Groomed or Doomed?
Does a change in responsibilities mean you're closer to the top or closer to the door?
- By Greg Neilson
I recently changed jobs within the
same company and I’m having a problem adapting. I have
three and a half years of good, hands-on network administration
experience and an MCSE. In my new position, my title has
changed to Desktop Applications Analyst/Expert. The job
covers everything from project management, documentation,
and configuration to maintenance of all HR software, interviewing
candidates, and help desk support. Also, the network administrators
and the desktop analysts are in separate areas. I talked
to my boss, and he basically told me I could take this
position anywhere I wanted—although I find that hard
to believe. Did I make the right choice?
—Name Withheld by Request
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Greg Neilson says: Although
I suspect we caught Steve at the end of a bad day (you
know how it is with those academic types), I agree with
much of what he said.
Whenever I’ve made a major change in my life, it’s taken
me a few months to adjust and actually like the new over
the old. Whether it was moving away from home, getting
married, making a career change from programming to networking,
or relocating to another country, moving away from my
comfort zone was stressful. Each change ended up being
good for me—but each time, I was tempted to go back
to my old life. A few months down the line, however, I’d
realize that I’d made the right choice.
At the moment, your job is completely different from
what you’re used to. For obvious reasons, you’re wondering
why the heck you agreed to take on this role when your
skills are in another area. Since I’m assuming this is
a question you considered before taking on your new position,
it’s time to re-examine the reasons you took the job.
See if they still hold true. If they do, then hang in
there; you’ll soon be enjoying your job again. If the
reasons you had originally no longer seem to make sense,
then you need to decide whether you should seek something
else, or if you can learn enough to warrant staying in
this role for a while.
As Steve says, the position can be a valuable way to
round out your knowledge. Sure, management is one avenue
open to you, but help-desk work can also be useful if
you later decide to take on a senior architectural role;
the knowledge you’re gaining about deploying standard
applications will be invaluable.
It sounds like you’re not doing any networking admin
now but hoping that will change. I have to tell you that
it won’t—your letter makes it clear that another department
does that work. However, deploying applications like Office
and Internet Explorer gives you valuable hands-on experience.
Those skills may be important later, when as a manager
you have to consider the firm’s entire IT infrastructure.
In fact, it may make you a diehard thin client/Terminal
Server advocate in the future!
Aside from the technical skills you’ll need in this new
role, don’t forget that you’ll have the opportunity to
work on your “soft skills”—project management, mentoring,
and influencing people on other teams. No matter what
you do in IT, being able to demonstrate a firm grasp of
these will hold you in good stead for the future.
I wouldn’t necessarily worry that you’re in a different
department from the networking folks. Managers can effectively
manage only a certain number of staff. As the IT function
grows, more managers need to be hired for different teams.
In theory—and you might have to remind yourself and those
you work with of this—you’re all part of the same company
and you’re all trying to do the best thing for the company.
Of course, turf wars in IT departments are all too common.
It can be staggering to see how much time and effort are
wasted fighting each other rather than actually getting
anything done. Try very hard to make sure you don’t add
to any of these conflicts. Sometimes showing some goodwill
on your side can help break down walls.
No matter how much you find yourself worrying about whether
this a good role for you, make sure it doesn’t affect
your performance. If you create a perception that you’re
not performing, it will drastically affect any possibility
of a move to another area in the company. I know, many
in IT think nothing of changing companies every one to
two years, but I’m a firm believer that it’s far easier
to find another job within the same company than with
another firm. So hang in there and make sure you don’t
burn any bridges!
Greg Neilson is a manager at a large IT services firm in Australia and has been a frequent contributor to MCPmag.com and CertCities.com.