In technology, you better be willing to accept change and leverage experience. A potential client recently asked about my background and when hearing I had a Management information Systems degree from 1989 said “then you were born to work with technology”. In actuality, growing up in rural Oklahoma I didn’t get my hands on an Apple IIe until seventeen. Now as a dinosaur in this industry, the following are some lessons learned throughout my career:
1) Start at the end. Determine the outcome, compare what is being done today, and what does it really mean to the person requesting. There is so much buzz and FUD in technology, that a reported problem or requested solution is rarely correct. Working backwards from a goal of why and when also quickly qualifies commitment, feasibility, and time-line.
2) Think out of the box. As a student at Tulsa University, I quickly got tired of sitting in the gloomy basement and waiting for printouts when programming. I knew I’d be in the industry, so I bought one of the first Personal Computers with a modem to develop programs on a PC editor in less than half the time and with very little mainframe time.
3) Tell the real story and get buy-in. Over-emphasize things to expect and when upfront, especially any pain. Make sure you have buy-in by management and the project team and that they are doing any assigned tasks. Check the dates and signatures of contracts. I’ve actually seen “Why Bother” scrawled to look like a signature and backdate of a year to circumvent contracts.
4) Re-usability. Everything in technology you will do again. Take the extra time to document the first time or make a template as there are very few one-off things and even with changing paradigms there is base knowledge and historical facts that will prove valuable.
5) Follow-up. In 1987, my old dentist retired and I stumbled across Dr. Hinkle. Whether it was wisdom teeth removed or a simple cleaning, he called the same evening to make sure you were OK. It was a powerful lesson as no one likes to go to the dentist, true caring was shown, and loyalty definitely won.
Technology is like math as it is fairly simple to learn the nuts and bolts. Thought process and proven approach have been much more valuable than some tactical knowledge of a language or infrastructure. Of course starting with mainframes and working through virtually every war in the technology industry, my perspective is a unique blend of old-school and cutting-edge.