“So You Wanna Be a Fighter?”

This is my take on the career and skill development blogs that were recently posted by Duncan Epping, Jonathon Frappier and Chris Colotti.

For those of you who follow the UFC, in particular, “The Ultimate Fighter”, UFC President, Dana White, is famous for the line “So you wanna be a fighter?  Well, you gotta fight!” (paraphrased sans expletives).  The same is true in our “vWorld”.

Dana is also known for another quote: “Leave everything in there [the cage]!” (paraphrased sans expletives).  If you commit to this path then make sure you contribute the time necessary to succeed, if you have other responsibilities or excuses that get in the way, then maybe this journey is not for you.

So putting the motivational quotes and hyperbole aside, what do you need to do to get to where you want to be?

  • Identify what you want to be – An Enterprise Architect, a Design SME, an Implementation SME, CIO, CTO or an Evangelist, for example?
  • Identify the skills you need for the role/position/persona you want – Create a matrix and work out what is required to get there.  Break it into pieces that you can easily consume over time.
  • Estimate how long will it take to get there – Weeks, months or years?  Most “great” things take years, recognise this and commit to the “marathon”; it is not a “sprint”Conserve your energy and prepare for the long haul.  Do not neglect the other areas of your life, but schedule the time required for success.
  • Passion – If you are not passionate about this path, then you are in for a long, hard slog.  Select something that you truly enjoy and love doing – then it is not work and you will be more likely to achieve your goals.
  • Find a mentor that will point you in the right direction when you need help.  Amazing mentors are not for hire and are quite rare.  You will most likely meet by chance and the “mentor-mentee” relationship will develop after knowing each other for a period of time due to mutual respect.  Great mentors only want to be associated with people who are genuine about their mission and are prepared to make it happen.  Pretenders and posturers need not apply!
  • Do not expect said “mentor” to do your work for you.  Your mentor is contributing their time, experience and knowledge to make sure you do not GO IN CIRCLES, all of the effort and energy expended is YOURS ONLY.
  • Develop your soft-skills – Talking, articulating your ideas, presenting concepts, thinking on your feet – these skills are often overlooked.  Sooner or later you will have to develop your public speaking skills, start with your work colleagues or your local VMUG.  Try 10 minute presentations to a small group of people (or the mirror on your lonesome) and build from there.  Everyone suffers from nerves and the answer to that is know your “stuff” and practice, practice, practice!
  • Just Do It! – All of the top industry evangelists made it on their own, there is no central “evangelist/unicorn” authority or academy who selects them.   Do not wait for someone to invite you down this path or your wait will be eternal.  It has to come from within and you will grow from there.
  • Consume Content – Vendor documentation and whitepapers, independent blogs, community forums, podcasts, videos and published books.  If you do not like reading, then I suggest you force yourself to develop that skill.
  • Blogging and Community Forums – Create a blog or join a forum and start putting your ideas and discoveries in writing.  Creating public content really forces you to deep dive and “know your stuff”.  It also helps you develop your written communication skills.
  • Certification – In each technology area and job function there is some award, accreditation or certification that is considered the pinnacle of excellence and validation (for acting it is the Oscars, for networking it is CCIE/CCDE/CCAr, for virtualisation it is VCDX, etc.).  You can use these as a target for developing yourself; align yourself with “that” blueprint and begin your journey.
  • Current Employer – Is your current job aligned with your strategy and goals?  If not, talk to your manager about morphing into a new role.  If your employer is not supportive of your career aspirations, then consider moving to a new company that does.
  • Great Peers – If you want to become great, then you need to associate with great people.  You know you are on the right path if you are the dumbest person in the room – it really forces you to evolve and develop your skills.  You do not want to be a “big fish in a small pond”.
  • Do not expect to know everything – but create a network of contacts that do (in their areas of expertise).  The vCommunity is a very important resource to actively participate in, donate your time and effort to helping others and they will support you in turn.
  • Embrace Change – The IT industry in particular is always evolving and changing, if you do not like learning and hate change, you are in the wrong field – maybe move into logistics, finance or road-works.
  • Scared & Uncomfortable? – Perfect, this means that you are growing and evolving.  As soon as you start to feel warm and cozy, you know that you have stopped learning and improving yourself.

4 thoughts on ““So You Wanna Be a Fighter?”

  1. Excellent post. The best was the last “scared and uncomfortable” means growing & evolving. Very inspiring.

  2. Pingback: Making it in IT – Lessons Learnt | luke aanensen

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