Q

What's one of the biggest career mistakes that holds people back in IT?

Think not having enough expertise is one of the biggest career mistakes you can make in IT? Think again.

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 last published in August 2013

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It's understandable that it's important to be able to explain geek speak in layman's terms. Still, for some users speaking to them as such in a simple manner may offend them. I've encountered a number of users whom even though they don't understand geek speak, they feel like they're being spoken to as if they were a child. But this was a good article.
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The biggest career mistake is to enter into a tech field that has OUTSOURCING written all over it. No matter how good your entire skill set is, American management is hell bent on sending jobs to India at $4 an hour.
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Not sure if those are the "biggest mistakes". Those are really habits.

Here's a good heuristic to transform them. Not mine. Got without a reference.

Every time you experience a sense of disappointment or difficulty - in other words, every time your tolerance threshold is being exceeded - it's a message from your sub-conscious that there is something here you need to learn to do better.
    The next time something feels difficult - or disappointing - take a moment and ask yourself: What is it I don't know how to do here?
    A single instance may not be important enough to bother with, but if you keep on asking yourself this for a week or so, you will find the same answer keeps popping up again and again. That you should definitely take notice of - it's an extremely valuable little piece of information about yourself. Information that you can turn into greater personal power with just a little bit of effort.
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I agree to a point. You need to have good skills to be able to talk to and understand a users project request. You do not want to talk over their heads or down to them and make them feel inferior. Neither of those will help you get the job done. It may also build resentment and make it more difficult on future projects.  But like reisen55 mentioned, if  the outsourcing of jobs is so important to a companies bottom line then they do not care about communication skills.  I get so frustrated when I get a major language barrier because of bad communication. 
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