As I approach the big four-oh and nearly twenty years in IT, I’m starting to get a taste of what wisdom brings to your perspective and hot damn, it is awesome.
In my business (see: IT consulting) you are forever proving yourself to your clients. You are sometimes seen as some know-it-all faux engineer strolling in to turn over rocks and look for jobs to eliminate. And sometimes, you turn over a rock and bam – there is someone underneath that rock looking to poke you in your dollar sign eyes with a stick.
Why? Because they hate you.
Not really, but in any form of advisory you are going to deal with that difficult person in that organization. In fact, it’s very likely they will have proximity to the thing you have been hired to build, fix or evaluate.
But this isn’t about the hardships of your IT consultant (oh, boo-hoo!)… this is about guarding technology culture and organizations against an infection that will limit the potential of what is typically a large group of very, very smart people.
A healthy host can innovate, a sick one is too busy fighting the infection.
So what do you look for?
> look for a perpetually grumpy ‘network administrator’ of 15+ years
> listen for someone using snark as standard verbal currency
> wait for them to tell everyone they are the smartest person in the room / team / company (they will)
Why they are really important!
Like it or not, they probably hold sway in that IT organization, possibly up to and including your CIO or other key leaders (but sometimes it’s Stockholm syndrome all over the datacenter… hardly anybody in a suit understands the witchcraft going on in there).
If you think you are that person in your organization…
You know that ‘slap a coworker day’ meme that says if you don’t know who that person is, stay home? Did you have to think really hard about who that person was and came up empty? There you go… you’re the troll.
Fear not though, friends. There is still time to pivot.
The best way forward is radical candor, backed up with collaboration and a principle that is probably new to you:
You don’t have to share all your rules
What’s the point?
I think it’s really hard for smart people to let go of the guiding principles and frameworks that make them good at what they do. But ultimately, you either figure out how to plan for the group win or you go away.
IT used to be a loose-knitted cabal of highly skilled individual contributors. That worked when you had a thing that you controlled. But you don’t control anything in today’s world of I-want-it-now-and-I-want-it-my-way end users.
The only way IT survives in the business is by forming a special operators group that integrates disciplines, links silos and focuses very limited (and increasingly so!) resources on a specific set of problems that matter to the business.