Monday, October 24, 2005

Career Advice

Information Technology

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Career Advice

Author: Richard Lowe

I often get asked questions about careers in IT (Information Technology).
After all, I've been a Vice President of Consulting (twice for two different
companies), Vice President of Development, Senior Technical specialist many
times and now I am a Director Of Technical Services. I've been working with
computers for 23 years as of 2001 and plan on continuing my education and
career in a positive direction until the day that I die.

So what would I recommend to anyone seeking or currently holding a career in
IT? What are the qualities that make an IT person invaluable to a company?

I think one of the most valuable traits that anyone in any career can foster
is simple communication. This is especially true of IT people, as many of us
tended to get into the field in the first place because we are introverts. I
don't know about you, but when I started with computers over 23 years ago, I
didn't want to talk with anyone. Computers I could understand, but people?
That was a different question.

In college I had a professor named Fredrick. He taught a class in assembly
language - which was very advanced for the school. I excelled in this class
and spent a great deal of time talking to the teacher. When Fredrick started
a new consulting company he needed to get someone on board who could program
but was also very inexpensive. Because I had been communicating with the man
during his class, he offered me a job as a programmer in his new company. I
stayed there for six years, and by the time the company was purchased by a
British conglomerate I was the Vice President of Development.

As I matured I began to open up to people, and after a few years I found
that the more I communicated, the better my career progressed. Don't get me
wrong, communication is not always fun and definitely isn't easy sometimes,
but it is absolutely vital to any kind of career movement.

To advance in your career it is necessary to make sure people understand
your intentions. More importantly, it is critical that they understand that
you understand. You want people (those you supervise as well as your
supervisors) to know your capabilities and how those can aid them and the
company that you all work for.

What you do is talk to your boss regularly. Ensure that he or she fully
understands what you can do and what you want to do (thus greasing the skids
for additional training and promotions). Discuss how your talents can help
the company achieve it's goals and how you can help your boss achieve those
goals. Do the same with people who work for you, customers, vendors, and
other co-workers.

Use email to your advantage. Email is just another form of communication,
and it's best used to ensure that others are on the same page as you. For
example, it's usually a good idea to send an email after a meeting to those
who were in attendance, briefly explaining what was discussed and what
you've committed to produce. As you meet those commitments, you can also use
email to make it known.

If you are a supervisor, you need to let the people who work for you know
not only exactly what is expected of them, but also other details such as
how they fit into the organization, how their efforts contribute to the
bottom line and the goals and objectives of the company, department,
sub-department and group. This allows your people to be more effective,
which in turn allows you to be more effective.

Use performance reviews as a method of letting your people know where they
are doing well and where they need to improve. This is a very legal, highly
controlled method of communicating with your people (or your boss) and must
be done correctly to be effective. One golden rule of reviews is nothing
should ever be a surprise to the employee. If a person is not doing well, he
must know about it long before the review so he has a chance to correct his

Another rule of mine is that all critical comments must be done in private,
one on one (unless there are legal reasons, such as a reprimand for sexual
harassment, for witnesses). Never give reprimands, no matter how minor, in a
public location. Conversely, it's great to give positive remarks and
reinforcement in public - in fact, generally the more public the better.

Remember that communication is very powerful, and used properly it, combined
with your knowledge, talents and abilities, can propel you up the corporate

On the other hand, when used improperly you will certainly succeed in
stalling your career. Use communication very poorly and you may find
yourself jobless in short order.

If you use your emails to cover your behind, you will soon find it is
exposed and ready to be kicked. If you try and sling mud at others around
you, it's very possible you will find yourself not only covered in mud, but
even tarred and feathered.

For example, I had a boss a number of years ago who thought the main purpose
of email was to ensure that everyone understood whatever had gone wrong was
someone else's fault. I remember on several occasions our department had
failed to provide service to the users, and our boss had us write emails
that went on for pages, patiently explaining how these failures were the
fault of someone else. My god, we all got so tired of protecting our bosses
behind. In fact, when he finally left the company, we felt such a feeling of
relief that it was amusing.

This same man is a great example at how a lack of communication can doom a
person. He tried to build a wall between our department and the rest of the
company. All communications between our group and the outside world had to
be approved by him, and he often insisted on performing the communication
himself. Thus, it became impossible for any of us to do our job - and it
became very difficult for anyone in the department to understand how they
fit into the overall company business.

So to sum it all up, what's my advice? Use communication to your advantage.
Ensure your boss knows that you want to contribute to the success of the
group and, more importantly, that he completely understands how valuable you
can be. Use communication to give positive feedback and to let everyone know
your commitments and understandings, as well as other areas in which you
could be helpful.

Equally important, don't abuse communications. This is a very powerful tool,
and if you've ever been on the wrong end of a public reprimand or the
subject of water-cooler gossip you understand exactly what I mean.

The managers who excel in their career have learned these lessons and apply
daily to their jobs without even thinking. That's the main tool of the
trade. Simple communication.

About the Author

Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at - Visit our website any time to read
over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet
profits, enjoyment and knowledge.


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