As 2020 draws to an end, I wanted to share Reflecting on 20 years in IT. Twenty years ago I started my first job as IT Manager for a Food Testing Laboratory. At 18 I found myself being solely responsible for all IT across two sites. This was my dream job, and I was determined that not having a driving licence or experience would stop me. I took the opportunity with both hands and through determination and a desire to learn, I was successful.
Today I work for a FTSE 100 company, defining the strategic direction for lab systems used in hundreds of labs globally. The testing covers everything from clothes to engines to the chair you are sat on. I still draw on lessons I learnt from my first job, mainly the detailled understanding of a testing business from end to end.
As I reflect on the last twenty years, I want to share some of the lessons I have learnt.
It’s all about the people
When first starting out in IT, it was easy to focus on the latest technology and finding uses for it in the business. This is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog….
Successful IT is people centric, it starts by understanding the needs of the users, it’s so much more than asking what they want. Truthfully, they don’t know what they want. IT and business have to work together to fully understand the needs and find appropriate solutions.
Sometimes it takes another perspective to enable the business to see the problem they want IT to solve, is a problem the business is unnecessarily creating.
Relationships and Trust
As successful IT is all about the people, it would be remiss of me not to highlight the importance of relationships. Building strong relationships at all levels is crucial.
A strong network of colleagues provides opportunities for insight you just can’t get through surveys and workshops. The trust built in relationships allows you to communicate openly about challenges and politics that may be impacting your project.
Share the knowledge
The old saying ‘Knowledge is Power’ is true in some situations, but in IT and business it is important to share knowledge, or everyone looses out. More importantly your career is held back. You cannot progress if you are the only one who knows how that critical system works.
Find the balance….
Sharing the knowledge is fundamental to finding the balance. IT has become as critical as the electrical supply for most businesses, many supported by small teams. This creates huge pressure on IT staff when downtime happens and without support and time off it can and often does become overwhelming.
Mental Health is getting more attention and becoming less of a taboo to discuss. When I open up about my mental health struggles, I find many others have struggles too. Building trust with your colleagues to create an environment that facilitates open discussions about mental health. A safe and open environment will also help with productivity, employee and customer engagement.
Reflecting on 20 years in IT
After 20 years, I have learnt a huge amount and have found it difficult to condense this into a single blog post. If you have any questions – give me a shout on Twitter
Tell me what you think in the comments below or on X @timdixon82