This PowerUp blog entry was written by Brian Lannoye, programmer at Masters Gallery Foods, Inc., in Plymouth, Wis. He has been working there as a programmer on the IBM i platform since June 2010. Brian regularly attends WMCPA meetings and is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree at Lakeland College Online.
The importance of continually developing communication skills, I believe, carries a lot of weight in the world of IT. Just throwing this out there: We in IT aren’t very good salespeople. Either we’re too honest or explain too much detail or just give up all together trying to explain something technical to the normies out there. In fact, we talk better to machines than we do with people.
Regardless of what platform you work on, half the job of an IT professional is having the ability to listen to what someone else is saying and return that communication effectively. That’s why communication in the form of writing, speaking and listening is the most important element to individual success and the success of a business.
I’m not one to solve problems solely on my own. I get so far and I’m looking for help somewhere--Google search, IBM, IBM as a result of Google search, a host of message boards or maybe just someone else in the IT department (especially if I have a question about PDM. *COUGH*). Good programmers, good network engineers, good computer support, etc., use the process of analyzing a problem and deciding where to go for effective and efficient help. We research and we network. We do it every day and that’s how we get things done.
A huge part of my job is being able communicate well with others outside the IT department. When I get a new project, one of the first things I try to do is talk with the person requesting the change, face to face so I can know exactly what the request is. Whenever I put something new into production I email the people who are going to use the program and explain what I did as best I can because it’s my job to educate users on new software.
I also work the help desk at night. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. And not only do I have to be a good listener, but I need to know which questions to ask. If a problem is beyond my expertise, I must know who to go to for assistance.
IT outsourcing is a major issue today because often it’s cheaper to hire a programmer overseas than it is to employ one here. While they’re well educated and competent at what they do, the single greatest advantage we have within our native countries is that we know all of the ins and outs of our language and culture. We know what it means when someone says, “This program is screwed up, but only when I hit this button” because we know the term “screwed up” instantly. Plus we’re here. There is no substitution for face-to-face communication. And the better we are at it, the more our value increases.
Success always corresponds with good communication.
That rings true whether you’re a programmer, a salesperson or a CEO. The people on top always communicate the best, even if they aren’t necessarily the most skilled in other areas. I got my associates degree in computer science from Gateway Technical College in 2010. My instructors continually stressed the importance of developing better skills in speaking, writing and most important listening. There were few classes I had where I wasn’t in front of the classroom at some point giving a speech or presentation. Even fewer where I didn’t have at least one major writing project. And speech, English 101 and technical writing were all courses required for graduation whether the student was getting a degree in IT or horticulture. There’s a reason for it. Communication is key.
I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t mention the WMCPA Spring Conference is right around the corner. It’ll be held March 21 and 22 at the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, Wis. Panels will be hosted by Susan Gantner, Mike Pavlak and Aaron Bartell. Keynote speakers will be Pete Massiello and Steve Will.