What My Dad Taught Me About ITIL

Author by Matt Herman

The other night I was having a discussion with my Dad and I retold a story he had told me when I was a kid to make a point.  My Dad loved the story, but the funny thing was he didn’t remember it at all.  The next day I was out for a run and I starting thinking about how there are some particular stories and memories from our childhood shape our adult lives.  That’s when I realized that my Dad’s story had some great parallels to ITIL and my career in IT.  I hope you like it as much as I do.


A Surgeon and a Scientist Go for a Walk…

A surgeon and a scientist go for a walk along a river.  After a few minutes they see a man drowning in the river.  Without a moment’s hesitation, the surgeon dives into the river, pulls the man to shore and starts CPR.  Just as the man starts coughing and breathing on his own, a second man is drowning in the river.  Without even catching his breath, the surgeon dives in and saves the second man. 

This repeats a third and fourth time, and by now the surgeon is exhausted.  He looks at his friend the scientist and sees him just sitting in the grass, talking to the four people he saved.  Just then, there is a fifth man is drowning in the river.  The surgeon turns to his scientist friend and says, “Hey, do you think you can help me?” 

The scientist says, “Sure thing.” as he stands up and starts walking upstream. 

As the surgeon dives into the river for the fifth time and yells at the scientist, “What do think you’re doing?” 

The scientist turns and says, “I’m going to go put up a sign to let people know the bridge is out.”


The surgeon is doing incident management, the scientist is doing problem management.  They could use better communication, but they are both saving people from drowning, in their own ways.

My Dad is a scientist.  I have memories of him explaining the research he did on gene mutations related to breast cancer.  He helped with me a science fair project about the DNA sequence responsible for sickle cell anemia and we used WebCrawler when it was new and downloaded the sequence from this crazy thing called the internet.  He instilled in me a curiosity to know how things work and showed me that technology is an amazing tool to find information.  That gave me a foundation to build a career in IT as a problem manager and an engineer and, in a small way, follow in his footsteps. 

Thanks Dad.


Matt Herman

Technical Architect