Last week I interviewed for two projects within my organization. I’m an IT consultant for a living, and before I am ever assigned to a project I usually have to be interviewed by the senior management on the project and perhaps even the client.
A lot of people balk at this idea, and I’ve seen others appear outright petrified. I guess interviewing is kind of like public speaking to most people. It truly instills deep fear and regret into their hearts! I somewhat like it though. It keeps you sharp and on your ‘A’ game.
One of the positions I interviewed for was a coordinator position that would have a six month commitment and be totally work from home. I’ve been traveling for the last eight months strait with only about four solid weeks home over that entire period, so this job sounded ideal. But to be honest, the job itself scares me to death.
IT people have the privilege of tackling the majority of tasks very scientifically. Yes, some decisions still involve a certain element of politics and other human interferences, but for the most part, IT professionals tend to be faced with a specific task, have a set of available resources and tools at their disposal, and the freedom to go find a solution from there.
This new position would be much more strategic in nature. To date, I’ve only had real world experience of the analytical/scientific type. In fact, I once had a job where my title was staff scientist. So to be given an opportunity to take on a position where my job is very open ended and abstract is actually… well… terrifying.
I started thinking back about all the strategy books I had to read, and all the strategy type instruction I received when I was working on an MBA a while back and for possibly the first time ever, my graduate education applied directly to my job. It was kind of exciting, until I started to feel like I was in over my head.
For a moment I started to freak out a little bit inside. I asked myself, “What the hell am I gonna do man! What if I royally screw this up? What if I fail to meet expectations?”
Then I chilled out a bit and started doing what all good IT geeks and consultants do. I broke it down analytically.
One part Visionary, One part Scientist
I think the key to working well in a coordinator/director/strategic management type position is to apply vision to your overall strategic plan. When I think back on all the cool classes I took as a graduate business student, the one class that really made the greatest impact on the way I thought was the Strategic Management class. Sure, I lapped up the finance and econ classes like a thirsty kitty over a bowl of warm milk, but the strategic management stuff might just have the most real world value.
I remembered a few exercises from class that seemed almost like busy work. One was where we read Cetron and Davies 52 Trends Shaping Tomorrow’s World then critiqued EACH AND EVERY ONE of their assessments and came up with our own future scenarios, all over a single week. It must have taken me a solid 10 hours to complete that assignment. I still remember being hunched down at work quietly and feverishly sludging through the endless busy work- only now it’s starting to make sense why I had to do that busy work.
Dust off that Imagination!
I watch my daughters pretend to be half a dozen animals on any given day. They’re awesome at it! And in addition to pretending to be little cats, or dogs or chipmunks, my older daughter (she’s four) likes to make up these elaborate stories to go along with whatever type of animal her and her two year old sister are pretending to be.
I started realizing; maybe this is what I need to be doing, only on an adult level. I need to get creative. I need to recapture my imagination. This is what my Strategic Management professor was trying to make up do. Think outside the box, think outside ourselves. Develop creative, alternative end games to your problem. Learn to be a visionary and futurist!
My biggest criticism of IT geeks and extremely technically minded people is that they typically think and work only within a self created perimeter. Steve Wozniak was an amazing engineer and quite a creative guy when it came to engineering, but he’d have been nothing in the grand scheme of things without the other Steve!
I have the advantage of naturally being a very analytical person, but understanding and realizing the value of thinking big, being imaginative and being a visionary. I just have to put it to work.
Think of what you can do today to dust off your imagination and step out of the box a bit. Where might it take you?