On Being the Mac Guy 

This weekend was a big one.

My day job is running the IT/AV/Multimedia/Design department for a faith-based non-profit that just opened a 104,000 square-foot community center. I’ve been on board with this project for three years, and seeing it open was the realization of lots of dreaming and even more hard work.

While we enjoy a good amount of autonomy, this weekend, loads of people from our divisional and territorial offices were in town for the opening events.

And man, did I get some comments about the technology I’ve installed.

See, our corporate side is Windows-centric, all the way down. All of our internal communication happens within the garden walls of Lotus Notes. Only last year were iPhones added to the list of approved phones for employees to carry. (Thousand of Blackberrys were turned in, I bet.)

And I installed a ton of Macs.

Our office runs on Windows. We’ve got a HP server in the closet, an Active Directory and things like mapped network drives and terminal servers keeping everyone connected and working.

Outside the office, however, I’ve deployed a lot Apple gear. We’ve got something like 40 Apple TVs, and over a dozen Macs driving our various AV systems.

Yesterday, I was sitting behind one of two stupid, thin new iMacs in one booth when an out-of-towner came up to me.

You’re that Mac guy, right?

Turns out my installation of non-standard equipment has made ripples across the organization. When someone brings it up, the conversation goes one of two ways.

Most people think its cool, and express some jealousy over my ability to do what I want when it comes to this gear. Sadly, these are often the same type of people who try to find common ground, like the dude who tried telling me about the “G5 Mac Pro” he was looking at buying. After I explained that he either had a G5 or a Mac Pro, based on what architecture the system was based on. He walked away when I said it was easy to tell what he had, based on the number of optical drive openings in the front of the case.

(In hindsight, I probably came off as a little pedantic.)

Other people try to write off the Mac (and other Apple products) as toys, inferring that I’m not a “real” IT guy because I prefer OS X over Windows. Bring up AirPlay, and they talk about Wi-Fi security. Talk about the iPhone, and they mention something about keyboards and being “closed.”

Sadly, the people in this camp are often in IT themselves.

The truth is, I believe in options. I choose the best tools for the job. I’ve got Windows, OS X, iOS, Linux and Cisco-based gear under desks and in racks. Apple isn’t always the best fit, so I don’t always use the company’s products. But my reputation has stuck, and until people see otherwise, I’ll be the weird Mac guy in Memphis, breaking the rules with his shiny, silly machines.

I’m part of a new generation of IT director. I trust my users and deploy what I need to get the job done. I don’t see why that causes such a stir.