12 Characteristics of Successful IT Professionals

My daughter just graduated college with a degree in Computer Science and landed a job with an insurance company in their IT department. What makes an IT person successful?

I was at a networking meeting the other evening and was asked the typical question What do you do? I answered with my normal turn of phrase I teach leadership and soft skills to IT people. How about you, what do you do? The returned reply was not what I expected. Instead of the person launching off on a description of his chosen profession, he replied by saying Wow, my daughter just graduated college with a degree in Computer Science and landed a job with an insurance company in their IT department. What makes an IT person successful? I answered with the expected list of characteristics such as having a deep understanding of the technology, business acumen, being a team player, etc.

Upon returning home two hours and a glass of wine later, his question still resonated with me. Upon deeper thought, I settled on these twelve attributes.

1. Loves technology

When a person is doing something that he/she truly enjoys, its infectious. People can feel it and want to be involved and get swept up in the experience. From an IT perspective, this can be your boss, peers, clients, or staff. Equally, if not more important, is that when you do something you love, you do it better. This shows in the quality of your work, your commitment to the task, and your willingness to take on challenging assignments.

2. Understands data

Data is the life blood of an IT organization and the business it serves. Having a deep understanding of a companys data provides insights into how all the major software applications are connected. Additionally, from a business perspective, if you understand a companys data flow, you will understand its internal processes and business model.

3. Understands the business

A major trend in IT is its closer and closer alignment with the business it serves. Even at the CIO level, you cant just be the head techie, you must be a strong business professional who happens to know quite a bit about IT. This business understanding allows you to better serve the business community and be more innovative on their behalf.

4. Can speak both techie and non-techie

Do you want to watch a non-technical persons eyes glaze over? Talk to them using technical acronyms and/or start describing a technologys features instead of its business benefits. The problem with this scenario is that the business users are the people you are trying to support and, as a result, may have input into your next performance report.

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