I recently read a CIO.com article, by Eric Bloom, titled 12 Characteristics of Successful IT Professionals. Being in the IT field for many more years than I would care to admit, almost 30 years now, I agree with each of the characteristics Mr. Bloom identified.
I’m going to pare this list down to what I think are the three most important characteristics of a successful IT professional.
Why three? In speaking, in writing, and in music, the number three is very prominent, it even has its own rule, called the “rule of three.” The “rule of three” states that concepts or ideas presented in threes are inherently more interesting, more enjoyable, and more memorable.
Thus the reason I chose only three.
Love Like technology a lot.
Mr. Bloom uses the word “love”, but I think “love” is too strong of a word choice. We should “love” our kids, our spouse, our family, our God, but not technology. However, I do think an IT professional should really-really-really-really like technology.
Make the time.
Experience no longer automatically translates to knowledge or competency. The IT professional that takes makes the time to invest in the IT community by attending conferences, volunteering at user groups or meetups, and lurking participating on forums or question and answer sites like stackoverflow, will continue to grow and learn. Continuous improvement moves the IT professional along their desired career path and makes them a more valuable asset to their employer, and in turn, to their team and customers.
Be married to your spouse, not your technology.
The IT professional that just uses Technology X can no longer ignore Technology Y or Technology Z. Whether a given technology is from Microsoft, Apple or Google, it doesn’t matter any longer. These technologies are just tools, no different than a hammer or a saw in a tool box. What is the point of arguing over this hammer or that hammer?
Be a mile deep in a technology or two, but be willing to abandon that over time in favor of more relevant technologies.
Know the business.
Learn the whole business, front to back.
As important as it is to like technology, the IT professional will be extremely successful if they learn what makes the business tick, what it’s pain points are. The IT professional that sits in a meeting with the Sales team, Finance team or Human Resources, will be better able to identify problems and contribute ideas leading to more relevant solutions for the business.
Lean to speak both techie and non-techie.
Let’s face it, there is still confusion around what IT does in the workplace. Many people still think of the IT professional as a master of magic, a miracle worker, one who solves problems with a dash of pixie dust here and there under the cover of smoke and mirrors. The IT professional that can learn to communicate with management and other colleagues in non-technical departments, in terms of business functions instead of technology features will minimize the mystery of IT and be in a better position to provide the necessary support to the business.
Be open to new ideas.
Learn to think outside of the box. Challenge your biases. The IT professional that can do this will be open to new ideas and have a clearer vision of what is possible and not possible.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. – Apple Inc.
Ask the hard questions. Ask the right questions.
Why do my workstations need to be on a domain? Why do I resist personal devices in the workplace? What if all my users used personal devices instead of corporate provided devices? What is the benefit of a mobile application for my business? Can an administrative resource do help desk? On and on we could go.
Things change, especially technology. Technology X may be the right fit for today, but what about tomorrow? Next month? Next year? Don’t be afraid to ask the questions.
I know I promised only three, but I am adding one more. This last one is the icing on the cake, as far as a successful IT professional goes, and that’s be kind.
The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted. – Aesop
Be considerate of others. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Smile. Empathize with end users. Be approachable. The person that listened to Mom and Dad’s advice about playing nice will earn the trust and credibility with their colleagues and customers that will lead to constructive conversations and feedback that will make them a better IT professional.
If you can learn to master these three four characteristics, I can guarantee – it worked for me – you will be a successful IT professional and will have a long and prosperous career in the IT field.