Things I Wish I Knew Before Working in Industry
In April 2008, a representative from IBM gave a presentation at Georgia
Tech about things he wished he knew before working in the the software
industry. I have found his advice to be very useful at various points during
my career. Sadly I have lost the presenter’s name.
Here is my outline of his presentation. Emphasized points are ones I’ve found
to be particularly useful.
- Future: integration
- Needed: ease-of-use & less complexity
- Do not reinvent wheels!
- you’ll never finish the project
- Learn to learn
- Don’t need to take a class to learn something
- Learn a little about a lot of things
- Read news highlights from worthwhile sources
- Build a network of people. Asking for advice is quicker than learning the hard way.
- There is always more than one way to do something.
Weigh the pros/cons of each – then pick and choose.
- Innovate before you execute. Think critically before you act.
Business & Technology
- Technology adoption is driven by business. (practicality)
- Business is nothing without technology.
Technology is nothing without business.
- If you build a better mousetrap, they will not come.
- A project, no matter how advanced, is doomed for failure without a paying customer.
- Think about TCO (total cost of ownership) and ROI (return on investment).
You must always justify your returns.
- Communication with managers and customers is vital!
If you can’t get someone to adopt your solution, what’s the point?
- There is a difference between removing barriers and creating incentive (for a customer to switch to my project/product). You need both.
- It’s not what you know.
It’s not who you know.
It’s who knows what you know.
- Doing more of the same is not enough.
- Need to try new things – take on more responsibility.
- Doing what is asked is not enough.
- Ask you manager what the expectations are.
Working with Others
- Credit + gratitude are not limited resources.
- Say thank you!
- Give credit where due.
- Be ambitious but be humble.
- Don’t make assumptions about others.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt.
- “Your lack of planning does not mean I need to treat your request as urgent.”
- Do what you say you will. Keep your word.
- The best humor is self-deprecating.
- There is always someone faster, smarter, and better looking.
- They don’t have a magic wand. They don’t automatically fix problems.
- Managers do not have a superset of the employees' (team members') knowledge.
- Managers can’t read minds. Don’t assume. Communicate explicitly.
- You are responsible for your own career. But ask for help.
You and Your Job
- Your job is what you make of it. Don’t be confined by a job description.
- Work/Life balance doesn’t have good default settings. You must do explicit actions.
- schedule for success
- You are not your job. Do not define yourself like this.
- We’re employed to add value, not spend money.
- It’s easy to stay busy, but are you accomplishing anything worthwhile?
- don’t needlessly clutter your schedule
- If you aren’t looking at it from a customer perspective, you aren’t looking at it.
- You can’t do everything. Pick what you won’t do. (The world won’t end.)
- Don’t expect your first job to be your dream job. Look for a path, not an endpoint.
- Be willing to stretch your comfort zone.
- geographically, work type, etc.
- Otherwise you’ll stagnate.
- Know your employer’s business model.
- HP = selling ink;
- Microsoft = selling Office and Windows;
- Apple = iPod and (to some extent) Macs
- Take a look at the annual reports for your company.
- Get internships, even if with competitors, maybe even delaying graduation.
- It gives experience.
- Increases employment opportunities.
- Start looking and prepare much earlier.
- If you want to make a difference, look for chaos.
Stable environments offer little opportunity.
- Good employees deal with challenges instead of pouting. Adapt.
- Stay above the commodity line (with regard to skill set and type of work done).
- Understand other people’s motivations.
- Makes it easier to find new ways of solving the underlying goal.
- Define your values and goals.
- ex: What type of job do you want?
- Your behaviors should support your goals.
- Expect your goals to change. Success is dynamic.
- Don’t let others define success for you.
- You can get rich by getting more or wanting less.
- Life is one great balancing act.
- There’s no single right way of doing things.
- Balancing your priorities and goals is important.