Home > IT Management > IT Competencies – how to develop them

IT Competencies – how to develop them

In my previous post, I talked about building an IT team and around what sort of IT and general competencies one ought to have.

Thanks to surferblue who blogged about it, here’s more about IT competencies that every IT person ought to have: 30 Skills Every IT Person Needs as written by Richard Casselberry, Infoworld. For sharing, I’ve posted the points here with my own commentary:

1. Be able to fix basic PC issues. (In my list I include how to build a computer/server from scratch.)

2. Work the help desk. (Management Trainees do not get a pass on this one from me.  They start off here.  Because that’s the center of the IT service universe – do not pass “GO” do not collect “$200”, go answer a call and help someone.)

3. Do public speaking. (IT is all about service to customers which includes explaining what we do isn’t “black magic”.  So that means communicating in all forms.)

4. Train someone. (Because you don’t really know it unless you can actually train someone to do it which proves that you do really know it.  You get the added bonus of helping someone and making your life easier – talk about win-win!  Besides, being a “sharing and caring” IT person is a Good Thing[tm].)

5. Listen more than you speak. (No one learned anything by speaking except one’s own ignorance.)

6. Know basic networking. (Because)

7. Know basic system administration. (Because)

8. Know how to take a network trace. (Because)

9. Know the difference between latency and bandwidth. (We live in a Web world, so how will you explain it to users if you don’t know?)

10. Script. (Lost art.  So many today’s IT guys don’t even know what it is. If you can script, then you can create a simple and effective IT environment that will inform you of exceptions.  Make the technology do the work for you, not the other way around.  Unless you’re an outsourced guy who needs job security.)

11. Back up. (This one is learned through (extremely painful) experience.  I don’t know why one needs pain to actually do this. I am guilty of this.)

12. Test backups. If you haven’t tested restoring it, it isn’t really there. Trust me. (What the man said: “If you haven’t tested restoring it, it isn’t really there. Trust me.”)

13. Document. (You need it to cover your ass.  But there are other uses such as how can you share and teach others (Item #4) if you don’t have it documented (i.e. RTFM).  Sometimes documenting it also helps you double and triple confirm the truth – it’s like testing backups, the knowledge isn’t really there unless it’s been documented and accessible to others.)

14. Read “The Cuckoo’s Egg.” (This is a new one to me.)

15. Work all night on a team project. (The thrill of victory!  Once you’ve experienced it, you’re hooked.)

16. Run cable. (Spaghetti networking, you try it and then try to troubleshoot it.  It’s the IT version of Dante’s Inferno.  Plague on you!)

17. You should know some energy rules of thumb. (This is called knowing and understanding your “hidden costs”.  Datacenter management is part of your IT management responsibilities (unless you’ve outsourced it).)

18. Manage at least one project. This way, the next time the project manager asks you for a status, you’ll understand why. Ideally, you will have already sent the status report because you knew it would be asked for. (Exactly.  Put yourself in the PM’s shoes.  Pain is a quick behaviorial change agent – ask Pavlov’s dog.)

19. Understand operating costs versus capital projects. (This falls under business acumen.  As a manager, you need to know it.  It will help your selling ability.**)

20. Learn the business processes. (It’s the IT guys who know what goes on in the company because of this.)

21. Don’t be afraid to debate something you know is wrong. (I call this the know-when-to-pick-your-battle rule.  Lots of IT guys like to show off how smart they are.  In reality, the one you’re talking to really truly does not give a rat’s ass.  Know your audience.)

22. If you have to go to your boss with a problem, make sure you have at least one solution. (I pay you to solve MY problems, not give you free IT lessons.  It’s not school-time boys and girls.  There’s no excuse for being unprepared and ignorant – you’ve got Google.  I didn’t.  However, I do appreciate that these are/can be opportunities for coaching and I’m happy to do so, but you need to be prepared.  Don’t make me do your job, otherwise I will, and then fire you.)

23. There is no such thing as a dumb question, so ask it … once. (True, see above.)

24. Even if it takes you twice as long to figure something out on your own versus asking someone else, take the time to do it yourself. (One of the best ways to learn is to go through the pain…er experience and it’ll never leave you.  Doing is learning.  It’s like how do you know fire is hot?  Right.)

25. Learn how to speak without using acronyms. (Yes, IT guys are smart, very smart, sometimes very very very smart.  No need to tell the whole world that.  They won’t get it.)

26. IT managers: Listen to your people. They know more than you. If not, get rid of them and hire smarter people. If you think you are the smartest one, resign. (Simply, yes.)

28. IT managers: The first time someone does something wrong, it’s not a mistake — it’s a learning experience. (In fact this is about the coaching and mentoring part of your job.  Don’t forget the “soft skills”.)

29. IT managers: Always give people more work than you think they can handle. (People are like plants and flowers.  If you don’t feed them with water, sunlight, and fertilizer, they’ll wilt and die.)

30. IT managers: Square pegs go in square holes. (For the most part, true.  However, it might be fun to see if you can break the laws of physics and change the square peg into something else.  You never know what your organizational needs are so best be prepared and your team too.  Heck, it’s the Matrix and you’re the Architect!)

** Another IT (and Project Management) competency is “sales”.  You do very much need to know how to sell (or negotiate to “Yes”).

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