Attitude and Experience

Now that I am working in an environment where I am no longer the sole technical talent, I have been intrigued with the behaviors of others that I work with. I feel like I am reminded over and over again just how important having a good attitude is and how much of a difference it can make.

There are some people in my department that generally carry a bad attitude and they seem like they are miserable every second they are at work. Every little change that comes their way frazzles them. There are (very few) others who maintain a very positive attitude and are able to adapt to changes much more quickly. And in the middle, it seems like the majority just kind of go with the flow and whatever happens happens.

I find it interesting to see people in the department who have no interest in actively making positive contributions that will help everyone else out. Some of these people, it seems, go out of their way to not even have a participating voice. It’s as if they are hoping that if they are not noticed, nothing extra will ever be asked of them. They may be very good at what they do, but they might not be able to adapt to changes very well.

There are others that are very strongly opinionated and vociferous, yet they seem to have trouble making effective well-defined criticisms and rarely offer any real solutions to issues they encounter. I’ve noticed that sometimes these same types of people try to offer big elaborate solutions to very simple problems, which almost always overreaches the real issue. This, in my opinion, comes from a lack of understanding of the underlying issues to the problems. They tend to only see the surface and not the details.

I’m coming from a realm of working on smaller networks and now I’m finally at the enterprise level. The network at the school system is not huge by any means, and as I’ve taken it upon myself to document the entire network with various spreadsheets and network maps, the network continually feels smaller and smaller as I become more familiar with it.

With my Cisco studies, and to some extent my Microsoft studies, I have loads of theoretical enterprise-level knowledge. I am now gaining the enterprise-level real-world experience I have been seeking for quite some time. I have encountered lots of different design flaws in the network, or perhaps it would be better to say designs that go against industry best practices. But to fix those flaws requires money since the infrastructure is already in place, and in government work, budgeting to fix it is not likely to happen unless it becomes an absolute necessity.

At the same time, I have learned to tread very lightly on anything I do on the network. The smallest change can have very far-reaching effects. I don’t make or suggest changes without fully understanding the ramifications. I also don’t blindly suggest things without researching them first so that I know what I am talking about when I present my ideas.

I feel like this is an appropriate approach for someone having a background similar to mine. In observing others that I work with, I have found some opposite behaviors in those that have more real-world experience than me, but not necessarily the same amount of theoretical knowledge (or perhaps not the same set of theoretical knowledge would be a better way to put it). I see some of these people simply making broad assumptions based on their past experience, and it seems like quite often they are wrong, or less effective than they could be if they took some more time to think things through logically.

When someone is first entering the field of IT, they might make mistakes due to lack of real understanding of the technologies they are working with. Or, due to lack of experience, they might make incorrect assumptions about what it is they want to accomplish. At the other end of the spectrum, I feel like some people with lots of real-world experience also make mistakes due to their assumptions. Sure, many technological concepts stay the same year after year, but the technology itself changes very rapidly. Just because something worked a certain way in the past does not mean it is going to work the same way in the future, and it feels like some people with lots of experience behind them tend to rely solely on their past experiences and don’t incorporate the new.

I am 34 as I write this, and I am still toward the beginning stages of my career. If you look at the traditional retirement age of 65, I am around 1/3 of the way through my working career. Some people stagnate and stop learning. They reach a point where they feel enough is enough and their past experience should be enough to carry them forward effortlessly. That may be fine for some fields, but I don’t feel like that applies to IT, unless you don’t want to move forward. It is my hope as I progress that I will not find myself feeling like that and I will always have the desire to learn new things and keep moving forward. Of course, time will tell.