Learn management by talking to strangers

When I was little my mother told me it was dangerous to talk to strangers. When you are a small child, this is great advice that will help keep you safe and out of harm’s way.  As an adult, however, not talking to strangers can dramatically

  • Reduce your ability to network professional
  • Minimize the chance of finding new potential opportunities
  • Lessen your chances of expanding your professional contacts
  • Decrease the likelihood of widening your professional horizons though chance discussions with interesting people

Before I continue, I would like to clarify what I mean by talking to strangers and say, that even as adults, we have to be somewhat on guard and cognizant of our environment.  By talking to strangers, I mean

  • Meeting new fellow employees in your company’s cafeteria
  • Discussing general business topics with the person sitting next to you on a airplane
  • Striking up conversations with people at professional association meetings
  • Getting to know the fellow participants at a professional seminar or class

In addition to face-to-face interactions with other like-minded read more

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A fish rots from the head down

I would like to begin this week’s column simply by saying that if you are a manager, to your team, you are the head of the fish.

Giving credit where it’s due, the expression “A fish rots from the head down” is an old proverb of unknown origin, but claimed by various countries and cultures.  Also, my limited research into the biological accuracy of the expression leads me to believe that it’s the fish’s inner organs, rather than its head, that actually rot first.  All that said, this is neither a read more

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7 Steps to Get Back Into IT

I have been out of IT for about three years and would like to get back in. Prior to leaving IT I was a help desk technician with about ten years of experience and my A+ certification. What would you suggest I do?

Over the past few months I have been asked this question a number of times and relating to virtually all areas of IT, including programming, testing, data center operations, project management, business analysis, website design and, as illustrated in the question above, help desk support. I’ll be answering this/these read more

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Importance of hiring the right people

Upon occasion, I’ve written columns related to hiring new employees. These column titles have included:

  • Getting Permission to hire
  • Reviewing Resumes
  • Deciding which person to hire
  • Interviewing Job Candidates
  • Hire people that love their work

In this week’s column, I would like to discuss hiring from a different perspective, namely, the importance of hiring the right people. By the right people, I don’t necessarily mean hiring the person who is the smartest, the most experienced, the most educated, etc.  I mean hiring the person who:

  • Will, in the long run, perform the job best
  • Will continue working for you for an extended length of time
  • Fits in well from a personality perspective with others in your group
  • Helps bring your group up, rather than bring them down
  • Enhances your group’s productivity
  • Is a no-problem employee, that is to say, doesn’t cause you problems
  • Has all the other related traits that makes a great employee

As a manager, one of the most important things you can do is hire good people. It’s important to the read more

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Needed Data Center Skills are Changing

I had the pleasure of speaking with Andrew Hillier, the CTO and Co-Founder of CiRBA, a leader in data center based capacity transformation and control software. We discussed how technical advances in data center management are transforming the types of skills that are needed by people working in a data center.

Mr. Hillier explained that historically, data centers have been run using a combination of:

  • Local corporate knowledge – The technical equivalent of knowing where the issues historically tend to be and where the conceptual bodies are buried
  • Device specific analytics – Describing the technical health and throughput of a specific physical device
  • Process analytics – Describing how well specific process or technical function was performing, such as data communication or CPU utilization

He went on to say that technologies now exist to allow those managing data centers to more easily look at them as a whole, rather than, as a sum of its parts. In essence, it can be managed more as a single entity than as a collection of connected components. This capability allows oversight to be more of a science, based on data, and a little less of an art, based more on segmented analytics and gut feeling. This is read more

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Help your company sell its products and save money

I love the company I work for and they have been very good to me. The problem is that the company isn’t doing well financially. My job in IT is not currently at risk, but many others are fearful that they will soon lose their jobs. What can I do to help my company and in turn, help my follow employees?

Thank you for emailing me your question and good for you for wanting to help your company and your fellow employees. As IT professionals, particularly in a big company, it’s easy to forget that the work we do can directly impact read more

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10 Things your department can do during slower work times

Wow, in today’s economy and business environment this may seem like a very strange time to be writing about what to do when your group has extra time on their hands.  In many cases, staff reductions over the last few years have left companies lean to the point of very often being understaffed to perform needed tasks.

With that said, then why am I writing this column now?  The answer is that many jobs have work cycles.  Accountants tend to be busiest at the beginning of each month, when trying to close the books from the read more

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IT Career Success and Advice: An Interview With Marilyn Smith

This is the first of an interview series that I will be intermittently including in my “Your IT Career” blog. The rationale for this series is that who better to ask for career advice, than those who have reached the top position within our IT profession.

In each of these interviews I ask two questions:

  1. How did you get to your level of professional success?
  2. What advice could you give my readers to enhance their professional careers?

To begin this new series, I had the great honor and pleasure of interviewing Marilyn Smith, the former CIO of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Throughout her impressive career, she also held CIO and/or very read more

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You don’t need all the answers, just the right questions

When I first became a manager, I thought I needed to know all of the answers to all of the issues in my department. You know what, I was wrong.  I quickly learned that management was more about asking questions, communicating, making decisions, management process, and leadership.  In this week’s column, as the column name alludes, I would like to specifically discuss asking questions, and its first cousin, listening.

Let’s begin with the old saying that “God gave us one mouth and two ears, therefore, we should listen read more

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Begin an internal “Community of Practice”

I work at a big company with IT people all around the world. Many of them do the same kind of work I do. What can I do to meet these people and build my internal professional network?

There are two things I loved about this reader’s question. First, is that the reader understands the value of connecting with other likeminded professionals within your company. Second, is that the person has the motivation to try to find a way to make these professional connections. Good for you! Your perception and desire for action can be read more

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