By Vaughn Brown
Itís not easy to break into corporate IT, unless youíve got more than some hope and a little courage. I should know, since Iíve spent nearly two decades overcoming one struggle and stumbling block after another and am finally arriving at true IT happiness. My story, titled ďThe Paper MCSE,Ē can be found here, and can give you some tips. Until then, use this short list of essential dos and doníts as a guide.
A quick list for success in information technology
If you want to succeed in IT despite some common challenges, follow these four simple rules to stay ahead of the game. Theyíll help build your experience and get you on the road to a resume that will knock the socks off of hiring executives and IT directors at XYZ Corp:
1. RTFM!!! I know, this is the most basic and essential component to IT success but if you want to succeed, just hit the books and get to work. Go to your local Barnes & Noble, buy your favorite java concoction and dive into some tech books while enjoying the free air conditioning. You wonít have to pay for the books and you can read to your heartís content. Another option may be the library, a great resource for learning — itís not just for kids. Take advantage of those tax payer dollars and get some education! Look online for resources too, they are everywhere. But when youíre in cyberspace, be careful! Remember that most Wikis are open resources and can be chocked full of misinformation. Learn to discern opinion and truth. This is critical to your IT success.
2. Make the tech-support dude your bitch! Iím serious. You paid for support, now take advantage of it! Iím not talking about Acer tech support in Costa Rica where the first step to recovering from a computer lock up is to reformat your hard drive and start from scratch. Iím talking about leveraging that support contract to your advantage. Use those guys to guide you and educate you. Take notes as you troubleshoot and work through problems. This is invaluable to the success of any IT infrastructure. Always remember that the guy on the other end of the phone line is sitting there in a cubicle with a headset, surfing the Web and just trying to get through the day. Make it a great experience for the both of youóbe friendly, ask questions, above all make sure you listen wellóand youíll get more out of it than you might expect. Donít be afraid to escalate the call if you find yourself treading water. Never be insulting to the guys on the other end of the line! Making friends with support people at high levels is something that can carry you through some tough times. Theyíll throw you some bones when you need it. Stay on your toes and always stay in learning mode. This is essential to success in the IT world.
3. Learn to work as a team! I canít tell you how frustrating it is to have egomaniacs on an IT team being Negative Nancy, complaining about user issues, talking about how much better their code is than dude-over-thereís code and how they bucked standards and structured their Linux installs far off the beaten path. This type of attitude is great if youíre in a pissing match but it does nothing to build the team and help move your projects forward to completion and success. Donít hate on technology! Donít get caught up in the Linux vs. Windows or Mac vs. PC wars. All technology has its place and it all needs to work together. Think of the next guy in your position and think of those who came before you, since thinking of others is important in being a cohesive and forward moving IT team. Get together! Standardize! It doesnít matter which standards you follow so much as you understand the vision and need of the end user, your clients and the purposes of the projects youíre working on. Remember, you have a job because there is a need! Find out what the users need and work to deliver it to them. Learn to know the differences between what people want and what they need.
4. Look to the future, have vision and stay positive. Donít use band-aids! Instead, implement solutions that work and have staying power. When urgent and unexpected issues rear their ugly heads, you need to comfort and reassure the executives that all is well. Keep communication open and fresh and be patient with them while youíre troubleshooting, and donít panic. The executives drive the business forward while youíre in the engine room driving the ship. Help them understand this too, so that when things get hot and stressful they have confidence in you and the patience with you that you need from them. While we in IT understand what it takes to get from A to Z, the executives often only see dollar signs. The costs are enormous and the bridges to success require architects with vision and wisdom. Executives sometimes donít understand how complex a process this can be. Donít be afraid to humble yourself and contact an IT consultant. They will visit you with hopes of big sales and therefore give you invaluable advice, direction and guidance. Just like the tech support guys, make these boys your bitches. Let them take you out to lunch and learn all you can from them. Throw your complex problems in their lap and start spitballing solutions with them. This is what they live for, and youíll get all the credit when you implement their solutions. Youíll have incredible success as you leverage their experience and knowledge and they will provide you with a roadmap to success. They will help you bridge that gap between IT and the corporate brass and the proverbial planets will align.
Enjoy your success and always keep moving forward!