Home > IT Management, Leadership & People > (Successful) IT People Characteristics

(Successful) IT People Characteristics

Lightning strikes again, I’m amazed at the prolification of posts on this topic all within 72 hours. There must be some forces at work that compel me to continue blogging away at this…

In any event, browsing through my blogroll, I happened upon the good folks (that is right, it’s a tag team over there) from WWW.ITMindDesign.com. They posted a fantastic summary of basically what qualities/characteristics make a good IT person (i.e. that you’d hire in a second). In my previous posts on IT Competencies and Building IT Team, I hadn’t gotten there yet, but drawing the framework further before deep diving into the nuts and bolts of the highly subjective person-level. 

As far as I tried NOT to project myself, I think the ITMindDesign bloggers hit it spot on. Their points also provide useful interviewing questions to see that you’ve got the right, talented person for your high-performing team.

1. Passion: (To survive and thrive in an IT combat zone, uh sorry, environment, you need to love it or be nuts to work in a fire fight daily because you definitely do not get combat pay for it.)

2. Self-teaching and love of learning: (Technology changes as frequently and often as your underwear.  If you don’t love to learn or teach yourself, you’ll be as obsolete as the 5 1/4″ floppy.)

3. Intelligence: (Uh, duh?)

4. Hidden experience: (IT guys do a lot of their own experimenting and fooling around.  It’s in their genes.  This is often not on the resume because they learned somewhere that resumes don’t have such information – maybe blame recruiters.  But through the interview you’ll find out they’ve done a hell lots more than what’s on their resumes.  Dig after it and you might actually find a diamond in the rough. w00t!)

5. Variety of technologies: (Yes, just look at what you’ve got to play with – telephony gear, network equipment like VPN boxes, routers, switches, servers of all shapes and sizes, half a dozen major OS’s, databases, applications, IT security/firewalls, email technologes and the list goes on and on.  If you don’t have the passion to play and learn about it, you’re d-e-a-d dead.)

6. (Lack of) Formal qualifications: (This one I’ve found over here in Asia where tech guys are certified out-the-wazoo.  It’s insane the number of MS and Cisco certs these guys have on their resumes.  And every now and then you find some guy walking in with SUN and HP certifications.  I actually had to look them up myself just to check if they were real.  But this gets fun, with all these certs, my senior tech guys (with ZERO certs) have lots to shoot at.  And shoot they do… in reality it’s unfair because it’s not good sport shooting fish in a barrel.  My senior tech guys are all certified summa cum laude black-and-blue from the School of Hard Knocks.  Yeah, they touched the fire and yup, fire is indeed burning flaming hot.  So try to BS them and you might as well take that rope and…

I’ve another experience with certifications from my early dot-com days.  A “senior” system admin was working on a portal project for us.  This H1-B guy was SUN certified which was just perfect because we were having some issues around building a portal on a SUN box.  So we assigned him to rescue this project due to his SUN certification and senior credentials.  Before long, we found out something was wrong.  My project manager, a true PaiMei Guy, was alarmed at how little progress there was.  So in a side conversation, Indian to Indian, he found out that this “senior” SUN certified system admin had never actually physically worked on a live SUN box before (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Holy #&*$!@^%!!!   From that day henceforth, I’ve discounted any and all certifications on resumes that come before me (with a couple of exceptions).)

7. Self-confidence vs Hubris: (I call this stubbornness.  We’re all smart right.  We’re all superman or superwoman – especially in our minds.  There’s nothing we can’t do, really just give me the time and…  We not only graduated from the School of Hard Knocks but we conquered it! Tech-maschismo {flex}!  “Can-do attitude”!  Heady stuff… and I had one super talented tech guy with these warm fuzzy feelings.  He thought he could rewire the network cabling after doing some minor fix/upgrade to our routers.  The problem is that it ended up as a spaghetti network. Admittedly half-way through, this smart guy realized he was in sooo-deep, he couldn’t back out so he bull-dozed his way to the end.  Amazingly, he managed to get them all connected the right way and just in time for start of the business day… but…. After I was done with him, he will never ever do such a bone-headed move again without taking the right preparation steps.  To his credit, he went back and did it right in the next down time window.  He learned. School of hard-knocks graduates yet another successful IT Geek!) 

8. Star-Trek test: (It’s so true… it’s weird.  How could you not like:

Capt Kirk and Crew

Capt Kirk and Crew

My off-the-wall personal projection is that we all imagine ourselves as Capt Kirk, with his machismo, his fearlessness, his visionary leadership leading the team into the exciting unknown.  We’re curious explorers at heart, wondering how things tick in our universe.  The unknown doesn’t scare us, just makes us more determined to get to the truth!

Let’s go get them!  Who wouldn’t want to be a part of THIS TEAM?  Especially if you can build one like it, right?


ADDENDUM: I forgot one important other quality to add to the above list.  9. Perseverence: Rain or shine like the US Postal Service, IT folks go out there and just get the job done.  Sometimes with ammo, often without enough ammo.  Heck, most IT guys need to operate in the equivalent of a hot LZ with enemy and friendly fire coming their way.  And there’s usually no calvary or air-cover coming to their aid.  Toiling anonymously like “greasemonkeys” is often the life for so many guys in the trenches.  You need guys who can do this day-in-day-out.  As one of my best guys says, “I’m a cockroach.  You can’t kill me.  I’m a survivor.”  How can you not love a guy like that!

  1. Les
    October 24, 2009 at 4:50 AM

    Can’t resist a good Star Trek reference, but surely any good IT person has more in common with Scotty than Kirk? And I don’t just mean the time estimates to finish a repair…

  2. October 24, 2009 at 9:13 AM

    Hi Les,

    Thanks for dropping by. Yes, probably more folks are like a Scotty type than a Kirk type. However, the interesting thing is that the whole bridge crew all represent an archetype of an IT guy. Scotty is I think a typical techie toiling in the datacenter somewhere or in the service management side. Kirk is a model I think for what successful IT managers/leaders need to be. And Kirk was successful because of the team he had around him. Everyone had their place.


  3. January 22, 2010 at 1:45 AM

    I know my business would be nothing without all the ‘Scottys’ that’s for sure. I’ve learned a lot as a business owner from the actual people that make my business what it is today. Very interesting article by the way.

  4. January 22, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    Hi Zach,

    Thanks a lot for dropping by and posting. You’re right about the Scotty’s of the world and I definitely agree. Need a lot of those types and I appreciate them.


  5. Chip
    November 13, 2015 at 6:27 AM

    Funny looking back at posts, today the whole bridge crew has been outsourced except for Kirk and he’s looking over his shoulder. Today five years later, I would like to hear if you think these characteristics still hold in corporate America.

  1. May 10, 2009 at 4:02 PM
  2. May 11, 2009 at 4:52 PM
  3. June 5, 2009 at 12:48 PM
  4. June 9, 2009 at 8:15 PM
  5. June 19, 2009 at 1:13 AM

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