I'm not an IT person. I'm merely a passionate observer. Fortunately, Redmond readers -- who are real IT people -- overwhelm me with information. My expertise is directly derived from yours. That's why I feel comfortable giving advice: I'm really just channeling your great knowledge.
Here's what I've gleaned from your many letters and comments.
Relax: The world isn't going to get any better if you stress, nor will your job, or the economy, or your networks and computers. Stress just makes things worse. You may not turn gray (though I seem to be going from dirty blond to white), but you will be less happy, and pressure wreaks havoc on one's health.
Be Strategic: I'm sure many of you feel like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike -- one step away from disaster. Not only is this stressful, but it's a bad way to run your systems and career. Rise above by driving strategic IT thinking and planning. This may take some extra research on the side, but -- trust me -- it will also make your job far more interesting.
Work Toward Success: I know plenty of people that are happy with simple jobs, but this no longer works in IT. Things are moving too darn fast. If you aren't moving ahead, you're falling behind. Part of staying ahead is knowing the hottest, most strategic technologies. Just as important is how you carry yourself. If you want to lead, drop the attitude, roll up your sleeves and mentor rather than dictate. Act with class and dignity. Sure, jokes are great. But think in terms of how that joke would come off if your boss said it. If it sounds good, go for it. If not, shut the old pie hole.
Down to Business: IT is not just a bunch of wires, processors and lines of code. It's perhaps the most important aspect of your company's business. Here's what to do. First, understand the business imperatives. This can be as simple as just listening to your business leaders -- or, if that doesn't work, go ahead and ask.
Understand the business of IT. Most vendors have TCO and ROI case studies and worksheets. Go ahead and read them, then dismiss most of what you learned. These, for the most part, are hopelessly skewed. But you can take their worksheet and redo it based upon your own assumptions and your own environment. Or do your own economic analysis.
Get a license: Vendors love to make licensing as complex as possible. Like lawyers, if you have no clue what software sales people are talking about, you're putty in their hands. But IT pros are used to complexity. Active Directory, C++, routing tables, just keeping
Windows running -- what could be more intricate than that? So don't fear licensing. Take control. You can save a whopping amount of cash, and making those sales reps sweat is so dang fun.
What's your best advice? Tell me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.