Success in IT: Why a Career is Better Than a Job
This is a topic I’ve been considering writing for quite some time and was finally inspired by Chris Wahl’s (@chriswahl) series on Career Advice he did during the Indy VMUG.
In my own personal opinion, IT is an incredible industry, an industry so exciting because it can encompass so much. From the end user’s perception of IT, we’re just a bunch of magicians and wizards, pushing buttons and turning knobs to make web pages render or Excel worksheets to calculate. But a viewpoint from within the industry proves there is so much more. There are indeed people pushing buttons (and maybe turning knobs?!?!?) but the it’s so much more than that. Career paths within the IT industry are almost limitless and are sometimes even created by the professional themselves, given the right circumstances. A career in IT can mean hundreds of different positions from Helpdesk to Architect, DBA to .Net developer; consulting, sales, and so much more.
As I’ve journeyed through my IT career, I’ve seen many types of people in the industry and most can be easily lumped into two distinct groups: people who have a job and people who have a career. People with a job are at work to do just that, handle a limited set of tasks as instructed. They are there to collect a paycheck and go home. On the other hand, people with a career have much more at stake. They are the people putting in the hours, suggesting improvements, implementing new ideas, and so on. They are teams leaders (directly or indirectly) and are constantly looking to improve themselves. It’s inevitable that every team is made up of both types of people.
There are, in my opinion, values that a career-driven professional holds in which others do not and are listed below. If you feel that you aren’t working towards an ultimate goal (e.g. Architect/Consultant/Senior), it might be time to reevaluate some of the values listed below and make some changes.
Goal Oriented – Always be working towards a goal, whether it be a certification or learning a new skill. If you don’t have any defined goals, short term or long, what are you working towards?
Never Stop Learning – Remember that old saying “Learn Something New Everyday”? It holds true in life in general, but it holds even more merit in the IT industry. Knowing more allows you to troubleshoot an issue faster, design a better solution for a client, and gives you the opportunity to teach others. This is a value I’ve tried to instill in my own son. Take training courses, read books, listen to training videos, read blogs, participate in social media.
Branch Out – If you’re a server guy, learn networking. If you’re a network guy, learn virtualization. Knowledge in multiple facets of IT will accelerate your career. Senior-level engineers/administrators have knowledge in a vast number of areas, resulting in the ability to maintain a holistic view when troubleshooting problems. They know how to resolve an issue, but more importantly, how those changes will affect other areas of the environment.
Community – Get involved with the local and online community. Build relationships with like minded people who you can bounce ideas off of and learn from each other.
Certifications – Certifications have merit, regardless how others may feel. They not only prove you know the material, they provide an excellent learning opportunity as certifications give you the chance to learn features/functionality you don’t normally use.
Blog – Start your own blog, or read other blogs. It’s amazing what topics people blog about, and from my experience, you’ll find the answer from a blog before you find it buried within an official knowledge base article.
Social Media – Sign up for Twitter and connect with industry experts. Join a LinkedIn discussion group and contribute. Start a Google+ group and learn from each other.
Attend Conferences – Harrass your boss about attending Tech-Net, VMworld, and other industry leading events. Use the opportunity to dive deep into a topic, learn about new technologies, and network with others.
Build a Lab – Explore your inner-nerd and deploy a home/work lab to toy around with new technologies. Breaking things in production is generally frowned upon and could accidentally lead you to your next opportunity (catch my drift?)
Find a Mentor – Never be afraid to ask for help, however, ask only after you’ve put in your share of effort. I love to teach people; I don’t love doing their job. 🙂
Honesty and Transparency – This is more about building your own reputation and character than anything. Own up to your mistakes, learn from your failures, follow through with promises.
Take on new Challenges – Never be afraid to take on new projects or challenges if you have the bandwidth, and sometimes if you don’t. At best they should be perceived as learning opportunities.
People Skills/Soft Skills – The ability to communicate well is extremely important. You can have all the knowledge in the world but if you can’t carry a decent conversation it will reflect negatively on you.
Agree or disagree with this post? Have any other thoughts to share? Please share or reply to me @btkrausen.