The IT skill that lasts a lifetime


By Kong Yang, Head Geek, SolarWinds
Friday, 03 November, 2017

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Today’s businesses don’t need IT experts with skills in just one technology vendor or in technology alone. Instead, they’re looking for professionals who can readily adapt to new and disruptive technologies, extract business value, sell the virtues of those solutions and promote frictionless consumption of IT services.

The challenge starts with an overload of choices for services. In IT, there are always many ways to complete a task or solve any given problem. Multiply that by the countless services that vendors are offering across on-premise, off-premise and -as-a-service, and it’s becoming an endless stream of solutions decision-making. This can lead an organisation into tech debt as well as vendor lock-in.

IT professionals and their organisations are finding themselves in a continuous loop of optimising for every solution with data from multiple streams, which often translates into optimising for nothing at all.

Furthermore, the variety of services have led to many different labels, terms and semantics for constructs that are essentially the same thing, just cloaked in vendor-ese. For instance, Amazon EC2 instances are equivalent constructs to VMware vSphere virtual machines (VMs) or Azure VMs, just as AWS S3 storage is comparable to Azure storage blobs.

How can one remain an expert with so many ever-changing requirements that span both business and technology?

Certification no longer means employability

Newton’s First Law of Motion, aka the law of inertia, states that an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion with the same velocity and direction unless acted upon by another force. IT professionals and certifications find themselves in similar situation, because certifications allow them to start and continue on in their career path at a fixed rate of speed as well as direction.

But the hybrid force is asserting itself more often, especially with the higher velocity, variety and volume of changes in available technologies and services, particularly cloud services. IT pros, who tend to stay at rest with their learning and experience, will find that their careers will likewise meet a stagnant end.

Now, IT people have a love-hate relationship with certification. It’s painful and costly in both time and money to achieve. It also requires continual maintenance and upgrades to prove expertise with the latest technology. On the other hand, it gives you a clear advantage in qualification over those who don’t have it. The challenge is choosing the right certification path with long-term career sustainability in mind.

In today’s corporate environment, however, those advantages are dwindling, largely due to the changes in how we consume IT services at all levels of business. Today, in the era of continuous service integration and delivery, businesses require a service level agreement (SLA) from IT that meets security, lean (ROI) and agility requirements. Certifications need to match business needs while providing IT professionals with a proper career growth path.

Sales skills for IT pros

What can an IT professional do to cut through the solutions glut, find the right path for their organisation and ultimately advance their career? One way is to become a master salesperson.

It may seem oxymoronic to lump IT and sales together, but in order to cut through the services clutter, IT professionals need to think and adopt skills that top sales pros leverage to influence the people, process and technology decision-making in their organisations.

IT admins need to embrace being a salesperson. It’s time to acknowledge that without sales, there is no revenue, and without revenue, there are no jobs. Admins must learn to sell their ideas, their solutions, and their expertise and experience. Failure to sell your value means an opportunity for the business to replace or reduce your position.

There are seven simple steps adopted by successful sales folks that IT pros can leverage:

  1. Start with solving the problem and not focusing on the features. This sets expectations for delivery as well as resource needs.
  2. Master the solution. Know the solution inside out; be clear about when and where to apply it, and when and where it does not apply.
  3. Put the solution into a process. This adds consistency, rigour and control.
  4. Perfect the presentation pitch. Learn to deliver a persuasive presentation or argument that leads to an obvious decision or conclusion. Make sure it highlights the path to the right choice.
  5. Move the pitch forward. Always keep your eyes on the final prize.
  6. Position value while balancing the cost of investment. Include time and effort in the overall cost factor.
  7. Monitor and regulate your time and attitude. The most important thing that you have control over is your mindset.

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