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#2 Using Your Skills?

by Steven Cerri on September 15, 2006

Are you using all your skills at work?

Most technical professionals aren’t.


I want to introduce you to what is probably a new concept for you. The name of the concept is, “The Fully Integrated Technical Professional©”. I’ll explain what that means in this blog.

You go to college to learn your trade. You learn how to be an “individual contributor”, a technical professional who can solve specific technical problems. That’s all well and good.

Then you work at a company for a number of years and slowly or perhaps not so slowly you are given greater responsibility, especially responsibility for the management of projects and the management of a small team. You are expected to contribute positively to the team and maybe even display a little leadership in meetings. You are expected to be able to compromise and find the most effective solution in collaboration with your colleagues, those down the hall and those halfway around the world. You are expected to communicate and communicate well with a wide variety of people.

And from this situation there are two possible paths your career can take. You either do all this well and you succeed and therefore move along a path to management, or you don’t succeed, you crash, and you get relegated to doing “technical work” only. Now don’t get me wrong, you may choose to be the manager or you may choose to remain completely focused on the technical work.

The operative word here is “choose”. If you choose the path you want, fine. But many technical professionals, who get relegated to the technical world after attempting the management path, don’t get to choose. They find they haven’t measured up and they are disappointed, frustrated, and bitter. In fact, it’s mostly for this reason that many companies have developed the “dual-track” for those technical professionals who want to stay technical and those who want to become managers. The dual track allows technical people to “stay technical” throughout their careers, and while some choose this path, some end up there because they didn’t know how to make the successful transition to management.

Here is my position; let’s throw this whole concept of two paths and failing on any one of them out the window. Let’s make what we do with our careers a choice… a conscious choice, made because we understand what we want to do and what we are best suited to do.

That means that when you graduate from college and enter the work force as a technical professional you have one of two major paths to take; either you remain primarily technical or you move into technical management. However, whatever path you take you will contribute ALL of your capabilities. Regardless of whether you stay technical or you become a manager you will develop your skills at communicating with anyone in any situation. You will develop your ability to manage and lead be it in a meeting or with a company wide project. You will learn how to think systemically. You will learn how to vary your communication style so that you can motivate people whether in a small meeting down the hall or when talking to an auditorium full of your employees.

This then is what it is to be a Fully Integrated Technical Professional. It is to be a fully developed contributor to your organization either as a technologist or as a technical manager. It’s to continue your personal development process after college. It’s to be able to live your professional career from a position of choice not from of position of limitation. The Fully Integrated Technical Professional is a technical professional first. It’s someone who understands to varying degrees technology, its implications, and its capabilities. And it is someone who can also communicate and interact with, understand, and motivate people and situations so that things can get done, not just by one person, but also by many people. Remember, the days of living in the corner lab and working alone to accomplish what needs to be done are mostly gone. Look around. Nothing of significance gets done anymore without the contributions of many people. To me, the Fully Integrated Technical Professional is the only way to be a technical person in the 21st century. Like I often say, the Fully Integrated Technical Professional is a technical professional who is more than technical.

Be well

Steven Cerri

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