On Becoming an Information Technology Guru

On Becoming an Information Technology Guru
A good friend once expressed his career objectives as being the following:

Work for a while in the IT trenches and then, after a respectable amount of time, ascend to the role of Manager, moving on to Director, and so on.

The allure is obvious; more money, and presumably more organizational clout. There are of course, also downsides: politics, bureaucracy, and a nagging concern that, without a deeply technical skillset to draw upon, you may find yourself cast adrift without a marketable toolkit.

I offered an alternative vision, one that acknowledges your growth and maturity as a professional while still retaining some degree of career self-determination.

Instead of dreaming of a corner office and interminable meetings, you should dream, I suggested, of becoming a guru.

But what do I mean by this over-used word?

In my view, an IT guru strives to do a few critical things:

* Craft a vision of the career you want rather than the career you've stumbled into because of the changing priorities of an organization (for example, if you are passionate about iOS development, pursue that with single-pointedness of mind until you enjoy a high level of mastery)

* Share what you know by participating in forums, starting a blog, posting to Twitter, joining user communities, and even writing books about the technology you love

* Always ask questions of those who know more than you do. I've met quite a few arrogant sorts in this field and they tend to be, with few exceptions, quite stupid

* Become a mentor to those who're starting - and not just the standard 'how to tech the tech' style of mentorship but be a true advisor who understands interpersonal challenges, organizational politics, and all the other non-technical factors impacting this technical field

* Be a mentor to your organization - when people ask questions, explain complex topics patiently and respectfully...be a teacher and a colleague to all.

As a guru, you are not just a collection of skills listed on a resume to be plugged into a role like an appliance (the view of the worst recruiters and most uncreative organizations) but a whole person, who brings both technology expertise and wisdom to each situation.

Hotshots, cowboys, socially insensitive and narrowly focused people tend to flame out, burn bridges or shine brighly while young, only to lose the script as they inevitably age. Gurus are in this for the long term as a lifelong learning, teaching, and helping opportunity.

Make that your career objective and I think greater success - with or without coveted titles - will follow.

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