<Span Class="caps">ADVICE</Span> <Span Class="caps">FOR</Span> <Span Class="caps">THE</Span> <Span Class="caps">NEOPHYTE</Span> <Span Class="caps">IT</Span> <Span Class="caps">ASPIRANT</Span>

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Read­ing Time: 4 min­utes

After 17 years in the indus­try I have decid­ed that it is time to pass down some advice to the new­er entrants in to the field of Infor­ma­tion Tech­nol­o­gy.  If you’re just out of school with a fresh­ly mint­ed degree, look­ing for that shiny new job that leads to fame and for­tune, then this arti­cle is for you.  If you are look­ing to move up in the job you cur­rent­ly hold, then this arti­cle is for you.  Hell, if you’re breath­ing and have heard of a com­put­er before, this might be for you as well.


(1)  The first thing you have to real­ize about work­ing in Infor­ma­tion Tech­nol­o­gy is this: it auto­mat­i­cal­ly leads to six-fig­ure incomes, sports cars, and attrac­tive women.  Most peo­ple won’t tell you this, and in fact go to great lengths to cov­er it up—much like we in the Seat­tle area tell peo­ple it rains all the time so you won’t move here—but it is true.  Any­one who denies this is either lying to you, or incom­pe­tent.  If you apply for a posi­tion in IT (cool-kids abbre­vi­a­tion warn­ing) you should def­i­nite­ly expect this as a min­i­mum pack­age.  If you don’t get offered all of these things up front, or hear any­thing faint­ly resem­bling an insin­u­a­tion that you might need some­thing called expe­ri­ence, run the oth­er way: this job is beneath you.

(2)  This brings us to anoth­er good point that we should dis­cuss right away: this notion of expe­ri­ence.  Expe­ri­ence is some­thing that peo­ple who’ve sat around at their job long enough claim you need in order to do what they do.  The real­i­ty, how­ev­er, is far dif­fer­ent.  Most of these so called “expe­ri­enced” peo­ple have long ago giv­en up on being use­ful, and are sim­ply wait­ing around to retire.  They’re slow, inef­fec­tu­al, and don’t know half of what you do.  They’re your par­ents age, aren’t cool, don’t dress right, stay home on week­ends, don’t come in with hang­overs, and sit around so much it’s painful­ly obvi­ous they don’t do any­thing.  Expe­ri­ence is just a word they toss out there to keep fresh young peo­ple who know more than they do from expos­ing their weak­ness­es to the sober light of day.  Scoff open­ly when pre­sent­ed with the need for expe­ri­ence.  Toss­ing in an “old” joke or two wouldn’t hurt either… it helps let peo­ple know you’re on to them.

(3)  Every­one knows that IT types in gen­er­al, and net­work engi­neers in par­tic­u­lar, are opin­ion­at­ed peo­ple.  All day, every day, we’re called upon to give voice to oth­ers’ tech­nol­o­gy inse­cu­ri­ties; to make them feel bet­ter by telling them what is good and bad in any giv­en sit­u­a­tion.  To tru­ly be successful—to tru­ly rise above the crowds of medi­oc­rity in the field—you’ll need to take this nat­ur­al predilec­tion for opin­ing and crank it up a few notch­es.  The best way to do this is to form as many opin­ions on tech­nol­o­gy as pos­si­ble, and then nev­er waver from them.  It works even bet­ter if your opin­ions aren’t based on any­thing use­ful like quan­tifi­able data or expe­ri­ence, but rather on ego.  You’ll also want to pick tech­nolo­gies to evan­ge­lize that either few peo­ple know, you don’t cur­rent­ly have in place (this helps tremen­dous­ly, because you can be the “expert” with­out hav­ing to get your hands dirty by prov­ing it), or that make you seem “cool”.  To wit, let’s look at point num­ber 4:

(4)  Tech­nolo­gies like Apple are ubiq­ui­tous in the net­work engi­neer­ing world.  They are good prod­ucts in many ways, but that’s not why you’ll want to use them.  You’ll want to use them because that’s what all the “cool” kids are using.  Old peo­ple with “expe­ri­ence” use PCs and you don’t want to be asso­ci­at­ed with that.  Hav­ing some off-hand­ed plat­i­tudes about why you use Apple com­put­ers is going to be good here; things like “I only use the best tool for the job” is a great one.  If chal­lenged, or heav­en for­bid proven wrong, above all else don’t acknowl­edge this.  Sim­ply wave your hands in a dis­mis­sive way and insist that some­how the thing you like about Apple real­ly hasn’t been dis­proven, and move on.  This doesn’t apply only to Apple, of course, you can use this tech­nique to make your­self look smarter than those around you with just about any­thing.  As I stat­ed, how­ev­er, you’ll real­ly want to pick as many tech­nolo­gies as pos­si­ble that don’t have much mar­ket pen­e­tra­tion in your com­pa­ny or cir­cle of influ­ence.  If you pick some­thing well-known to evan­ge­lize, you run the risk of being labeled as dif­fi­cult to work with.

(5)  On the top­ic of dif­fi­cult to work with, this can be impor­tant as well.  Agree­able peo­ple get nowhere in cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca, and you cer­tain­ly aren’t work­ing for any team.  The best thing to do with any new job is to imme­di­ate­ly estab­lish that you won’t play by every­one else’s rules.  The most effec­tive way I’ve found to make this hap­pen is to con­stant­ly com­plain about how much bet­ter things were done “at my old com­pa­ny.”  This applies even if, as is like­ly, your old com­pa­ny was just col­lege.  What this does is estab­lish the fact that you’ve seen bet­ter, you know bet­ter, and you won’t be held back by medi­oc­rity.  It also lets every­one know up front that you aren’t a team play­er, and that you’ll dri­ve the bus of suc­cess all on your own thank you very much.


There are many more tips I can share, and I’m cer­tain that this is prob­a­bly just the start of a mul­ti-part arti­cle.  It is, after all, incum­bent on those of us who have been in the indus­try for a while now to try to pass on all that we’ve learned to the next gen­er­a­tion.  There is far too much dis­in­for­ma­tion out there on so-called “suc­cess,” and I believe that what­ev­er I can do to debunk the com­mon mythol­o­gy, it is for the best.