It may be true that you are one of a kind, a true techie with specialized skills that are hard to find and hire for. One thing that is more true is that customer service is still very much a big part of your job. Which equates to the fact that you need to start working better with your peers internally and your clients on the external side of things.
Technology comes and goes. I believe it was Steve Jobs that said something to the effect of “we are all layers of this large sedimentary rock.” Gordon Moore predicted that computing power would double every 18 months and in a world where we have reached some of the physical limits of CPU clock speeds, that concept is no longer as applicable. If CPU fabricators such as Intel and AMD had seen this as the absolute truth in CPU development, then we may not have gotten the wonderful multi-core chips we have today. And to that effect, a legend’s theory in the computing world has been superseded by a new technological advancement so what about you and I? One of the most important parts of our career is our own personal brands.
Our brand drives people to approach us to solve problems. It drives people to want to connect with us and include us on a personal and professional level. It makes us stand out among our peers and it makes us one of those distinguished people in an organization that everyone has something good to talk about. That brand, is not just about what you know, but also about how to treat others. Your customer service is what makes your brand shine. Sure, you could be a brilliant DBA, Sys Admin, or whatever else you aspire to be (note DBAs are awesome!). However, if people don’t like your attitude and how you deal with them on a personal level, they will be reluctant to reach out to you for more work. They will be reluctant to reach out to your boss with great feedback. It’s just the nature of how we are as humans. When was the last time you had a terrible experience at a store or a restaurant and you said to yourself “I’m definitely going back there, I love having a poor experience it makes my day”? The answer is probably never. In reality, this maybe how your colleagues view you at work.
There is another important perspective to all of this. As in any ecosystem, we all depend on each other. I need customers to consume the products and services that I am producing in order for me to make a living. They need you to produce those products and services with the quality and service they expect. Quality comes from technical know-how in the IT world and service comes from your ability to give the other party a wonderful feeling inside that they get after they have used that product or service you are delivering. In a nutshell it is called customer service and in an ever growing globalized world companies are rapidly working on improving their brand, and that is by delivering quality products and excellent service. Our world is changing to where we as individuals have become responsible for producing that brand for our own skills and abilities within our own fields. This is not just true of consultants, it’s true for everyone and at some point if we don’t change the way we are with our customers we will slowly be phased out and become that person that just pushes buttons. People remember great solutions, but remember great people even more.
So let’s get some traction on this and take action. Here are a few short tips:
- Try learning about your peers and work colleagues in a respectful manner, you may actually like it! You may have strong opinions one way or another but in a work environment you are required to make everyone feel comfortable coming to work and doing the best work the can (check your HR policies about harassment I’m sure that I’m correct on this one *Smile*).
- Try to understand what that customer needs, and not just what you think they need. One of the best, in my opinion of course, software development methodologies is the Agile manifesto. In short, constant feedback from the customer that gets them where they want to get. This may not work for all lines of work in IT, but there is certainly a lot of room for better communication and feedback.
- Learn about other parts of the business. Hang out with your accountants, project managers, or widget makers. Why should I do that, I’ve got enough work to do? Because when you understand the work they are doing, they will try to understand what you are doing and this builds a bridge for mutual appreciation. It also helps you develop better solutions based on your newly acquired knowledge of how your customers are doing things. I used to work at a manufacturing facility once, and I was on the production line and someone complained to me about a data driven report I created. He said there wasn’t enough room to write certain things down which made things more challenging for him. Fixing things like that based on inside information helps people do a better job and makes them grateful for your contribution. Something that will really help your brand flourish and your career as well.
IT is quickly becoming an industry of service with all the great new trends with cloud computing (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and we need to reflect on that model. We need to become great IT professionals and give great service back to our customers.