IT Career Advice: Don’t Be That Other IT Pro

Over the last few months I’ve interacted with a number of IT pros between conferences, social media platforms, and online forums. Often the conversation starts with PowerShell or DevOps, which is always a good thing as far as I’m concerned. But then talk turns to “the other guy.” I’m a bit blunt and refer to them as lazy, and you might have encountered them as well. I do have to admit that I am a bit conflicted on the matter. On one hand, I want to help people learn new technologies like PowerShell to help them do their jobs and advance their careers. But at some point I feel these type of people aren’t even trying.

A Look at the IT Pro That Seeks Easy Answers

These are the people who post a question in a forum like this:
I am new to PowerShell but need a script to create 1000 new user accounts and setup a SharePoint home folder with restricted access.

And that’s it. To me, these are the most egregious examples of laziness. At worse, the poster is looking for a solution that someone has already created or seems to expect someone to write big parts of such a script. Now, I get that IT pros are often overworked, and it’s easy to bring up Google and look for a solution to your problem. But all this proves is that you are good at using Google as part of your job. If I were an IT manager that is hardly a compelling argument to keep you employed. I am using PowerShell in my example because that’s my thing, but you can easily plug in whatever product or technology you want.
Even if someone has already created a solution that meets your need, do you have the necessary skills to evaluate its quality or effectiveness? How do you know it will work in your environment? And even supposing you get it to work, what have you really learned other than to find ways for other people to do your job? When it comes to PowerShell, I always stress you are better off creating a solution yourself in your environment. Sure, if there is a tricky part, then by all means find an example of a solution from a reputable source. And by the way, just because you see something in the Microsoft Technet Script Gallery doesn’t mean it is a high quality solution. As far as I know, there is no testing or vetting of submissions. Yes, I know this could take a little more time, but that is actually part of my point. In taking the time to verify the validity of a solution for your environment, you are actually learning, which means that the next problem or project might not take as long because you have built a foundation.
The other reason I think my sample question is an example of laziness because even if the poster is trying to figure things out on their own, they were too lazy to explain what they have tried so far, what errors they might be encountering or asking for help on a specific task. Myself and many others are more than willing to help people learn by providing examples, assuming the person is genuinely involved and has shown some initiative.

Taking the Initiative for Career Training

A related area of laziness I encounter is on the subject of training. I’ve written about taking control of your career before so I won’t belabor this too much, but the lazy IT pro waits for their employer to decide what training they need and provide for it. To me, this is the height of laziness and a sure-fired way to slow your career to a crawl. You have to take the initiative and push for training, books, equipment or whatever you need. I know this is easier said than done, but you have to at least try. At the PowerShell Summit North America this year there were a number of attendees who paid to attend out of their own pocket because they realized how important it was to their career. I was a little blown away. These people are definitely not lazy. And if your current company is a brick wall when it comes to this type of thing, I would suggest considering if this is the right place for you. Otherwise, you need to take the initiative, and I know this means a financial commitment, to acquire training and advancement tools on your own such as training, conferences, and books.

Symptoms of a Lazy IT Pro

I’ve been in IT for close to 25 years and have seen all sorts of organizations in a variety of industries. Given my experience I’d say the lazy IT pro exhibits one or more of these behaviors:

  • Expects other people to find solutions or do their work for them
  • Expects maximum results for the least amount of effort
  • Assumes the employer will take care of training and advancement needs
  • Does the least amount of work possible
  • Rests on past accomplishments
  • Has the attitude that “the old ways are the best ways”
  • Doesn’t share knowledge and expertise with co-workers
  • Believes that a 40 hour work week is more than enough time.
  • Expects everything to be free or no-cost to themselves

Hopefully this article didn’t paint a picture of you. But if I did and you recognized it, then that is half the battle. I’d say the fact that you are reading this article says you are willing to do the work required to advance your career. So who is this article really for? If you are brave enough, you could leave a printed copy on the desk of a co-worker. Perhaps you want to share it with your manager. Or perhaps this article really is for you and will motivate you to become a more active participant in your job and career.

Am I an out of touch relic? How often do you have to interact with people like this? What other lazy behaviors have you seen? I welcome all your comments and feedback.