In this day and age, it is not easy to be an IT professional. We get hit with so many different issues on a daily basis. Not only do we deal with difficult technical challenges every day, but more often than not, we deal with difficult customers as well. However, unless you want to change fields and not work in the IT industry anymore, this is just going to be the reality for the rest of your IT career. So, my suggestion is this: Do not be the bad IT guy that everyone loves to hate. 

The IT guy that everyone blames for all their problems and despises seeing. Instead, do your best to read this post with humility and make sure you are not making the same mistakes that many bad IT guys make.

If you are not an IT person but have somehow landed on my blog, hey, you might as well stay and read what I have to say. You might actually find some validation for your negative feelings towards your company’s IT department. You may find that you are not insane and you are in fact working with a bunch of bad IT guys (yes, somehow for whatever reason, bad IT guys often come in bunches). And I know you probably have some emotionally charged words to use when describing these IT guys you work with every day.

This is a three part series. I will talk about the bad, the good and the great IT guys. Yes, legend has it that great IT guys do exists. For all the IT professionals reading this, I hope to help you, in this three part series, to move from whatever level you are at onto the next level.

Without further delay, let’s check and see if you are making some of the mistakes that bad IT guys make.

Here are 8 things that bad IT guys do (under the assumption that they are smart moves), which in the long run will ultimately hurt their careers.

#1: Blame the customer.

Probably one of the worst things you can do in your IT career is to blame your customers. Let me give you a couple of examples of how this usually plays out.

Customer A: “My computer keep bluescreening, I really need some help to get this fixed.”

Bad IT guy: “Did you install some non work related software on the system? Or go to some questionable web sites?” (Asked with an intense look, silently expressing the thought, What the heck did you do this time?)

or

Customer B: “I was on a conference call and the call dropped right in the middle of the call. Is there something wrong with our conference service?”

Bad IT guy: “No, our conference services are very reliable. Were you on a cell phone or in some remote location where the reception was poor? The call probably dropped on the other end.”

If you, as an IT guy, respond like this to your customers, you might want to change your tactics quickly. While the answers you give might not be false, blaming the customer is no way to build a good long term relationship.

#2: Throw out fancy terms to confuse the customer.

Do you ever encounter customers who come by frequently with some really trivial questions? Without knowing exactly what caused their computer problem, you throw out some really fancy terminology or some sophisticated sounding answers in order to sound smart and ultimately, to drive the customer away.

Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom/freedigitalphotos.net

Let me give you an example:

Customer (a finance admin): “I was doing some work on our ERP system today, but it seemed a bit slow. Is there anything we can do to speed that up?”

A smug IT guy: “There is probably nothing we can do; the ERP system is actually hosted fairly far from us for security reasons. Its network is set up in a complicated clustering setting and whenever data goes to the site, each packet is required to move through multiple IP peering that is outside of anyone’s control. It is a good thing though because it protects good guys from mixing with the bad guys.”

Using fancy terms might get you the results that you want for the time being (ie. customer leaves your desk), however if you keep using this tactic, one day you will encounter someone who is just as technical as you or even more technical and you will look like a fool and lose credibility. Trust me, I have seen this happen a few times.

#3: Give different excuses for a repeating problem.

Here’s an example:

Customer A: “Hey IT, I keep having trouble printing to this printer. I thought you said you guys fixed it last week?”

A self-proclaimed smart IT guy: “Oh, we did. This is a different problem. Let me take a look. Something went wrong with your application; just reboot your system and try again.”

Giving a good excuse to get a customer to go away only works for a short time. If the problem continues to come back, no matter how good the excuses are, you will ultimately look bad.

#4: Over promise and under deliver.

This one is self-explanatory. Though your intention to always want to say yes to a customer might be a good one, when what you have promised never comes true, your good intentions will do more harm than good. Don’t say, “I’ll swing by”, but never show up. Or “I can fix that next week” and forget to follow up. Do this a few times and people will think you are unreliable.

#5: Use obsolete technologies and make everyone who wants new technologies look like spoiled brats.

Using outdated, obsolete technologies is actually a very pervasive problem in the IT industry. Yes, understand that in the world of IT, resources are not always plentiful. Ensuring that everyone in the entire company is using the latest cutting edge technologies is not always feasible. However, chronically using old technologies without making an effort to strive for better technologies and solutions can lead to many frustrated, demoralized customers. Always make an effort to bring new, good technologies to your customers.

#6: BS your customers.

This point does not only apply to IT professionals, but to anyone who wants to have a long successful career and maintain your credibility. Sometimes it is far easier to just BS or lie to your customer to “solve” a problem or create an illusion that everything is fine and dandy. But little white lies can get you in trouble as quickly as they got you out of trouble. 

Here are a few examples that you, an aspiring IT professional, should never do or even consider doing!

Example 1:

The CEO drops by IT and says, “A colleague of mine just lost all his email because their IT team never backed up their Exchange Server. We backup our Exchange every day, right?”

An evil IT admin, who is willing to say just about anything to get out of trouble and potentially look good doing it: “Yes, I believe our email team says (creates a back door so that just in case something goes wrong, he can blame the email team) our Exchange is configured in a cluster setting and has full backup running all the time. We should be fine.” (Answer given though he/she knows nothing about the email infrastructure.)

Example 2:

A marketing customer: “Hey, is our web server communication encrypted?”

Bad IT guy with a quick reflex: “Oh, of course. We would never deploy a server without making sure it is secure.” (But the truth is that everything is communicated in clear text.)

Don’t think that these are outrageous examples that never happen. The reality is that it happens all too often. Don’t be caught in these types of scenarios. Don’t BS your customers. Know your stuff, otherwise the consequences could be surprisingly severe.

#7: All talk, but no data and no results.

This is another sign that distinguishes the junior IT guy from experienced IT professionals. Junior IT guys tend to do a lot of talking and give customers a lot of answers that are actually just guesses. They like to call these “educated guesses”, however at the end of the day they are still guesses. But experienced IT professionals do good research and support their claims with real data, and their results show that they know what they are talking about.

#8: Talk badly about their own IT department.

Image courtesy of stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net

This is almost like the unforgivable sin in the working world. In IT we sometimes have a very high workload and have to work overtime and all, but in no situation should you ever complain to the customers about your teammates or your boss. That is a suicidal career move. There are some junior IT guys out there who, maybe in the hopes of gaining sympathy, start complaining about their own work, their teammates and even their boss to their customers.  Ultimately these complaints will simply discredit the whole department over time and will eventually reach the bosses’ ears, thus being a suicidal career move.

Lastly, why am I telling you all this? Among the IT professionals mentioned in the real life examples above, one guy got fired, while the other few never got a promotion. Therefore, if you want to have a vibrant successful IT career, be sure to never commit any of these 8 “IT crimes”.

Come back frequently for parts two and three of this series. In those upcoming posts, I’ll be talking about what makes an IT guy a good IT guy, and of course, what distinguishes a good IT guy from a great IT guy.

Have you witnessed any of these IT crimes being committed in your workplace? Have you yourself, in a desperate situation, committed one or two of these? If so, no worries. It is not about how you have failed, but how you can get yourself out of those mistakes, and how you can change your ways from bad to good. Please share your experiences with me.

 

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I hope you had a chance to review my last post on what NOT to do when answering the question, “How much did you make at your last job?” If not, you might want to take a quick look as this post is closely related to the last one. Please click this link to review Part 1 (click here: Part I)

As I brought up in Part I, the proper way to answer the question, “How much did you make at your last job?” is really much simpler than you think.

Just tell the truth.

BUT WAIT! Wouldn’t telling the truth potentially leave money on the table? Or, what if you made too much at your last job and they think you are overqualified. Well, no. Because telling the truth is only the first step in establishing a trusting relationship, where then the real negotiation can begin.

Anyone who takes a job interview seriously will do some homework and be prepared to answer any technical questions that might be asked during the interview. Well, it is the same for this salary question.

Before you walk into any interview, you should do the following:

  • Find out how much companies in the same market are willing to pay for the position you are interviewing for. You can easily get the current market rate by visiting sites like salary.com. When you do your research, be sure to include the location of your potential employer. These days, salaries can vary drastically even just a few cities apart. At salary.com you can find out the the low, mid and high salary range for any position.
  • Second, take a look at glassdoor.com. Glassdoor.com provides salary information plus other general feedback of the company by people who either currently work there or have worked there in the past. If you are lucky, you might be able to find out exactly how much the company is paying for the position you are interviewing for. Even if you don’t, getting some feedback from current or past employees about the company is always good for reference anyway.
  • Lastly, if you are fairly active in the social media world like facebook, Google+, and Linkedin, you should certainly search and see if you have any direct or indirect friends from whom you can glean some useful information. You might not be able to find out salary information for the exact job that you are looking for, but if you can find out the salary of any position at that company, you can compare that with what you find on salary.com. Then you would have an educated guess as to whether this company generally pays on the lower, middle or higher side compared to the market rate.

So, now that you’ve done your research, you are ready to answer the question. The key is not how you answer the question, “How much did you make at your last job?”, but how you lead the conversation into the direction that you want it to go. 

Why don’t we have some fun and do a role play here. Let’s say you are currently making $80k, and after having done your due diligence in preparing, you believe this company is likely willing to pay $110k for this position. $30k is a bit of a gap, but hey, why not? Let’s aim high.

Image courtesy of Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net

Employer: “Thanks for taking time out to come in and chat with us. If you don’t mind, I would like to find out how much you are making at your current (or past) position.”

You (be sure to answer this question confidently, regardless if you are making far below your targeted number or just a few thousand from your goal): “Oh, sure, I don’t mind at all. I’m currently making $80K.”

Now, here is the important part. After you confidently answered the previous question, you should just as confidently follow that answer by saying. “For my next career move, I am target to make $110K.”

Your interviewer might be a bit surprised. He/she might be surprised by the $30k gap that you are targeting or by how well you’ve done your research. Regardless, he/she might follow with something like this, “Wow, I certainly admire your ambition, but $30K is a bit of a jump. Do you mind telling me why you are targeting $110K?”

Just as you answered the previous question with confidence, you need to answer this follow up question with just as much confidence, if not more. Here are two examples of what I would say. The following are just that, examples. You should say why you truly feel you deserve that $30k (or whatever gap you are trying to achieve).

Example 1: “I’ve been working for my current employer for a very long time. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working there all these years. I’ve made some great friends along the way.  But while my skills continue to improve, the company I work for hasn’t exactly progressed over the years and their salaries in general just haven’t kept up with the market rate.”

Example 2: “My current employer is in a different market in general. I knew I was making much less than what I could be making, but I really wanted to experience firsthand what working in that market is like.  I’ve done some research on your company and the market your company is in. The market is doing so well, $110k is just the standard rate.”

Example 3: “The job requirements for my previous job were much more narrow and utilized just a small portion of my skillsets. I’m looking for a position where I can utilize the broader side of my skills and as such, would be more in line with a $110k market rate.”

Your interviewer likely would say something like this to close. “Ok, great. Thanks again for your time. I will certainly put everything you said into consideration. Our HR/Recruiter will communicate with you on the next steps.”

By the way, it should go without saying that you should pay very close attention to how your interviewer reacts to all of your responses. If you care about the potential of how much you’ll be making, and I assume you do, pay special attention to his/her reaction as you propose your targeted number and your justification for your proposed number. If he or she flat out thinks you are crazy for even suggesting a number like that, well, your research on salaries might have been a bit on the high side. However, not all is lost. If you truly want to work for this company or are desperate for any opportunity, you can always say something like this, “I very much admire the work that your company is doing and I’m willing to be flexible on salary.”

However if he or she responded calmly and even positively to your answers with something like, “We can certainly make something like that work,” then you know your research has paid off, and the confident responses you gave have won over your interviewer.

One more tip that’s not related to salary. In the old days, recruiters/headhunters (if people still use that term) used to always suggest interviewees to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview, what is the next step, or when should they expect to hear from them. The purpose of the question is to show that you are eager about this opportunity. But I recommend that you don’t ask that. Times have changed. In this day and age, especially for the field of IT and Operations, the market is really hot. HR knows they need to act quickly when they have a great candidate on their hands; they will close the deal extremely fast if necessary. Asking a question like that just makes you sound desperate. If you don’t hear from them within two weeks time, you can safely assume it didn’t work out.

Lastly, a little disclaimer here. Of course, I hope to help you get as much as you can for your next job. But ultimately, you need to know your stuff! It doesn’t matter how good you are at negotiating your salary, the conversation will never even get to that topic if you don’t have the skillset for the job. So prepare yourself well for the interview.

Best of luck!

-David H.

Did you try out my method during a recent interview? Or do you have some good interview techniques you would like to share?  Feel free to comment below.

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I recently came across an article titled, “How much you made at your last job”. The article was obviously catered to job seekers in the hopes of helping them answer this difficult interview question. As you’ve likely experienced, this question can cause anxiety for interviewees. The perception is if you answer this question incorrectly, you could potentially leave money on the table because you made too little at your last job or you do not know the best number your potential new employer is willing to pay.

Well, before I tell you what the right answer is, let me tell you that I wasn’t impressed with the advice I read in that article. I have been in the IT industry for quite a few years and for most of those years, I’ve been in management. I’ve hired many talented individuals over the years, and I’ve switched a job or two here and there as well. So I would say that I have some good experience in this area, but more importantly, I’m passionate about all forms of negotiations, and don’t let this one fool you, interviewing for a new job is very much a negotiation.

So, first things first. If you happen to be a job seeker, don’t be anxious. I know, I know, it is easier said than done. Anxiety however comes from the fear of not knowing. I hope after you read this post, you will go from not knowing to knowing, thus eliminating some of your fears and anxiety, well at least on the topic of salary. (You will still need to prepare for other tech or non-tech related interview questions; those are not the scope of this article. Come back often as I plan to cover those in the future.)

When it comes to answering this difficult question of “How much did you make at your last job?”, there are generally two schools of thought.

Image courtesy of Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net

The first one is this: Avoid the question. Don’t say how much you made, but in whatever ways you can, turn the table around and make the employer tell you first how much they are willing to pay. This is not a bad strategy, unless they insist you tell them first how much you made. As you can imagine, if both sides insist on the other side telling the number first, it could get a bit awkward. And let me be frank in telling you that since you are the one looking for a job, and they probably have 300 other candidates waiting to be interviewed, the odds would not be in your favor.

The second school of thought is: Lie. Lie about how much you made and come up with a number you think will give you better leverage during the interview. Well, I highly discourage anyone from going this route. It is really easy to find out how much one makes these days. Most established companies do have a background check in place in their standard hiring process. You might think though that by the time your background check comes around, they have already given you a formal offer and everything should be fine. No, it is not fine at all. Most offer letters do have the clause in there that says the offer is valid providing the background check clears. Clearing the background check includes not providing false information, such as the salary you put down on your job application. Should the HR department of this company you are applying for find out that you provided false information, they have every right to retract their offer. That is not a situation you want to get yourself into.

As you can see, these two options of avoiding the question and lying about your previous salary are not the way to go.

So what is the proper way to answer the question, “How much did you make at your last job?” Well, the answer is really much simpler than you think.

Just tell the truth.

WHAT! Wouldn’t telling the truth potentially leave money on the table? Or, what if you made too much at your last job and they think you are overqualified. Well, no. Because telling the truth is only the first step in establishing a trusting relationship, where then the real negotiation can begin.

In my next post I will share about the steps you should take to prepare yourself for a salary negotiation. Please click this link to read Part II (click here: Part II)

Make sure you subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn to get updates on my future posts.

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I hope you had a chance to review my last post related to SaaS.  If not, you might want to take a quick look as today’s post is closely related to the last one. Please click this link to review Part 1 (click here: Part 1).

Now that you understand what SaaS is and how SaaS can benefit your IT career, I’m here to introduce you to IaaS. This is pronounced as “I-AS”.

While SaaS, software as a service, can help you provide speedy solutions on a lot of the traditional IT tasks such as data backup solution, phone services, and email services, IaaS stands for Infrastructure as a Service. What this means is that your entire Infrastructure, anything and everything from firewall, your servers, the network that all the data traverses to and from, and down to your applications can all be provided by one of these IaaS providers. I’m sure many of you have heard of Amazon EC2 or AWS. These are IaaS services provided by Amazon. Basically, any company can sign up for their IaaS service, and in a very short time, set up their own servers along with all the necessary network components such as firewall, network and data connectivity all set up and ready to go. And the beauty of it all is that you only pay for what you use, and services can start as low as $40 a month.

You might think these IaaS providers are more for the big guys with big Cloud applications. Actually, that’s not true at all. Think about it. For $40 a month, you can get a server that has a 99.95 SLA (standard SLA, many IaaS provide even better SLA such as 99.999 or even 100 SLA, but be sure to read their fine print); this is a very inexpensive cost. If you were to go out and buy any decent server with 2 socket quad core and some reasonable amount of space, it could easily cost you $4000 a server. So for $40 a month, you could effectively host a server in the cloud for the same price for 100 months; that’s approximately 8 years. And during those 8 years, not only do you have a server, but a server that does not require maintenance. Yup, that’s right, these IaaS providers will take care of all maintenance in the background for you, from servers to network equipment, so that your environment is always up.

Image courtesy of stuart miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of stuart miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Take a moment and consider if IaaS can help you with your existing Infrastructure. Why put a server in your office location? Whenever you have a piece of equipment sitting in the office, you have to worry about power, safety and bandwidth. What if you lose power in the office? Then all your employees are down, and you might as well send everybody home for the day. What if your ISP messed up your data circuit, now you have no email. Worse yet, what if somebody comes into your building and steals your server? Now you are in big trouble. Forget about data recovery, you don’t even have a server to recover to! Don’t think that this kind of stuff doesn’t happen. I’ve seen it happen.

With IaaS, you can deploy your critical infrastructure in the Cloud. All you need is some careful planning, and your domain controller, mail server, filer can all be in the Cloud. All you need is to set up a Site-to-Site connection back to your office(s). You are then up and running. If your office building’s power goes out, send everybody home, but not to do nothing; everyone should be able to work from home. IaaS is great if your company has many remote offices. Connecting remote offices to Cloud Infrastructure is a piece of cake, or cookie I should say; each site’s network can simply be a cookie cutter setup and can all have access to the same infrastructure as your headquarter. Of course, how you want to control access is an entirely different topic, but distributing access would be drastically simplified.

Now of course these IaaS providers are targeting big players with big cloud applications as well.  or example, NetFlix is a good example of a big guy with a big cloud application in the cloud. NetFlix uses Amazon for their online subscription based media distribution product. NetFlix is a big enough company. If they think it is a good idea and more cost effective to host their own servers and infrastructure, I’m sure they would do it. But if NetFlix, being such a big company, would choose to use a IaaS provider instead of building their own private cloud, these IaaS providers are certainly adding value to the process.

By now, you might be a bit worried. If SaaS can help with all the traditional IT services such as email, phone, and backups, and now there is Iaas to help with the infrastructure so no one needs to take care of and maintain all the servers, and network equipment, then what else is left for IT to do? Aren’t we just working ourselves out of a job?

Well, my friends, don’t you worry. Be open minded; don’t worry about these low level tasks, and start worrying about the higher level tasks.

There really isn’t much pride in being an expert in knowing how to swap out a couple of bad hard drives or setting up some basic firewall and network rules. These are yesterday’s problems. Now we have to step up a level and think about how to bring resources and services to our end-users and clients quicker than ever before. These IaaS providers give you the Infrastructure, but someone still has to manage the Infrastructure, how this infrastructure is supposed to function, along with all the applications running within it. To state it simply, it is like somebody gave you a super powerful computer, but how you run it and what applications you run on it is completely up to you. The content and results of what you run on this super computer is likely what will make or break your computer, not so much the computer itself. But it is nice to have a computer that you know you’ll never have to maintain or worry about it going down. So what I am saying is don’t worry about the infrastructure, and don’t worry about the basic server and network. But worry very much about your products, your services, your core worth and how you are going to deliver them and delivery them quickly. Quicker and more securely than anyone else on the market. That’s going to be why you are worth what you are worth.

I’ve mentioned Amazon, but don’t think Amazon is the only IaaS provider out there. I’m by no means endorsing any one IaaS provider. There are many, many IaaS providers out there. Again I’m not endorsing anyone, but just to give you an idea, here are a few: Amazon, SoftLayer, RackSpace, Terremark, Hosting.com…etc.

If you do consider moving forward with a IaaS provider, you want to make sure you understand the fee structure. They only charge you for what you use, but they will charge for everything that you use. They will certainly charge you for the use of their servers; for every CPU upgrade or memory upgrade there will be additional fees. Bandwidth will likely be charged as well, and they are frequently calculated as separate upload and download fees. Anyhow, there are a lot of different things that they can and will charge you for. It is best that you make sure you understand all the charges before you sign the contract.

Lastly, please understand I’m not saying that IaaS is the best invention since sliced bread and that it would work for every single company. Every company’s product is unique and its requirements for infrastructure will be different based on many different factors. There are plenty of good reasons to still do private cloud; there is really no one size fits all solution. If after you do some serious homework and calculation, you find that it would be financially or administratively beneficial to do your own private cloud, then that’s what you should do. Or if public cloud is the way to go, then you should embrace it. By the way, there are plenty of companies out there who are doing hybrid cloud, partly private cloud and partly public cloud. You should always go with whatever makes the most sense to you and your company. I’m simply here to encourage you to explore the new world of IT and not be afraid to try them out.

-David H.

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Companies are constantly looking for talented IT folks, but if you think you are a talented IT person who is looking for a good home, and by home I mean a good company where you want to stay and grow your career for awhile, then having just the traditional skill sets are no longer enough.

Say for example, you are a talented IT person working at a really exciting startup company with about 200+ employees. Everyone is fairly technical and have enjoyed using a Linux Sendmail server for all their email needs. But the company is really starting to get big enough where it would benefit from some 21st century email technology such as group calendar, email syncing to mobile devices and better organized email distribution lists. You say, great, no problem, let me build a Microsoft Exchange server for the company. It will satisfy all the email related requirements. It will do group calendar, sync email to everyone’s phone and organize company events and more. And you can build it with multi-site redundancy so the whole thing will never go down, it will cost less then $40k with hardware and software all included, and can be completed, from planning to deployment, in under 2 months time. Wow, that’s pretty great. The fact that you have the knowledge and know how to build something like that is great. But what if I told you I could have the whole thing done in just one day. Actually to be more precise, I could probably have the whole thing done by lunch time and it would also cost less. You might be scratching your head and say “No freaking way, there is no way one person can do all that in one morning”. Well, technically you are right, I can’t do it, but who says I have to.

This is where SaaS comes in. SaaS stands for Software as a Service. To those who are not familiar with it, you really should get familiar with it. Software as a Service targets exactly the scenario I mentioned above. Problems such as corporate email, phone services, and even corporate file shares are yesterday’s problems. There are plenty of SaaS companies out there who have mastered these technologies so you and I can focus our time on bigger problems.

To finish up on the example used earlier, there are plenty of Hosted Exchange Providers out there. These are companies who will manage your corporate email with as little as $4 per mailbox per month. For a company with 200 employees, the cost is merely $800 a month. I know you might cry foul at this point and say “This is only a monthly cost; it will add up and what about security?” Great questions. With approximately $800 a month, a yearly cost would be $9,600, which is still easily 4 times below the $40k estimate; this means this SaaS solution will be well below cost for 4 years compared to your in-house solution.

Moreover, don’t forget to calculate your salary. You are a talented IT person whose salary is well above minimum wage. Let’s just say for ease of calculation, you make $100k per year. Now your Exchange solution has a yearly operational cost of $100k plus the original $40k one time setup fee. Wait, that’s not really a one time $40k setup fee is it?! There is license renewal fee for the Exchange servers, otherwise you’ll be stuck with the current version and can never upgrade. Oh, and what about the server hardware, there is a support cost for that too right? We simply can’t let our Exchange server hardware go without warranty. Shoot, what about hiring a backup for you? You will get sick or go on vacation someday, now the company has to hire another person just to make sure that in your absence somebody can take care of the Exchange server. Speaking of backup, we have to back up the data on Exchange, too. Now we have to invest in the backup strategy just to make sure our in-house Exchange server is well cared for. With all these little details in mind, that $4 per mailbox per month should start to sound really good to you now.

Now $4 a mailbox certainly sounds like a deal, but what about security? We can’t let an outside vendor manage our sensitive information, such as email. Or can we? Well, you will be relieved to know many of these companies take security very, very seriously. Most of these companies comply with SSAE-16 (SAS-70 in the older days), and some of them have additional certification such as PCI, FISMA…etc.  All these certifications will save you a ton of time if the company you work for is a public company or plan on going public. Third party auditors generally accept certifications from your service provider with little to no questions asked. So whatever SaaS services you are using, so long as they are certified, you are good in those areas. Please don’t mistake me as saying all SaaS are safe and secure. You will still need to do your homework and make sure whichever SaaS you choose is the right fit. But if you do your due diligence, you’ll find often times these SaaS providers take their security seriously, probably even more than you would.

Image courtesy of scottchan/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of scottchan/freedigitalphotos.net

Still not convinced? Take a look at the some of the wildly successful stories out there, such as SalesForce, Google App, and iCloud. I’m not here to endorse any companies nor any products, but can you imagine how long it would take for any company to deploy an in-house solution that can compare to what SalesForce is offering? It would take a tremendous effort, financial resources and time to deploy a similar product in house, and the biggest question is WHY? This is not even your company’s core product. SaaS providers have mastered their trade. They have looked at every corner of their business and squeezed out every inefficiency so they can complete with other SaaS providers that are in their space. They have already invested tremendous effort, financial resources and time to deliver their refined products to you, so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Take advantage of these SaaS offerings. Save the man hours and the money to spend on projects that really matter to your company’s success.

Lastly, please understand that I’m not here to persuade you to buy any products or services from any SaaS providers nor am I saying that SaaS is a one size fits all solution. A solution that works for one company could be a disaster for another. Picking the right technology to solve a given problem requires diligent study. However, I simply want to persuade you that the old days of IT, where the IT team spent most of their time managing core functions such as email, file shares and phone services, are over. There are ways that we can do IT faster and cheaper now.  

Check out the next part of this series where I talk about how IaaS is changing the IT landscape (click here: Part 2).

-David H.

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In the world of IT, I think it goes without saying that you need to have some technical skills in order to have a good career in the field. How many technical skills? Well, that depends on what position you are currently overseeing. However, a different type of skill set which is equally as important to have, but everyone seems to have forgotten about, are people skills. Let me give you three reasons why people skills are so important to your IT career.

Image courtesy of stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net

First, management generally doesn’t like employees who can’t work with others. Yes, do understand that if an employee has exceptional technical skills, management will have to keep him/her for those highly technical tasks that only he/she can do. But the question would be, for how long? Depending on how difficult it is to work with this person, sooner or later management will always come up with the idea to “cross train” the rest of the team to ensure that more than one person can perform his/her difficult tasks. Now, I’m not saying that management will eventually fire this highly technical but difficult to work with person. Well, unless he or she is really difficult to work with, then yes, they will ultimately fire them.  Most of the time management will likely keep them around, however, the recognition will likely go to someone else, to a person who can learn to be technical and yet, is easy to work with.  And if this person is pleasant to work with, guess who is going to get the next promotion?

Second, great tasks are rarely accomplished alone. Promotions and salary aside, for those who actually like their jobs working in the IT field and want to accomplish something great, well, you can’t do it alone. If all the projects that you’ve done so far in your IT career were all done by yourself without any help from other people, perhaps you could dream bigger. Have you ever heard of a datacenter being built by one man, or a cloud service offering all managed by one very talented IT sys admin? Of course not. To accomplish something great, you need a good team to get it done.

Last but not least, for someone who has no people skills, he/she is for sure going to miss out. Miss out on what? Well, a whole lot – anything from technical information to information on how well or poorly the company is doing. If someone is not easy to work with, people around him are generally not going to volunteer information to “help” him out. That’s just human nature. If someone in the team just learned some latest and greatest, really cool way to manage the datacenter infrastructure, they for sure are not going to voluntarily share this information with the colleague who has no people skills. Unless the management were to mandate some kind of cross training, but even then, the information shared would likely be the bare minimum.

Besides technical information, people also know a lot about the state of the company. If you talk to just one person, you might not find out a whole lot, but if you talk with many people in the company, you can often put together how well or poorly the company is doing. For example, if you talk with a person in Sales, it is quite easy to find out how many deals the company has made this quarter. Or if you chat with the guy in Manufacturing, you’ll find out how many products your company has shipped. If you chat enough and with the right people, you’ll find out a whole lot about the company and gain a few good friends in the process. From these conversations, you might also find out some of the pain points people have regarding IT. If you are proactive about addressing these concerns, your end-user community will thank you and again give you a much better chance at your next promotion.

Allow me to give you an example to help  some of these concepts sink in. And trust me, once I point it out, I’m sure you’ll find some of these same folks working in your companies as well.

Several years ago, there was a highly technical sys admin that I had the displeasure of working with. This guy was not only difficult to work with, his attitude was just downright unacceptable. He talked to everyone as if they were below him and no one could measure up to his technical expertise. He thought he was smart to withhold critical technical information and refused to cross train anyone on the team in order to protect his own job security. I would have never hired this guy, but unfortunately for me, he was part of the team that I had inherited.

Well, it took me and our management team a few months to analyze and work out the situation. We understood that this individual was highly technical and quite valuable to the company, but ultimately due to his lack of respect for others and inability or unwillingness to work with others, we had to let him go. We actually had to hire two senior sys admins to replace this one guy and had to do a whole lot of reverse engineering to figure out the technical information that he had hid from us. But we did it. We fired the guy. And do you know how the rest of the team reacted? The entire team welcomed it. One guy even said to me, “It’s about time.” I know this example is a bit extreme, but it is a true story. What’s the moral of the story? Well, there are several. One, don’t count on your technical skills alone because there are always other technical folks out there who are just as good as you. Two, treat others with respect. Yes, work on your people skills and it will give you a better chance at your next promotion.

I hope you see how important people skills are to having a successful IT career. There are different aspects to people skills as well. How do you manage relationships with the people who report to you, people who are your peers and the people you report to? Come on back as I’ll be sharing more on these topics in the future.

-David H.

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