A Business Technology Place

Defining the term technologist

What exactly is a technologist?

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Chris Gunn

Credit: NASA/GSFC/Chris Gunn

I see the term technologist often and asked myself this morning what it really means.  Is this one of those terms that means different things to different people? Is it a good or bad term or does it just provide a descriptive title? It seems the term has become more generalized over time as technology continues to advance.

I’ve described myself as a business technologist. I use the term because I like to use technology to solve business problems. But heck, technology is in every facet of life today. So is the label technologist really ubiquitous to all of our lives?

Years ago, the business world created a department and called it “Information Technology”.  “IT guy” is a term used both in vain and effectiveness (sometimes in the same sentence!).    Today’s IT shop still has staff dedicated to supporting computers. But as more business workers gain comfort with using and supporting computers, the role of IT is changing more into systems integrations.  Information Technologist is a term about understanding data and how to move data between systems.

I looked for job postings on LinkedIn with the word “technologist” and found a broad range of jobs like Radiologic Technologist, Marketing Technologist, Medical Technologist, Engineering Technologist, Creative Technologist and User Support Technologist.  You can see the term is used to cover a wide range of careers.

Technologists are defined by curiosity and a breadth of knowledge.

The Curious Technologist defines the term technologist this way:

The wide ranging skill-sets which are the hallmark of technologists are ideal for connecting people, technology, and business opportunities. Rather than spending years of education and experience on any one thing, a technologist has an intense curiosity in technology in general.

That definition differentiates a technologist from a specialist. In this sense the technologist is defined as a connector more than a technician. The technologist uses the technology tools to connect people and systems with each other. They enjoy their craft more for the puzzle than for the technology.

That’s a good starting point to define the term. But I sense this label will continue to evolve and may one day fade out because it’s too general.

Onward and upward!

The greenest grass.

Finding valuable takeaways through everyday work experiences is something I started thinking about a few years ago. I attribute this behavior to my writing hobby. Since I try to blog on a regular cadence, I examine events during the work week as potential subject matter for writing.

How would you answer this?

Do you think about opportunities for strengthening individual relationships or for improving business workflows through the course of everyday experiences and interactions with others?

Admittedly this isn’t easy and not really natural. During a typical day I’m very task focused. How do I solve the problem in front of me? How do I complete a service request? How do I follow a process? How do I get as much done as possible? How can I complete more tasks?

I find that it’s easier to think about deeper meanings and opportunities after the day is over or when I carve out time for reflection. I don’t do it nearly enough. But the value in the exercise is that it helps me enjoy my job more and appreciate the efforts of my coworkers.

This week I saw a quote, “you may think the grass is greener on the other side. But if you take the time to water your own grass it would be just as green.” Maybe that’s not always true. But the intent of the words is clear and it agrees with the mindset of looking for opportunity and positive meanings in our current situations.

To help put some practical examples to my ideas this week I thought of a few common tasks in Information Technology that could have much deeper meaning or opportunity:

Common experience: Fixing a printer that won’t print.

Immediate need: Enable a co-worker to print invoices so that the company can pay suppliers.

Opportunity: A chance to discuss with the co-worker alternatives to printing by using an electronic method.

——

Common experience: Rerunning a report that didn’t generate.

Immediate need: Showing daily order totals for a product category.

Opportunity: A chance to deliver the reporting data real-time or improve the scheduled process flow that generates reports to make it more reliable.

——

Common experience: Setup computer and email for new employee.

Immediate need: Putting a fresh image on a computer so that it can be placed in service.

Opportunity: A chance to be one of the first smiling faces the new employee sees when you deliver the equipment and show them where things are located.

——

Common experience: A web form is susceptible to a hacker attack and reported on a penetration scan.

Immediate need: Fix the problem so the scanner passes the test.

Opportunity: A chance to see how hackers are breaking and entering. Play the role of cyber-cop by resolving the issue but learn from the experience and program to tougher standards with the next software release.

What’s great about this is that searching for the deeper meaning and opportunity in our everyday experiences can happen with any job at any level. It’s like watering the grass on your side of the fence. Do that and you might just find that the grass is greener in your current yard.

Onward and upward!

How to be like a Jedi at work

Influence thinking, don’t control results.

That almost reads like a Jedi mind trick. But even the Jedi were susceptible to trying to control outcomes. The concept is something I’ve read numerous times in leadership thought articles and I’ll admit the case of proof is strong. Leaders that use influence get results that far outreach and outlast leaders that use control. Think about Dr. Martin Luther King and Jesus compared to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.jedi mind trick

I relate this concept to a common trap in business management; trying to control results. I see it happen with micro-management or by not delegating properly. The person that is trying to control the results or outcome may not even realize what they are doing. It’s evident to me that one of the root causes is a lack of trust in the other individuals to complete a task.

In management, I aspire to create a system that explains the vision and goals for the team. But I don’t tell them how to get there. I like to make it clear that they are the experts in their field. They have responsibility for the “how”. As with anyone else, I’m not short of opinions and I’ll certainly offer my assessment of the goal. But the magic happens when I provide influence on the outcome more than controlling the outcome.

Examples of influence.

The software development life-cycle that is used by a programming group is something the development manager and product manager need to agree to. They need to create the process flow and interactions. I tell them they need a consistent software development process that provides predictable outputs with relation to time and quality (influence not control). If this isn’t happening then I may facilitate discussions to help move the team in that direction.

Service organizations expect team members to respond to customers in a timely and professional manner. Yet in many organizations the Information Technology group has a reputation of poor customer service skills and not partnering with other departments. Why is that? My aim in this situation is to influence the results of the team by modeling customer service skills and partnership attitudes. The technology steering committee I chair has more non-IT members than IT. It’s about partnership and cooperation and I stress this in meetings with my team.  The base level of customer service in IT is the service ticket. I don’t require a specific lingo, format, or response template. But I do make sure that technicians understand the power of responses to the customer in a professional and timely manner.  They have the ability to influence a customer’s decision for repeat business!

So be a work Jedi. But this is no mind trick.

The best part is that all employees can influence others but not all employees are positioned for control. Use that thought the next time a coworker complains about not being able to control a situation because the team doesn’t report to them.

Using influence instead of control has many benefits that include:

  • Employee development – Trusted employees learn and grow their skills through experience more than someone telling them exactly what to do.
  • Diversity of thought – Despite what I may think, my way is not always the best. Engaged employees bring diversity of thought to a problem which provides more potential solutions to draw upon.
  • Employee respect – Respect employees enough to honor their skills. They were hired to do a job, let’em work!