Essential IT skills: Manage your time and carry your weight

Working all night on a team project shows poor time management, and nothing else. No matter how useful it is for "camaraderie," everyone being up the creek together is a backward way to get there.

Everyone loves a neat list summarizing who and what they need to be, and not just in IT careers articles. There are innumerable business books that promise to school readers on "The Five Things Everyone Needs to Know" and "Eight Secrets to Success" and so on. And while the interest in them is a well-intentioned hope that the listicle will provide a useful framework for getting one where they want to be, the reality is that the steps to get there are too complex to be reduced to one-size-fits-all solutions.

But that doesn't mean that there aren't some good ones out there. InfoWorld has a new article about the 30 skills every IT person should have, and it contains more than a few gems, three of my favorites being that if you have to go to your boss with a problem, "make sure you have at least one solution," "learn how to speak without using acronyms" and "document."

The first demands that an employee with a problem isn't allow to dissolve into helplessness, and it could apply to any job. The second and third address two of the biggest complaints I hear about IT--that non-techies barely understand what IT folks are talking about half the time and that each project must reinvent the wheel, rather than rely on a standard process that has proven successful.

But I don't agree with everything. Working all night on a team project shows poor time management, and nothing else. No matter how useful it is for "camaraderie," everyone being up the creek together is a backward way to get there. I believe it is this all-night, rah-rah atmosphere that also makes IT especially repellent for people with families to attend to.

People who work well on a team but not so effectively on their own (number 30) are weak links. If they're better at teams than anything else, they might look into a project management role. But teams are made up of strong, effective individuals and if one person isn't carrying their weight, everyone else is forced to compensate--and likely resents them.

What would you add to or remove from the list?

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