One of the worst things you can do for your IT career is to be a "yes" man or woman. Most managers can see right through such weakness.
Thomas J. Watson once said, "Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity." Sadly, it seems that independent thinking is becoming a thing of the past. Or maybe it's all the political correctness that's rampant in our world. Rather than risk hurting each other's feelings by speaking the truth, we'd rather make decisions based on emotions and not fact and logic. I believe this contributes to the lack of responsibility and accountability we see in IT professionals today.
I'm not saying be a troublemaker, because you won't always have the right answers. I'm just saying you don't have to be a conformist or a pushover to be accepted. It's a fine balance though. Rather than giving in, focus on thinking for yourself and being assertive yet polite in your IT discussions. You don't want to become a people-pleaser and try to be everything to everyone. Know your limits and be confident in what you can offer. Stand up for what's right – especially if there's a business justification behind it.
You'll also want to focus on the issues at hand rather than the people you're dealing with. And by all means keep your own agenda out of things. Think long term about how your relationships, your choices and what you say affects the business -- and your IT career.
Finally, lead by example. Be a person of your word and take responsibility for your actions. You'll gain the respect of others and gain credibility along the way. Both of those traits are essential for building trust, which happens to be the foundation for getting along with others and moving ahead in IT.
If you're the least bit interested in your job, all of this should come naturally. If you don't feel like you have the energy to come up with and put forth ideas and to (politely) stand your ground, then maybe it's time to start looking for another job. I've been there before. You'll know it when you're ready.
Theodore Roosevelt said, "The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people." Learn all about this ingredient and use it to your advantage. Just like anything else in IT, it's an area where you can fine-tune your skills and let them work to your advantage.
Kevin Beaver, is an information security consultant, keynote speaker and expert witness with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. Kevin specializes in performing independent security assessments. Kevin has authored/co-authored seven books on information security, including Hacking For Dummies and Hacking Wireless Networks For Dummies (Wiley). He's also the creator of the Security on Wheels information security audio books and blog providing security learning for IT professionals on the go. Kevin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was first published in August 2009