In today’s world, successful IT pros need to be more than just tech savvy — they also have to be organized, analytical, resourceful and people-smart. Staying on top of trends is crucial, too. No business remains the same forever, and when it comes to fields that change quickly, IT certainly ranks at the top.
These skills are especially in demand in today’s workplace where IT isn’t just a “jeans and sneakers kind of business, but suits and boardrooms, too,” says Jeffery Lauria, vice president of technology at iCorps Technologies. Companies expect the work of IT staff to line up with the larger business goals.
Here are five things the very best IT folks do every day to deliver on the shifting demands for today’s IT professionals:
1. Learn. Be curious. Research. Read anything and everything related to your work. That’s the advice of Mike Holandez, author of “Service Superhero.” A sign of someone who is passionate about what they do is someone who welcomes a challenge as an opportunity to learn a new skill, he says. With usership trends constantly changing and industry leaders like Apple rolling out new technologies all the time, IT leaders need to stay a step ahead of the curve and gain deep understanding how these technologies work.
2. Teach. Just as important as learning is sharing that knowledge. Successful IT pros pass on the tips and tricks they pick up. They prove value to their company by pointing out ways to boost productivity or growth. They earn respect among peers by being a thought leader online. Most importantly, they share their passion and know-how with non-tech employees. Considering that 40 percent of breaches are caused by negligence or lost devices, the best IT employees empower staff to work with them on the cyber security frontlines.
3. Pivot. If a usual solution isn’t fixing the problem, it’s important to know when to move on. “Technology isn’t always predictable. Don’t waste a whole day on a solution that’s not working,” Holandez says. A willingness to ditch the plan or accept a different solution can pay big dividends.
Stewart Butterfield is a perfect example. If he hadn’t been willing to pivot, he might be known (or unknown) as the guy who launched two failed multiplayer video games. Instead he realized the importance of the internal tools the teams created to work on those games and ended up launching two hugely successful tech companies based on those tools: photo-sharing service Flickr, and internal messaging service Slack.
4. Think about the business. Companies aren’t just looking for someone who can juggle network security and hardware maintenance, they want IT staff to take a global approach to their work. “A lot of companies are creating these technologist positions, where they have an IT leader who merges the IT projects with the bigger business goals,” Lauria says. When making software decisions or analyzing data, the best IT pros are those who consider how their actions affect all the company’s stakeholders.
5. Communicate effectively. An early aughts “Saturday Night Live” skit portrayed the stereotype of the cranky IT employee stuck in a room full of rubes. Played by Jimmy Fallon, the character Nick Burns took particular pleasure in yelling “move!” to chase skittish employees away from their computers. Good IT pros, though, are able to explain complex topics without talking down to people, Holandez says. “The person you’re working with should feel smarter after you leave,” he says. In other words, a good IT pro is the anti-Nick Burns.