Responsible Adult

Some people ask me what I do for a living and… I can’t really say.  It’s not because I’m a spy and that I’m sworn to secrecy, but… what do I do?! Sometimes it’s helping people with things they know that they don’t know, and others… we get into the unknown unknowns, and work our way out.

Despite having no formal IT qualifications, I have gleaned lots of knowledge and experience by learning quickly, applying logic and being methodical and sensible accross a broad range of different areas. People now put their trust in me that I’d be able to do things for them… largely by… just doing it. Can I do this, or would I do that? Yes, is usually the answer.

In the early days of the web, and then for about ten years I developed websites.  I was teaching people how to work with them, and bending the websites to fit the people as much as bending the people to fit a website.. until I realised, finally, that the projects I enjoyed the most were where people needed more help than they needed a website

At that time, I was working for professional people – like accountants and doctors, and work evolved into offering technical support for them, and also the same kind of job but… where the support isn’t technical.  It’s hard to define what it is.  Technical support but without necesarily the technical part… sensible support, or professional support.

In about 2012 I heard the phrase “appropriate adult” – as in the legal term, to describe the type of social worker who sits with someone in an interview – mainly with the police.  They don’t give legal advice, there’s a lawyer for that, but they’re just someone who sits with a troubled or challenged adult – much like a parent would sit by their child if they were being questioned. 

Fred West was assigned an “appropriate adult” to support him during his police questioning and trial.  The TV drama based on the events was broadcast with the title “Appropriate Adult”.  It was about the murderers, but from the perspective of that person in the interviews.

I really liked the job title, so I borrowed and tweaked it – because it’s the best description of what I do… I sit with people, computers, responsibility, or business and help them to figure out the best thing to do. So now, when people ask what I do, I semi-jokingly say that I’m a “Responsible Adult” for hire. 

It is the business and technology equivalent of the guy that everyone on the street leaves their spare house keys with. It’s the position that nobody sets out to achieve, but someone always does. Nobody says “I hear you’re the one I should give my key to..”. 

A Responsible Adult is, though, the person to call if you have a problem with administration or technology¬†– and you’re not sure who to ask, or even… what to ask.

Daniel O’Neill
February 2023

To talk to a Responsible Adult…

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