Are you a solutions-based IT specialist?

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A lot has been said about why certifications should not be a substitute for traditional education, and how understanding the fundamentals of a technology is better for your career than that drive to get certified. However, another side of the story we haven’t looked at is the kind of world we’re living in and the kind of IT specialists that are now in demand.

Vendors and service providers are now positioning themselves to deliver solutions to their end-customers for several reasons.

  1. Selling a solution offers better revenue than selling a product
  2. Supporting a solution that they have professionally designed and tested is a lot easier for business and their support teams than one each client has put together over time out of bias or preference.

However, the above requires a new kind of thinking. For those of you starting out in your careers and looking to get some experience, start by critically looking at your career, what you see yourself doing over the next 5 years and how you can achieve that goal. Here are some pointers and hard realities:

  1. The chances of an employer putting you at the helm of managing their databases, network, or websites, or steering their application development are very slim. You have to prove yourself, and that doesn’t happen when you choose to focus on only one thing. Get your hands dirty, and understand every aspects of their IT infrastructure and start identifying bottlenecks and how you could help improve them. For example, organizations with transactional databases that grow exponentially, are looking at cheaper and more reliable ways to store all that data. It could also be that when those databases are populating, portions of the network, or their front-facing applications become sluggish or unresponsive. How could you as an IT specialist look at the problem in its entirety and address it?
  2. Do not be a Jack of All Trades and master of none. I often have conversations with young and energetic individuals that feel that knowing a little bit of everything makes them relevant or cool. It doesn’t, it only makes you ineffective. Versatility in IT doesn’t require you to know everything. It requires you to understand the fundamentals, and know how to use them to guide in investigating an issue.
  3. Document your career and the lessons you learn. There’s so much knowledge out there, and unless you have photographic memory, there’s no way of remembering all those things. However, documentation plays an even more important role. It helps you go back to your knowledge and see where you can improve and consolidate it. Furthermore documentation allows you to begin seeing trends, that result in “best practices”.
  4. Acquire some management skills. Becoming conversant with the ITIL framework is very important as it introduces to the idea of “IT as a service”, where you look at every aspect of what you’re providing to either internal external customers, and how you can measure the effectiveness of the service and where you can improve. This is a very important concept, because for most people, if a server went down today, understanding when it went down, why it went down or who was affected and for how long is not as important as rebooting it and restoring the service. Furthermore, for most IT specialists, there’s no system to managing failures. If no one calls in to IT to ask why they cannot access the Intranet, and you can restore service, then there’s no need in telling them. However, a systematic IT department, observes, improves, and reports every aspect of its operation
  5. Appraise yourself regularly. If you cannot quantify your achievements, you’re bound to cripple your career development and have statements like “troubleshooting printer issues” or “carrying out backups” as achievements on your CV. Anyone can do those things, a great CV has bold statements that present an achievement in black and white. i.e. “Migrated company ABC’s databases from X to Y, and redesigned their front end to resulting in an M% improvement in productivity”. Your career is made up of milestones that you must achieve by starting from somewhere and getting somewhere

Source: ICT ZM

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