commonality I’ve found across tech: the people. Innovative people doing their best work are some of the most creative, smart, fun-loving creatures I’ve met. If this sounds like your peoples, keep reading.


How An Agency Like Crema is Fundamentally Different


Another challenge witnessed in more traditional waterfall business structures is effective communication. I’m talking about communication breakdowns within a single department, across departments, and along that upward chain of command to whoever has the final say. In a worst-case scenario, teams are forever siloed, working relatively independently without true knowledge of the ‘why’ for any initiative and taking direction from employers who may not have any insight into the effects of their directives. The lack in communication infrastructure underpins so much dysfunction and we need not even go into the side effects for productivity, efficiency, and employee morale.


I know this scenario isn’t necessarily the norm, but for the sake of contrast let’s think about how gross it sounds. Now, let’s see how Crema operates:


  • Cross-team collaboration - we move quickly in diverse or full-stack product teams, supported by an agile operational framework. Even our operations team works in sprints!
  • Transparency of company initiatives, goals & financial health
  • Continuous focus on professional (& personal!) growth of all employees
  • Communication leveraged by a toolset that makes working together feel seamless plus immediate access to all levels of management


Any of these could be unpacked in greater detail, but I want to drive home my point. We can redefine the desk job. Working in administration can be rewarding and fun!


If this all sounds great to you, here’s my advice: Look for an employer, not a job.


Find a company run by people who don’t equivocate people sitting at desks with productivity and who understand the value of contribution over the time spent producing it. Find people who maintain a mindset of continuous innovation and openness to new ideas despite where they arise. Find a company culture which fosters constant improvement, ie, the recipe for maintaining empowered & engaged employees.


Find a company whose mission/vision/values resonate with you. Our professional and personal growth are so intimately intertwined. Time spent at work is every bit as valuable as our free time. Let’s make it count!


My hope is that eventually tech companies like Crema won’t be an outlier in believing the value of cross-team collaboration & innovation, but in the meantime we’re leading the charge! I, for one, am loving my desk job and you can find me here, handling what comes next.