About the Author: Kishore Khandavalli is the Founder and CEO of iTech US, Inc., a nationally-renowned IT Consulting Firm with offices in Vermont, Texas, New Jersey, Virginia, Montreal, and Hyderabad (India). iTech’s Core Values (Driven, Compassionate, Transparent, Integrity & Agility) are the foundation of its success, with its primary focus of “Peace of Mind through an ethical and transparent employment relationship.” For more information visit iTech US, Inc.
Best practices to grow your technical career faster in the American IT sector!
It goes without saying that a career in the American IT sector is the ultimate realization for many IT consultants. How does an individual ensure this goal is attainable? Or if currently employed in the American IT sector, how does one remain a preferable, sought after consultant? Following are 10 best practices to consider whether starting a technical career or looking to grow your technical career.
1.) Build a Solid Foundation
Begin with strong fundamentals either as a student or at the start of your career.
Be careful not to be too specialized. In other words, get your feet wet in all areas of technology: software, hardware, and databases.
In addition to acquiring knowledge in all areas of technology, become fluent in the Software Development Life Cycle or SDLC. The SDLC is broken into distinct phases or components which include: analysis, design, build, test, and deploy. When learning the SDLC, do not focus on one phase for which is of interest or that which is most comfortable. Gain experience in all phases, so that you are aware of what everyone is doing within the SDLC. Learning the entire life cycle enables an understanding of the entire picture.
2.) Develop Communication Skills – Listening and Spoken!
Effective communication within a group of individuals or a team not only includes listening skills but also requires important speaking skills. The current consultant practice seems to be: listen to the project specifications, take sole ownership of the delegated portion(s) of the project, and go off to an ‘island’ to do the work. Do not direct focus on the delegated portion(s) of the project. Achieve an understanding of the project in its entirety and verbally articulate this understanding back to the team. Communicate what ‘you’ intend to do and where within the life cycle ‘you’ and ‘your’ work exists. Demonstration of your function within the development life cycle will provide the team with the necessary confidence that your work will be in synch with all other phases/components of the life cycle throughout the project.
3.) Evolve with Technology
Evolution of technology occurs every 2-3 years. Evolve with technology. Remain relevant in the industry by learning new technologies, upgrading existing technical skills, and keeping current with IT thinking and practices. Consultants with cutting edge technologies are not only hired but are also paid a premium.
4.) Value the Business Impact
Avoid the myopic perspective and appreciate the environment as a whole. If the project requires building 200 lines of code, understand a) where it is going, b) what is its’ purpose, and c) why it is being done. Recognizing a project’s business impact in relation to the organization’s overall strategic objectives, will go a long way in understanding business.
5.) Understand the Big Picture
How does technology development impact the return on investment (ROI)? Measure and analyze the project’s ROI before requesting resources for software development. As an example, if you are spending 10k in technology and it takes 6 months to complete the work, is it worth the return on investment? Be aware of the best practices for managing the complexities of software development ROI.
6.) Expect the Unexpected
Assume there will always be a curve ball in the middle of the development cycle. The customer says ‘I changed my mind’. You cannot, at this point start from scratch. For this reason, software development must be flexible, and moldable. The most successful and sought after software developer designs with foresight.
7.) Think Like the End-User
If training is required to teach the end-user, the design is sub-optimal. Software must be intuitive. Users have come to expect where functionality resides on the screen. For example, end-users expect to find a log in option at the top of the screen, their most used icons at the bottom where they can easily use their thumbs, etc. Mobile software and social media have created standard conventions as it relates to user interaction (UI) and user experience (UX). Appreciate and anticipate the users’ expectations and develop software accordingly, resulting in a product that is intuitive.
8.) Improve Soft Skills
What are soft skills and why are they important? Unlike hard skills, such as mathematics, physics, programming, statistics, etc. soft skills are not objective attributes. Soft skills defined are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. A few examples of soft skills include: communication, effective leadership, taking initiative in an appropriate manner, teamwork and collaboration, liability, adaptability, problem solving, critical observation, and conflict resolution.
Soft skills are important because while the technical skills may get a job interview, soft skills quite possibly may be what result in hiring vs. not hiring. Take the time and make the personal investment to improve soft skills.
9.) Join a Company that Provides Personal and Professional Growth
In an attempt to develop or maintain the skill set needed to be successful, join a firm that supports professional and personal growth. Search out companies that provide the following: strong focused training, mentoring and interview coaching, on-job support, continuous training and skills update, discussion boards, and internships or shadowing.
10. Build a Professional Network
Put an effort into developing of a professional network and learn effective networking techniques. Find a mentor to help guide career growth. Take advantage of social networking by expanding your job search and resume posting to social network sites. Always maintain past and present professional connections. A well-developed network can assist in referrals, placement, career advancement and promotions.