IT Matters and my top 10 list

Posted by on Nov 9, 2006 in Business, Charity, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Technology

Georgia Southern UniversityOn October 26, 2006 I had the privilege of presenting a guest lecture to the students at the College of IT at Georgia Southern University (GSU). I would like to thank Dr. Sonny Butler for inviting me. Below are the 10 main points I presented. My purpose was not to promote any specific technology or company, but to give the students a couple of life lessons based on my IT background and business experience.#1. Never stop learningNo, you don’t know everything after you earned your IT (or any other) degree. Never stop reading. Read IT books, business books and blogs. I recommend that you also read outside your field. For example I’m currently subscribed to The Futurist magazine.Futurist Magazine It’s a great way to expand your horizons. Tip: Every year randomly pick up a magazine or book from the business section at your local bookstore.Attend conferences, and again sometimes attend conferences outside your field.Join a mentor group or a technology peer group. I belong to Vistage. It’s the largest CEO group in the world and I’ve learned a bunch from my peers, including CEOs from a flooring company, a cosmetic dentistry, a not-for-profit organization and a chicken feed additive company. All non-IT focussed organizations — go figure…Lastly, visit other countries. You will definitely gain new insights, broaden your experience and come back to the US with a new appreciation for how privileged we are in this country.#2. Be pragmaticI was very much in love with the technical betty of both OS/2 and Smalltalk. Very soon after leaving university I realized that a technically superior product doesn’t always win in the marketplace. For example: I still think Smalltalk is the best programming language, but so what. Most of my career I programmed in other languages, e.g., C++ and ABAP (SAP’s programming language). Don’t forget your principles, however when it comes to technology be pragmatic. Fortunately Smalltalk influenced Java and also influenced programming paradigms like SAP’s Webdynpro methodology and Ruby/Ruby on Rails.#3. IT is still relevantIT is still relevant and will continue to be relevant during our lifetimes. Most productivity gains still come from improvements in technology. I think that we are only at the beginning of the impact that cheap, high bandwidth, allways-on Internet access will have on consumers and the global economy. Think about the impact of Skype, Jajah, mobile devices and soon WiMax. Btw, cool technology like iPod is great hardware, however software (iPod’s software and iTunes) continues to be the secret One laptop per Childsauce. IT is also making a big difference in uplifting the third world, e.g., MIT’s one laptop per child initiative. See my previous post on (RED).#4. India and China…and Eastern Europe, Russian, Bulgaria and Estonia… The world is flat and IT jobs (and lots of other jobs) will go off-shore. If you haven’t read “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman then you should read it now.I also recommend “Commanding Heights” by Yergin and Stanislaw. It chronicles the raise of free markets over the last 100 years. Fascinating stuff, really!I told the students that the best way to deal with the off-shore phenomenon is to make sure you remain relevant and learn new skills, e.g., project management, presentation skills, and writing skills.#5. Where will my IT degree take me — a technical or business career?You can take a technical track or move into a business career. For example, I have a Masters in Computer Science and started my career as a programmer. After a couple of years I became a consultant and eventually moved into a management position. I recently completed a 8 year tenure as the CEO of an IT consulting company. I think you can earn good money pursuing a technical career as well as a business/management career.IT Consulting is another very lucrative option, however it involves a lot of air travel and it will impact your family life. I recommend you consult while you’re not married and use the opportunity to see the world! #6. Choose early to cheatA provocative title, isn’t it? It’s based on the book by Andy Stanley, “Choosing to Cheat”. The premise of the book is that you don’t haveenough time to do equally well at work and with your family and you have to make a decision to “cheat” the one over the other.If you read the book you’ll realize that “cheat” means to give one a higher priority. My advise is to “cheat” at work, i.e., make your family your priority. You will always have your family, however you may have multiple jobs.I also suggest that you plan your vacations early and take them. Yes, sometimes a real emergency will prevent you from taking time off, however most of the time if you plan ahead you will be able to enjoy your vacation time.#7. Meaning vs MoneyIt is important to pick a career or a job based on the meaning it will create. In the “Art of the Start”, Guy Kawasaki defines meaning to include: Make the world a better place, increase the quality of life, right a wrong and prevent the end of something good.From meaning you will make money. I’m not saying you should ignore money completely. I’m saying it is not only about money.#8. IT’s about peopleIT is about people. Most IT projects fail because of people issues and not the software. Yes, ERP projects are complex and take long to implement, however the adoption of the software and the success of the project depend a lot on successful people management, e.g., senior level sponsorship of the project, end user involvement and sufficient training on all levels of the organization. Neochange has a very interesting user adoption methodology. Cover people issues first and your IT project will have a greater likelihood of success. Subsection: People and software development – It’s very important to involve end users on an ongoing basis when developing software. The days of: get the specs, go away for a few months (or years a la Vista) and then show the end product is gone. Agile programming, rapid prototyping is the way to do it. Today’s software development tools make it easy to quickly develop a working prototype and to keep the end user involved in the design of the product. If you live in the SAP world then do yourself a favor and check out Hasso Plattner’s 2006 SAPPHIRE keynote called: “(re)design”.#9. Focus on your strengthsOK, I know, another book recommendation. The “First break all therules”-guy did it again. In “Now, Discover your strengths” Marcus Buckingham encourages us to first find our strengths and then to focus on them. You have the most to gain by focusing and growing your strengths versus focusing and trying to fix your weaknesses. Marcus gives the following example: ‘If you study bad and focus on it you don’t get good…you get not bad!’. It doesn’t mean that you should ignore your ‘areas of improvements’. It means that your greatest gains will come from focusing on your strengths. Read the highlights of the keynote Marcus gave at Catalyst 2006.#10. Find ways to giveAnd finally find ways to give, mostly of yourself, but also money. Get involved and find ways to volunteer at your church and your local community. My last post gave you a number of interesting options. The Hands-on organization is also a great place to start. Give not because you expect something in return, but because it is the right thing to do.

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

I recommend you watch “Pay it forward”. It is a great movie.Final tip: The best way to do business networking is not to focus on what your contact can do for you, but what you can do for them. It’s called forward networking and it works!I would love your comments and your own experiences.[amtap book:isbn=0374292795] [amtap book:isbn=1590523296] [amtap book:isbn=1591840562] [amtap book:isbn=0743201140][amtap amazon:asin=B00006HAZF] [amtap amazon:asin=B00005B4BI]

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