What's one of the biggest career mistakes that holds people back in IT?
One of the biggest career mistakes people make in IT is not improving their communication skills. The inability to move beyond geek speak kills your credibility and is the one element that creates the most problems.
Think of all the bad teachers and professors you had in school; they couldn't explain a subject in simple terms. In contrast, the teachers and professors you loved had a keen ability to explain complex points in ways that were fun and easy to understand. You want to be like these teachers and professors in your IT career.
There are several areas of communication we must be mindful of in IT.
- Being a good presenter doesn't mean you're a good communicator. It doesn't matter if your message is clear to you; it needs to be clear to your audience. Spend more time working on communicating well with your audience than you do on your slide deck or pitch.
- Drop the overly technical IT terms and acronyms no one cares about. So what if you have 256-bit encryption or signs of a DDoS related to an APT? Management wants to know about business risk, not bits and bytes. The more you can speak using understandable IT business language, the better off everyone will be.
- Watch your attitude and tone of voice when approaching others. Contrary to what our egos have taught us, there are smart people working outside of IT.
- Can you get your message across in a few words? If you can't, go back and rethink your message. Remember what Albert Einstein said: "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
- Make statements, but also ask questions. The person asking the questions is the person in control. Make sure one of your questions clarifies whether your audience actually understands what you say.
Communication will make or break you in all areas of business, but it's especially important to have great communication skills in IT. You'll avoid making one of the biggest career mistakes as you improve your communication skills and move toward a successful IT career.
About the author:
Kevin Beaver has worked for himself for more than 11 years as an information security consultant, expert witness and professional speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. He specializes in performing independent security assessments revolving around information risk management and is the author and co-author of many books, including The Practical Guide to HIPAA Privacy and Security Compliance and Hacking for Dummies.
This was first published in August 2013