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Lessons from the IT industry

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Running an IT company for over 10 years is an achievement in itself. Working in the IT industry for this period continues to be a challenge. Here are some lessons we have learned that should help IT companies, staff and clients on how to survive in one of the most dynamic industries of our time.

First and foremost do not sell yourself as an IT expert on all matters – and do not believe anyone who says they are. There is no such animal. The IT industry has been traditionally segmented into a wide number of areas – from hardware, to software, to communications and so on. And each of these disciplines has within it a multitude of specialist areas. Each area is changing daily.

Take for example communications. We have moved from standard wired, to fibre, from standard wireless and virtual private networks to 3g and 4g remote wireless. Services have evolved from client server to cloud. The lists are endless. Hardware technology is marching onwards – hardly a day goes by without hardware suppliers like HP, Dell or CISCO offering newer and more configurable devices. Each device needs to be skilled up on. I have talked enough about new software technologies through the last three columns on Windows 10 alone.

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Therefore – learn your capabilities and learn to say “No”. As an employee and as a company – knowing when to stop does much to enhance your reputation as a trustworthy entity, and ensure you do not find yourself in a situation where you are unable to deliver.

Avoid lying to users, clients or colleagues – opt for the truth, always. If you make a mistake – and you would not be human if you didn’t – admit this and learn from it. Not accepting this will prevent you from moving forward. And remember if you are working on a device – log files do not lie! I have encountered many instances where consultants have been economic with the truth – and clients have become frustrated at the excuses and explanations given for a simple mistake. My experience of Malawi is that people hate admitting to having made a mistake, in the hope that it will be forgotten about! Losing the trust of your client or colleague is far more damaging in the long run than admitting to an error.

A way to avoid mistakes is to ensure that you check, and double check any action – before you carry it out. In the case of configuration – are you absolutely sure you are clear about what will happen before you issue a command? As IT professionals we all know that we are normally called upon in an emergency (and often, ignored the rest of the time!). The pressure to resolve a problem is intense.

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Users stand by you as you work on a problem – as they are unable to do their daily work. Managers become irritated and frustrated. Do not rush to resolve a problem – always check (if necessary with your team colleagues) before deciding on the right solution. And avoid the great Malawi solution to all device problems – REBOOT!! Yes – this can often resolve the situation in the short term. But make it your priority to diagnose the problem to ensure no repeats.

Be passionate about what you are doing. If you are not passionate about technology – seriously – look for another career, as the job will surely become too hard for you. Passion is the motivator for your drive forward, and maintains your enthusiasm for learning something new every day.

Remember, no industry evolves faster than technology. If you decide you’ve learned enough, then, again, it is time to change career. Failing to do this will leave you behind in your area of expertise and your skills offering will suffer.

Finally – develop your communication skills. Explaining technology to clients and users and your colleagues is a challenge in itself. Ensuring that they continue to have confidence in the latest item of equipment or application in front them is a part of your job. Enabling them to optimise their working practices and efficiencies through technology can often be the most satisfying part of a long day.

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