The whole idea of creating this blog actually started last week when I read an article on Infoworld written by Dan Tynan. The title of the article was:
12 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Pros – Ditch the slackers, take on dirty work, do it with data — here’s how to get the inside track on a highly rewarding career in IT
The article listed 12 tips on how to be a better IT professional. After reading the article, I decided I wanted to share the list with my team of 50+ IT professionals. It was a fairly long article so I decided to break it up into a series of 12 daily messages. Each day I sent the team via email (old school baby) one of the 12 Habits along with the insight of Mr. Tynan. I also added my own commentary about my take on the habit and how it could be applied to our business. Each day my commentary section grew longer and longer and I started to realize that many of these tips reached beyond just the IT realm and applied to all facets of business. That is what made me finally decide it was time to enter the world of blogging.
While I probably will not share all 12 of the habits presented in the article, I do think several of the next blog entries will use that article as a basis. For if no other reason than the fact that I love the word “slacker” I think this is my favorite one:
Effective IT habit No. 6: Ditch the slackers, find a mentor
Hanging with a crew that likes to take long lunches and knock off at five (or earlier)? You’re not doing your career any good, says David Maxfield, author of “Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success,” a book about alter your career-limiting habits.
“The habits that hold you back are likely enabled, tolerated, or encouraged by others,” he says. “Use positive peer pressure by surrounding yourself with hardworking friends who share your career goals. Distance yourself from the office slackers.”
Instead, Maxfield advises you seek someone with more experience to steer your career in a positive direction. “Find a trusted mentor,” he says. “That will help you navigate the career development opportunities that exist within the organization.”
My Commentary: I love the title of this one – mainly because the early 90′s Richard Linklater movie “Slacker” was filmed in Austin. So every time I see the word “slacker” I think of Austin as it was back in my college days. Back when Austin was better known as a college town full of highly educated slackers. If you have never seen the movie, find it on Netflix, Hulu or whatever video service you prefer and check it out.
So last week, I encouraged everyone in the IT organization to go out and interact with people. And now here I am sharing something that says “watch out who you hang with.” While I could ramble on about slackers and the pros and cons of hanging out with them, I instead want to focus on the last piece of this installment – the mentor.
Having a mentor is a great thing for anyone looking to grow professionally. That mentor may be someone within the company or someone you have worked with in the past or just a person within your community that has been successful. I found my mentor about 15 years ago. He was the lead partner in the Austin office of the consulting firm I was working for at the time. His name was Bob Glickert (yeah I know – funny because I don’t like being called Bob.) As time went by, I just called him Bobby G.
Although I was just an entry-level consultant, I engaged him in regular conversations about the inner workings of the firm, how projects were priced out, how profitability of jobs was measured – all things that had nothing directly to do with my day-to-day tasks as an entry-level guy. But I learned a ton about business from those conversations. With him as my mentor and my willingness to travel 6 days a week and work 100+ hours a week , including one week where I charged 142 hours, I quickly went up the ranks from Consultant to Sr. Consultant to Manager in about 2 1/2 years.
I worked on some good projects and some really bad ones, but I learned from each one of them. Having that close relationship with him also gave me insight into a transition of the firm from a partnership to a public company. And while going public didn’t go that well ( I learned first hand what having “underwater stock options” was all about) that transition alone taught me tons about the world of big business. I look back on that 5 years as the time when I transformed from being an accountant to being a technology consultant to becoming a businessman. Having Bob as my mentor made that change possible.
When I left that firm 10+ years ago to come to Harte-Hanks, I continued to keep in touch with him. We would talk on the phone once a month and would meet for lunch every couple of months. I would use him as a sounding board for ideas and get advice on how he would handle certain issues that I was facing. It is 10 years later, and while he is now retired and spends most of his time in the mountains of New Mexico, we still keep in contact and I still consider him an influence in my career. I look back at my development and growth in the past 15 years and I know I owe much of it to his guidance.
So my advice to you: 1) if you don’t have a mentor, find one and 2) if you do have a mentor make sure you continue to leverage that relationship for as long as you can.