A Business Technology Place

The truth about IT developers.

CSStoHTMLPart 1 of 3 – The Truth is …. I’ll share some truths about developers, managers, and processes in IT.

I almost became an IT developer.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Georgia Tech. The curriculum was heavily weighted towards programming to teach computer science concepts and initially I thought I would become a developer. While I made As and Bs throughout college I realized my senior year that I wasn’t a gifted developer and couldn’t see myself doing that 40 hours each week.  I could write code. But for many assignments, the code didn’t flow naturally for me.  I saw myself an average-joe developer.

Fast forward to today.

My development skills have served me well in my 20+ years in a technology profession. I’ve been able to do light coding for some work tasks and productivity routines. I know enough to speak intelligently with developers and ask probing questions. Today, I work with development teams to provide solutions for our internal business partners and customers. The importance of IT developers in an organization is immense. Some of them excel at not only knowing how to write code, but they become a repository of knowledge for business rules that govern the day-to-day operations of their business. You probably know a few people like this. They are intertwined with the system, the rules, and the output of work in your organization. I think of them as an organizational czar. They are experts in their area and hold a large amount of influence in how work is produced.

Some truths about IT developers.

Working with developers for so many years I’ve come to realize a few things about them. These are characterizations and not criticisms in any way. I love my development teams. For better or worse this much I know to be true:

  • IT developers want to please you so they will tell you what you want to hear. They don’t like to commit to dates but sometimes they’ll give you a date that you want to hear. I often say developers are some of the most optimistic people I know.
  • IT developers really prefer to be single threaded and not be assigned multiple things at once. The trick is to figure out how to keep the development backlog full without letting the developer get stressed about having too much to do.  Don’t interrupt a developer during the middle of a sprint and ask them to do something different!
  • IT developers don’t like to fill out status reports, track time, or write documentation. I’ve not been able to convince most developers that if they use the proper tools to update their status then they’ll see the project manager less.

If you haven’t told your development team how much you appreciate them lately then use this as a reminder to do so.  When they give you an optimistic estimate, just smile and thank them. Add a little buffer and make sure to not interrupt them once they get started. 😉

Onward and upward!

Reshape your delivery

Part 2 of 2 – Reshape

Audience has context.Hitchcock

I like to watch film content that shows suspense, paranormal activity, and mystery. So I was very pleased to find that Netflix has the first season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (39 episodes!) available for streaming subscribers. Each episode is roughly 20 minutes, displayed in black-and-white, and oh so 1950s. I’m fascinated how Hitchcock twists a usually suspenseful plot for a surprise ending. Most of all, I like how his stories usually leave me thinking deeper about the subject matter.

I recently watch episode 5, “Into Thin Air”. The script follows the daughter of a woman who disappears from a hotel in Paris. After the woman’s daughter discovers the disappearance, she searches for her mother by questioning the hotel staff. None of the staff remembers ever meeting the woman or her daughter even though it’s been less than 24 hours since they checked in the hotel. Despite my love for Hitchcock films, I didn’t like this episode at all. It wasn’t the content of the story. It was the acting of the woman’s daughter.  I felt like her reaction to the situation wasn’t at all realistic from how a daughter would react if her mother went missing from a hotel. The actress played a character that was dumb-struck and confused. There was no anger or strong emotion. No hysterics or fits of rage. She didn’t call anyone names.  I get the thought that we might start to doubt our own memories when told by multiple people that our memories are wrong. But typically, anger, outrage, or some other emotional outburst would come first. I kept thinking to myself while watching this isn’t a good portrayal of character.

Then in the Hitchcock closing he remarks, “I thought the little leading lady did rather well, didn’t you?” I think my face went completely blank. But then it occurred to me, that the actress was playing a character that the audience of that time expected. Maybe it was closer in character to a wealthy traveling woman of the time than what I know. The part was played to connect with and appeal to the audience of that day and age. The success of the Hitchcock short’s show that he definitely connected with the audience.

(As an aside, I found after a little research that in this particular episode, the actress was played by Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter Pat Hitchcock. No wonder he made that remark!)

We too are taught to know our audience. It’s part of the basic block and tackling taught in school. It’s important when preparing content of any kind whether in business or for personal interactions.

Reshape my delivery.

Why am I rambling about all this? That Alfred Hitchcock episode was the inspiration for my two blog posts on ‘reshape’….(pause for effect)…..I know…….. Yes, this is the point when you realize your suspicions were true that I’m a rather odd fella.

But after watching the episode and thinking about audience within context of time and medium, I saw a parallel to how I wrestle to produce content for speeches, documents, and emails each week in business. Those that work with me see that I constantly tweak the format of some recurring meetings and presentations. I like to tinker with the flow of staff meetings as well. It’s a constant cycle of produce content, deliver content, and measure by how well I think it connected with the audience. Reshaping my delivery is about trying to connect with other people on an idea, a thought, or a task.

Onward and upward!

 

Reshape yourself

Part 1 of 2 – Reshape

Understanding my mistakes.pottery-166797_1280

I’ve worked for four different organizations since I graduated from college. Going through the transition and onboarding at each new organization was an opportunity to correct mistakes from my past. I’m referring to mistakes in attitudes and actions where I let my feelings cloud my judgment. In some cases I became defensive rather than acknowledging my mistake or weakness. In other cases I was outwardly critical of management decisions because of personal preferences. The new job and new relationships became a chance to get rid of the organizational baggage that I carried. My actions were my personal public record. That record included the good, bad, and ugly. I had left my mark.

Seize the opportunity.

Changing employers is not a goal of mine. But when it happened, it was an opportunity to reshape and transform myself.  The key for me was to reflect on my experiences. What actions and attitudes did I wish I could change and coarse correct? How would I behave differently given the chance? What was the root cause for my past behaviors? Was I behaving in the best interest of myself or the organization for which I worked?

There’s a classic interview question from candidate to employer, “what does it takes for a person to be successful in this position?” There are specific skills of course. But what about how the position fits in the organization and who does the position need to interact with to be successful. This is the opportunity to learn and shape actions for the new job.

The whole is more important than the pieces.  

Reshaping myself has been about seeing the betterment of the whole organization as the goal. It has meant that I want my actions to be less about what’s most important to me and more about what’s most important to the organization. Reshaping myself has been about seeking common ground with others. It’s been about finding win-win outcomes to better everyone. It’s been about being a better employee, colleague and manager.

Reshape yourself.

Onward and upward!

Superheroes among us

Action is his reward.

My favorite childhood superhero was Spider-Man. I loved reading the comic book series, seeing the villains stopped, and the thinking about the vivid colors in the red and blue suit. I remember wishing I could spin webs like old spidey. I loved the theme song to 60s cartoon as well. Towards, the end there is a great line:Spiderman_by_pauloskinner

Spiderman, Spiderman

Friendly neighborhood Spiderman

Wealth and fame

He’s ignored

Action is his reward.

I love the concept of finding reward in the challenges and action required to solve a puzzle or problem. It’s a fundamental motivator in the workplace.

Superheroes living among us.

Jump forward to today. I’m still enamored with superheroes. But they don’t live on comic book pages or cartoons. These are people that benefit my daily routine with their God given ability and strengths which I like to call “superpowers.” I’m talking about what someone is really good at. It’s that thing that they do really well and may not even realize it because it comes natural to them. It defines them in the workplace and gives them success in specific areas. It helps them create their value to the organization.

Here’s a few superpowers I’ve discovered within others:

  • The ability to remain calm and level-headed when accused wrongly or spoken to unprofessionally by others. This means remaining focused on solving the core problem and not letting emotional reactions further charge the situation. That’s a customer service super power that many need but few have.
  • The ability to know things your manager needs in advance. This could be answering a question before it’s asked.  It could be supplying your manager with the information they need to make a decision. This superpower is about anticipation, understanding the situation, and making the correct reads.
  • The ability to suggest a different opinion or view-point on a subject without making the other person think they have been judged, insulted, or measured wrongly. This is the person that can steer a conversation and topic to have varying view-points without escalating tensions. This is the person that brokers a mutually beneficial agreement to a situation where two parties are opposed.

Look around. The world is full of super powered people.

These folks may not have comic books written about them. They aren’t in movies. But they are fun to watch and cheer. They make our lives easier just like the superheroes of our youth. Action is their reward.

If you want to try something fun do this. Observe a few of your closest colleagues and record what they are really good at doing. Look at their work and behavior from different angles because their biggest strength could be a soft skill. Then reveal what you believe their greatest strength is by saying to them “I know what your superpower is.” That’s a great conversation starter. It’ll set the stage for some good dialogue between the two of you and definitely leave your colleague with something to think about.

I.T. is better when…

It’s Thanksgiving week and I’m thankful for another year of work and learning. During my reflection this year for what I’m thankful for, I thought about what makes life in IT better. What are those things that help IT perform to their best ability? What are those things that help an IT group provide great service?Make IT Better

So here’s a list you can gobble-up. It’s stuffed with good fillings. If you’re not in IT then give it to your IT guy/gal. Hopefully it won’t give them indigestion.

IT is better when:

  • employees focus on service and solutions over process and policy – This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have policies and procedures. But as a matter of focus, IT is better when the goal of the employee is to provide service and solutions. For more discourse on this topic read What do you want to be known for?
  • employees move beyond thinking about salary as their primary motivator. I’ve heard my fair share of salary whining in a 25 year technology career. When that happens the employee loses focus on getting better, continuous learning, and service delivery. But more than that they lose focus on being happy at work.  It’s a distraction for them and those they involve. As a general statement, IT employees are well compensated. Salary isn’t a right-of position. IT employees are as responsible for delivering results as any other department.
  • the business units treat IT as a partner for solution development. So often I see business units skip IT to work with  an outside provider directly. It’s a complicated topic and yes IT is often too stacked-up with work to deliver services in the needed timeline. But this behavior often results from an attitude that IT can’t provide. If IT isn’t viewed as a legitimate business partner then they don’t even get a seat at the table to deliver solutions and services.
  • IT treats the business as a customer instead of an “user”. The term “user” is pretty impersonal. I’ve heard IT service delivery personnel talk about internal customers as if they are a nuisance or disruption to their day. Not cool. Those are customers and IT is better when they are they are treated like a customer. IT is definitely better when they focus on customer service. (Hint: this helps to create the atmosphere that solves the bullet above this one)
  • finance treats IT as a source for competitive advantage instead of a cost center. The cost center mentality is a race to zero. That’s not a winnable game for anyone. When finance sees and pushes IT to offer competitive advantages then IT gets better.  How do we return ROI on our technology investment? How do we charge-back some of cost to build services for customers?