It is not a matter of instruction

The more times I meet so called “IT professionals”, the more times I regretfully find out the inability of “business-decision-makers” to estimate IT competencies.
The complexity inside new technologies can make crazy anyone who has not chosen to be a technician, but it is my opinion that anyone can get a trustworthy evaluation about the capabilities of a “computer expert” if they make their evaluations with complete honesty, and without any discrimination or partiality.

First of all, we must understand the difference between instruction and knowledge: from my own experience, I’ve often had a good impression of people who have a lot to say about all the various technologies and products that are around, until I understand that they did not have any professional-grade skill. I have often found that this “technical knowledge” was the origin of their inability to make anything work, making them the worst kind of risk and failure element in the IT team.

One of the most important things I’ve learned in my professional career is that the most important quality of an IT systems expert is humility. When I say, “knowledge” that implies what comes after one has had to face and resolve a variety of problems, after one has studied and revised what has been written and, after one has realized that they are in a place where no one else has ever walked before. Then you can start seeing a universe of variables, each of which you had never taken into consideration before! Only after this learning process, do you become aware of the fact that you cannot know everything by relying only on your own ability. Only then are you able to face each problem and realize projects without missing anything.

No one can honestly consider himself a good professional without recognizing that he is not able to know everything, regardless of his occupation. The only competence he must not lack is that of knowing his limits. That is why I do not base assessments only on skills, experiences or technical knowledge of the applicants anymore: these attributes have no importance in measuring true professional value, so I don’t let them influencing the picture I need to take.

But, why did I say it is simple to recognize quality in good professionals while at the same time knowing if a person is a bad technician? What can I rely on, when I need to know if the person I am speaking with is the person I need to employ, in a field that I do not know anything about? I often heard this question from many CEOs and HR managers. This is an important matter today to drive the company on the right way, since the main cause of damage comes from the incompetence of employees and/or managers.
The simplest and unique solution to know the value of anything (human being included) is to look at its fruits: there is no right way to obtain a trustworthy vision from speaking, all we know is, that only facts count!

Thus remember: do not try to estimate the value of a professional by looking at his essays, but instead make use of what he has built; that’s the only way to known his true value!

2 Responses to “It is not a matter of instruction”

  1. andreav says:

    I’ve just read an article published on a local Italian newspaper which shows up a good example of what I wrote about. Under the title “The future of the Internet” three claimed experts (one columnist, one businessman, CEO of one of the most valued IT consulting firms in Genoa, and a popular Italian technical blogger, system admin in a mid-size IT company in the same city) are asked to tell they opinion about the evolution that the world of Internet-related technologies and services will go through the coming 2007.

    I had the chance to know in depth the businessman some months ago, when I worked to help his company to take control of a project that his great “IT experts” would not have ever been able to drive to a successful end. In that circumstance he was not ashamed to admit not to understand anything about Information Technology.

    The blogger, who is widely recognized to be an IT expert, is a little example of whom I told about in my post. I can summarize his professional value with a popular sentence: “every one-eyed is a king in the country of the blind men”. The reputation he gained by answering to every “computer-related question” on his weblog has the same value of the high opinion that my grandparents have of my skills.

    A little trick I usually do to know something about a system admin is “chatting” with the mail servers of the company he works for… it is not an exhaustive assessment, of course, but it can give you an idea of what is working thanks to his professional skills: I let you judge by yourselves.

  2. mikeb says:

    I met “the IT professional blogger” at a blogger convention several years ago. It was widely known as being extremely proud of his achievements and not able to bring some of his work experiences to share with other people.