Don’t become a Dinosaur
These days we talk about doing business in the global knowledge economy. Is learning optional? What really is the value of learning? As the knowledge aspect of the phrase implies, learning is at the core of all we do. New technology means we must learn to make use and take advantage of these new tools. Knowledge is a key requirement in Information Technology. This applies to all – IT professionals and users.
It is often said that knowledge and experience come first in the IT industry. So what is your attitude towards learning in IT? Why is learning so critical for the IT team? Never make the mistake that learning is for the sake of learning. The learning industry grows in all sectors of the industry because knowledge is at the heart of Information Technology. IT is nothing without knowledge.
Knowledge is about Value
For anybody working in IT, your knowledge is your power. “The more you know the more you can”. “You are only as good as what you know”. But is knowledge just ability? Knowledge is to large extent about value. It’s about making you valuable.
Your skills and knowledge must translate to value. Knowledge is nothing without value. How does what you know create value? No stories, please. Knowledge should create value. What are you bringing to the table? What do you know means what is your value? Value is not abstract. It should confer advantage on the beneficiaries. How do your skills and knowledge make you, your clients and employers more productive, efficient and profitable? What is the value proposition you offer? When you increase your value rather than your cost, you become more marketable and employable.
Focus on Value NOT Cost
Most of the time our concern is on our cost not our value. Cost relates to salary, retainer fees, allowances, consulting fees, perks, benefits, holidays, official car, bonuses, etc. It’s good to have a comfortable well paying job or work that allows you to meet all your personal needs. But an outlook that focuses only on cost is both myopic and regressive. For example, consider a highly knowledgeable and well-paid web developer who contributes little to the bottom line of clients or employers? What is the value? What is the cost? Having the skills and certifications are not enough? Having a great paying job is not enough? What are you contributing?
Get past the “show-me-the-fat-salary” syndrome. A fat pay does not equate to career success. It can in fact become a prison that keeps you from achieving your career goals. Get your priorities right – it is very easy to be vegetate away in a high paying position.
Knowledge for Career Growth
Talking about priorities, to ensure growth and value enhancement, your career needs must be paramount. Such needs should be based your career plan and objectives (http://www.jidaw.com/careerplan.html). You need to acquire knowledge and develop skills that will make meaningful impact on your career growth. Focused learning benefits you by adding value to your career. What are your knowledge needs in line with your career focus? Don’t wait for the ideal conditions or situation. Continuously explore various learning options – formal and informal.
Your knowledge options – training, certification and work experience – should be considered within the context of your unique, individual career development plan. What is your current career situation? What stage are you at your career? What is your current situation with respect to your work or profession? If you are out of work, what is your background? Are you self-employed? Or are you a student? Identify what you must learn. What practical knowledge do you have? How relevant are your present skills and experience to your goals? Which areas require improvement? And most importantly consider your non-tech knowledge needs as well. Soft skills are extremely critical to career growth. Look at your needs in soft skills – business, communications, presentation, personal networking, people skills, project management, leadership, and teamwork.
Avoid the Dinosaur syndrome
As an IT professional how current are you? Are you up to date with technology trends? What is your level of expertise with current technologies? What is your knowledge of new and upcoming technologies? Acquisition of knowledge adds more value by putting you ahead of the curve when you have in-demand skills that are not commonplace. These skills represent real sources of value to individuals who hold them, and organizations that use their services.
IT professionals that get ahead are those who keep their skills ahead of the pack. You can’t afford to become a dinosaur in IT. You need to have the foresight to plan ahead. But interest is cheap. Dig deep and make the effort. How will new technologies impact your career, your business, and your clients? What opportunities and challenges do they present? Take the initiative. Don’t wait to be spoon-fed or simply jump on the bandwagon. This requires resourcefulness on your part. In the IT industry continuous self-development is not an option. It is a critical necessity.
You can’t claim to like the IT field and yet be unwilling to make the effort required for constant knowledge acquisition. Be Wise. In the IT field, ignorance is the path of the dinosaur. Use credible resources available to help you learn more in your areas of interest. Keep abreast of the latest industry news and tech advancements in your area of interest, through seminars (http://www.jidaw.com/netseminar.html), email newsletters, and of course the Web. The Internet can be used for education and continuous self-development, through e-mail newsletters and sites with IT content.
How effectively do you use the Internet? And I’m not talking about just e-mail and chat, which is good for communication and interaction. But what about the information search, opinion resource, research and investigative capabilities of the Net? Are you using it to create opportunity? Any IT professional that doesn’t use the Internet effectively is like someone fighting with one hand tied behind his back. It is like someone who insists on using a candle despite the availability of electricity. Crazy, isn’t it?! In the dark, you might see with a candle, but your opportunities are limitless with electricity. The Internet is today’s tool. It has come to stay. In the highly competitive IT market if you don’t use the Internet effectively you put yourself at a serious disadvantage.
You cannot afford to be outdated or allow your skills to stagnate. Yesterday’s knowledge may not be able to handle today’s IT environment. The IT field is one of the fastest developing fields worldwide. Job and tech markets change all the time. What is in demand today may be obsolete tomorrow.
Continuous self-development helps you avoid becoming a slave to technology. Technology is changing the world as we know it but not all new technology is useful or relevant. Technology is also not a “cure-all”. Self development gives you the true and realistic picture of what new technology can and cannot do. You cannot serve the best interests of your clients or employers well if you only have outdated ideas and information. For example, as a Network Administrator, what is your take on Wireless LANs (WLAN)?
To keep current with changing technology, most IT professional certification providers require periodic updates. Have the right attitude towards certification changes – they are not meant for punishing or stressing out certification candidates. These periodic updates enhance the relevance and value of the certifications. As technology changes, related certifications must reflect these changes to remain relevant. If you are eager to learn and increase your value, certification involves choosing a content area that is at a premium in the industry and offers a natural fit into your career plan.
It’s all about Lifelong Learning
But simply because you are certified, or you have many years of experience, does not mean you should go to sleep. Certifications do not remove the need for continuous self-development. It is impossible for the content from a degree course or certification program to sustain you throughout your working career. This is particularly true in the IT field since it has such a rapid rate of change.
Continuous self-development is essential to keep your skills and knowledge current. You know Windows XP. You are wonderful with Cisco. You have a great understanding of system security. Your success is guaranteed the IT world, right? Dream on.
Without Lifelong learning, you won’t get anywhere. There are no shortcuts. Lifelong learning is a necessity, not a luxury for all of us.
You shouldn’t expect meaningful and sustainable career growth based only on knowledge you gained in the past. Only dinosaurs thrive in the past. Some see this state of affairs as a challenge; others view it as an opportunity. No matter how you look at it, IT demands an ongoing investment in skill development. Ignorance at any level is dangerous in IT. In the IT arena, “it is what you don’t know that can hurt you.” Like any disease it is better to prevent ignorance than to cure or manage it. Do you use IT? Are you in IT? Continue to learn, and you’ll maintain what you’ve got. It isn’t always easy, but it certainly beats just sitting back and taking whatever comes along. You can’t afford to become a dinosaur.
Jide Awe is the Founder/CEO of Jidaw.com (http://www.jidaw.com)