When it comes right down to it, nothing quite beats experience. Looking back, my best mentors in IT had years of hard work and experience behind them, they pushed through their failures and trials to become stronger. When storms clouds were forming or blood was already in the water, they always seemed to know how to respond.
Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.
~ Truman Capote
The Full Scoop
Every Sunday I make Spaghetti for my family. We call it “Daddy Spaghetti”, and if I may say so myself – it ain’t too bad. There aren’t a lot of dishes I can make from scratch, at least not many that my wife wants me to feed to our family (I’ve been informed that Cheese Dip w/Potato Chips is not an adequate meal), but in my Spaghetti space I’m alright. I know the steps by heart, preferred brands when shopping, in what order to cook the various ingredients, etc. I know the meat, onions and mushrooms are ready by just the smell. My consistency now is very good, I can deliver each and every time. Okay, sometimes I do still burn the French Bread – but the fire alarm typically saves me from having to throw all of it away.
It can take years to develop a talent or skill. Those early years of study and learning are crucial, but often not quite enough. We know in the IT Services space that while you want to see degrees and certifications, nothing quite beats experience. When I was starting off in the field of Information Technology I was often frustrated by this, I’d think; well if you just gave me a chance, I’d get the experience you want. After a couple work study programs, and internships, I had built up the necessary experience and began a job as a Systems Analyst. That first job, while demanding, allowed me to work in a variety of spaces; network support, database design, programming, end user support – while I do not recommend companies create white knight positions, for me, it allowed me to understand a much broader array of IT than I could have picked up in college.
Since my first job out of college, I’ve been blessed to work with so many talented people. They have really been the ones that have helped me through defects, outages, and escalations; to learn and study how to prevent an issue before it becomes a problem, and how to handle situations that have already escalated beyond acceptable limits. One mentor of mine likes to explain, Jared – sometimes people just want to hear the words “I’m sorry”. That has helped me many times, from diving into a technical rat hole with a frustrated end user who just simply isn’t going to understand the broader technical reasons for why an event occurred.
Often these mentors did not have degrees in Computer Science or Information Systems. They had degrees in math or physics, degrees that acted as preparation to a lifetime of learning in a challenging field. While it is nice to have a very specific certification or degree, I have found, what really matters is what you’ve done in the years since leaving the halls of higher learning.
Experience matters, and not just years worked – you need to be developing your skills each and every day. I learned early on in the field of IT Service and Support, that only 50% of what you know now will still be relevant in five years. At first glance this may make it sound like experience is irrelevant, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While technologies evolve, the underlying basics of computing change at a much slower pace. Experience, history, personal development are all crucial when working with stakeholders who often do not fully understand the systems that keep their businesses running. Information Technology continuously evolves, and you need to surround yourself with people who have not only keep up to date on the industry, but have passionately developed themselves to become a true asset to the organizations they serve.
We believe deeply in the importance of ongoing learning and training, but we also recognize that having an IT Certification or a degree is not enough. Partnering with a team who values ongoing learning, brings in mentors and experts, and then implements and supports the solutions in tandem with the cooperation of executive teams; is collectively what helps a project to be successful. Surrounding your project with individuals who have a lifetime of learning, development, and IT Support behind them; is a far greater asset than someone who may have only completed an online certification course last week.
Don’t undermine the important role that experienced and older professionals can bring to your team, even if some technologies have evolved. Chances are their experience managing client expectations, scope, timelines and budgets will far outweigh their time directly working on a technology that just recently arrived on the market. Technical skills can often be easily learned, especially by those who are well rounded and have years of implementation experience under their belts. Look for well rounded and experienced IT Professionals to lead your projects and initiatives, ones who love the industry they are in, and who never stop openly recognizing they will always have more to learn.