In today's Twitter follower bonus podcast, we step away from our typical podcast format and focus on something a little different - how to approach your day to day duties in information technology.
It is human nature to enter a comfort zone. Most people don’t wake up one morning and make the conscious decision to be mediocre, it happens over time. In IT, this condition can be even easier to fall into. When you show up to the office, and fight the same issues, and put out the same fires, day in and day out, it can become daunting. Most people who have worked at least a few years in IT can relate to this, and it can be a vicious cycle.
How does one fight to stay out or climb out of their comfort zone? Well, if you find yourself in that sort of situation, I believe that it is extremely important to have good friends and family that “call you on your bullshit.” I apologize for the profanity, but I don’t think the message hits as hard without it. Simply put, you need people in your life, that will always challenge you, which especially includes people comfortable enough to call you out.
Surrounding yourself with those that challenge you, will keep you on your toes, and pushing you forward even when work is trying to keep you down. Think of these people, as your personal trainers for your career, screaming for you to do one more set on the bench press. When you have people comfortable enough with you to hold you accountable, it makes all the difference. Make goals and hold yourself accountable so that you have to."Those who build and perpetuate mediocrity... are motivated more by the fear of being left behind." - Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't Why worry about the comfort zone?
This may be an unpopular opinion, but if you work in Information Technology, you have a moral obligation to provide the best support that you can to your customers, while also doing everything in your power to protect their data and interests. Now, some may call that a reach, but I disagree on several counts. Just imagine how many people’s lives have been adversely affected due to failures in IT systems. How many businesses, and financial institutions have been wrecked due to outages, downtimes and hacks? How many billions of dollars are lost each year to preventable catastrophes?
The hard truth is that lost revenue and downtime generally leads to loss of jobs, or at the very least lost business which can affect everything from stock prices, to employee bonuses. It may not happen immediately, but major issues within IT can and usually lead to long term damage that might not be felt immediately. Those jobs and pay are the life-force for an employee, who likely also has family dependent on them. For these reasons alone, you should always — DO THE RIGHT THING.
Take ownership of the fact that even if your environment sucks, that your work matters, not just to the bottom line, but to people, and their lives. In IT, when you are in a comfort zone, you are not operating at your maximum potential, nor is your environment. Technology never sleeps, and it evolves daily, which means that you must strive further to keep pace. If you don’t, you are not only letting yourself down, but you are letting down the very people and customers that rely on the systems and services that you provide.Refuse to be Mediocre
Many times, especially in junior roles, you may feel powerless in such situations. However, you are not. You can always rise above and set the tone, you can be the spark that ignites a firestorm of rejuvenation and improvements throughout your work environment. If you put in the extra effort, and lead the charge, your hard work may pay off with others following your lead. Be the first to dance!
Derek Silvers delivered a Ted Talk on “How to Start a Movement” and the key points are fantastic advice for those looking to change or revitalize their atrophied corporate IT departments. He says that a leader “needs guts to stand alone and look ridiculous,” and that surprisingly the turning point is just the second follower. The second follower, confirms to the rest of the pack that the movement started by the leader, and confirmed by the first follower, was truly worthwhile. The first follower, also shows leadership skills by taking the initiative to join the “first nut.”
Mediocrity also isn’t always your fault. Many times, you may receive push back when you try to raise above being mediocre. You may be told that you’re overstepping your bounds, or that you’re offending others with your initiative. One thing is certain, trying to rise above mediocrity, will likely make you unpopular — if not with management, then with some peers who are all too comfortable with the status quo.
The only real advise I can provide here is, if your leadership doesn’t appreciate the work you do and the change your trying to drive — move on. Life is too short to work for a company that doesn’t support you or your vision, and you will no doubt come across resistance at some point in your career, and sometimes the best thing for all the parties involved would be for you to find another place to work. If you try to succeed, and are held back, you have to take control of your career.
I sleep soundly at night when I am doing my best to insure my customers are provided with the absolute best service and support they can receive. I truly have a moral dilemma that affects my personal life when I know that there are critical issues that should be rectified yet remain due to internal politics. Atrophy accelerates as time goes on, so if things aren’t working out today and you can’t gain any momentum no matter how hard you try, they’ll likely be worse further down the line. It is up to you to decide if fighting against mediocrity or if moving on is the best for you long term.Trust the Process
What you do with your career, is your choice — and while I can’t tell you what to do, I can tell you what has been great for me. For me, refusing to be mediocre while also being steadfast to my moral obligations and duties, have made me extremely happy with my career choices for nearly two decades. You spend at least one-third of your life at your job, so why not do your best to and make sure that you’re leading from the front?
Gone are the days of working 20+ years for the same company, the future of business is evolving faster than ever thanks to technology and automation — so keep evolving along with it, and refuse to be mediocre, all while leading by example and taking charge of where you, and your team goes from here. Even if you aren’t a manager or team lead, you can lead by example, and all you need is that first follower to start your movement. So get to dancing!
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