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Monday, June 4, 2012

The Right Person for the IT Job

The Person versus The Job

When is it the right person for the job? Are you the right person for the job? Is the job right for the person? Are you in the right place?
So many questions... 
As I.T. Professional it sometimes feels as if you have the wrong shoe on the wrong foot. Things just doesn’t fit well. 
These are the days you question if you made the right decision when you chose your IT career. You question the decision of becoming an IT Professional over becoming a lawyer or a micro biologist. Maybe you should have studied medicine or architecture as your mother suggested. 
The forty hours for productive work slip by each week while you are staring at flickering dots on a computer screen, playing “whack the mole” with your never ending email inbox, and you ask yourself: “Am I really cut out for this one?”
I am an IT Manager. I see IT Professionals each day, and more than half of the people I work with, are good committed Professionals in the wrong jobs - people that lost the spark in their eyes and their careers. 
The result of IT people in the wrong job is lagging delivery, lacking motivation, and ultimately, it becomes a struggle to get through your day with colleagues and staff motivated only for doing just enough. There is a steady trend of IT Professionals that are not passionate about what they do. People in the wrong jobs.
Some of these professionals have been doing it for years, without the knowledge that there is something in IT that may just fit their individual talents and strengths better than what they do now.
This business called IT, is a people business. There are many roles in this business, but few people are aware that there are fundamental differences between each role.  So much confusion is introduced with complicated delivery frameworks, ambiguous job description and pure role confusion. It is a phenomenon found in most IT teams and delivery organizations. The danger is that one ends up being a “generalist” for the sake of remaining employed, instead of a passionate specialist for the sake of your sanity and excellence in delivery and achievement.
Somehow this knowledge is lost on most new entrants to this market. Professionals entering the business of IT is unaware that their are different roles that may appeal to different strengths and talents. Ask any computer science graduate what it is he wants to do in IT, and be prepared for a set of incoherent and rehearsed answers, as if it is read from a standard C.V., with little or no thought to what it is that is really matching their talents and personal strengths. 
No one is telling them that they will fit better in an Analyst role if they are really interested in the problems of their customers, or fit better in Design and Implementation if solutions are their passion. Very few realize their nurturing talents, and strengths in responsibility will equip them well for Systems Administration. Most aspire to be managers, but few realize that being a manager is as specialized as being a technical architect - a trade that takes years to be mastered, and in many instances a lifetime. 
In this Blog entry I am examining the value and impact of assigning the right person to the right job. It is something so fundamental to the success of what we do, and yet it is massively neglected by most managers in the industry. 
I am making the case that one should carefully examine the job or IT Role, and then endeavour to find the right person for that job. This sounds simple, and yes, it is easier said than done. If we get it right, we will change I.T. for the better. We will bring some of the pre-millennium magic back to being in IT, because many will not be able to wait for their next working day. Another day to do what they love doing.
I have a few ideas from experience I’ve built up over the years and will endeavor to share this knowledge of my mistakes and learnings in this entry and in others to follow. Hopefully, it will help with perspective and make your life as IT Professional a little easier. 
We are in the business of finding IT Professionals jobs. Let it be known, that we endeavor to find you the right one.
Forty Hours of Frustration

Are you having fun yet? 
Surely if you are spending forty hours of your week on it, and a further ten hours to get to and back from it, then you should at least enjoy what you do. Yes, it is called a job. For some it is a vocation, and yet for others it is a passion. The only other activity occupying more of your time per week, is your sleep. 
When there were still secretaries, I once, in the presence of my wife, jokingly referred to the fact that I see my secretary for more waking hours in the week, than I see her. She was not amused.  It however did drive home the importance of loving what you do at work. And, the importance of dearly loving your wife who is eagerly waiting for you to return, happy with the outcome of your day.
The Essence Of What We Do 

Business is a simple process of procuring raw materials and supplies, adding value to it, and making it available to solve a customer’s problem, need or desire. 
If this is the case, then the IT business should look something like the following:  Our raw materials are I.T. Professionals and their tools. The value we add is in the way we organize these elements of people and tools through processes to achieve desired outcomes. The outcome offered by this value is the way we address business problems and other outcomes for users and customers. Therefore, to ensure success we should concern ourselves with good supply. Access to top talent, and the best tools whenever and wherever required, in flexible supply arrangements. 
Secondly, we should refine our organization through improved processes and better assignment and utilization of our resources - the right person for the right job, with the right tools. Lastly, we should choose valuable, urgent and important problems to solve for our customers and users. This will secure demand, and provide opportunity for supply of our services.
Why is it then that I.T. organizations limit their supply of their most important raw material - their people - through preferential preferred provider recruitment arrangements, governed by draconian and out of touch procurement policies, with no conception of the importance of this single critical element in the success of the business? 
Surely, one should be prepared to go to the very ends of the earth to find good I.T. Professionals, because they are the very essence of our business’ success. Find them wherever you can! Find ways of recognizing their talents, like the prospector finds ways to recognize gold.
Why do we limit the success of these Professionals through prescriptive and in many cases illogical standardized industry practices and processes, with inferior tools of software and hardware, for the sake of control and compliance, and with no conception of what it takes to create value with the one element unique to this fantastically versatile resource - people’s diversity?
Why don’t we listen better to the problems of our customers?
Continuously Improve

One can only hope that we will one day look back on this era in our industry. The era when we’ve realized what is most important to secure our success in the business of IT - our people. In time, we will find better ways of dealing with this challenging but versatile resource. We will learn how and where to find talent, how to recognize it, how to assign it, and how to empower it. 
There will again come a day when we will benefit from passionate Professionals that cannot wait to get to work each day, to work with other passionate people on exciting challenges. As manager, my challenge will not be to motivate people, but to keep motivated people focussed. To help them refine their solutions to the problems of our customers. That day, we will celebrate the success of finding the way to get the right person for the right job.
I hope that day comes soon. In the mean time, it remains an elusive art of a few experts that honed their skills through mistake after mistake, correction after correction, learning after learning.
In my next entry in this Blog, I will endeavour to lift the veil on this elusive art. Please stay tuned.
Hendrik van Wyk.

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