Career advice

I have learned a few valuable lessons over my career in IT.  I’ve had the luck of working with some very experienced and smart people.

Here are just a few items I have learned (in no particular order):

1.  You’re job is to serve

The entire point of IT is provide service to the customer (internal or external).  You are there to help improve their lives, not yours.  If you do not help the customer they will look to have their needs met elsewhere and you will be out of a job.

2. Lost data == lost money

You have data for a reason and if you lose it (bad data storage practices, no referential integrity, etc.) it could cost your company money.
So sometimes close enough is not good enough.
A classic example is if auditor comes looking for data you claim is being stored and they can’t find it then you can get fined.

3. Reread every email/text/etc. before you send it out

Reading everything out load is best, but at least reread it.  The seconds it takes you to quickly skim/read over an email will save you if you have a mistake that you were about to send out (like forgetting to include NOT).  An error is cheap to correct before it leaves your email.  Once what you said gets out and it’s not correct you can spend a great deal of time correcting.  People make mistakes all the time, but you will stand out if you never have to follow up anything you do with corrections.

4. Don’t spend $1000 to solve a $100 problem

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in executing the solution to a problem that you don’t realize that the fix cost you more then the original problem.  This happens quite frequently in IT where someone finds a new technology that they think solves all woes when it just increases the cost of what it was trying to fix.
Don’t be afraid to stop ask your self if you’re causing more harm than good.

5. Can you answer the who/what/where/why/how questions?

When working on a problem if you can’t answer all those questions that’s a pretty good indicator you don’t totally understand the problem.  Without understanding the problem you might find a solution that causes a bigger problem.  Sometimes users will ask for a solution without answering all those questions.  Once you ask for answers then you can be sure you’re providing the best solution.

6. Anything you can measure, you can improve upon.

People are naturally competitive.  If you provide metrics for them to track they will naturally try to improve upon them.  This translates to increased productivity and the bottom line will be affected.

7. One problem is a fluke, 2 problems is a problem, 3 problems is systemic

Problems happen.  If they happen several times or ways you might have a systemic problem.  That means your whole system/process needs to be evaluated.  You can’t fix a bad process with duck tape.

8. Remember there are trees and there is a forest (or multiples) and they are different.

As a leader you have to remember to go back and forth between the details and the bigger picture.  You always need to evaluate what your working on to verify both the trees and forest are aligned.  The forest represents the bigger picture of your business and your strategy.  The trees represent the day to day issues and your tactical work.

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