In 5 changes to help grow your IT career, I discussed establishing a learning mindset and forming daily habits to build your mental muscles. Learning will help you grow as a person (and hopefully as an employee), but work is not the extent of our existence.
People need people—in technology as much as anywhere else. So, how do you take your daily learning habits and use them to help others? I have a few thoughts on the topic. (I know. That likely won’t surprise anyone who knows me.)
1. Share your knowledge in the workplace
You can probably relate to this: When I was only a few years into my Linux career, I took a contract working for a company that had seen many turnovers in the preceding years.
The infrastructure was understandably behind in terms of refreshes and security patches. In and of itself, that would be a difficult task to overcome. However, that wasn’t the worst of it.
Several generations of systems administrators came and went after the original architecture was developed and implemented. I’m sure you can guess what comes next: Their documentation was… lacking. The original sysadmin was also a huge fan of scripting, custom compiling applications, and finding ways to over-engineer solutions.
Hoarding knowledge doesn’t make you a better operations person, nor does it keep your job more secure. Sharing information and ideas is essential to a healthy organization.
Even if you are a one-person IT shop, do you think you can remember every facet of every decision you make? For that matter, do you remember what you ate for breakfast yesterday?
How do you overcome this problem? Start an internal wiki, a Git repo, or at the very least, a text document on a shared drive.
Yes, that’s a lot of work, but take it from a recovering sysadmin; it’s worth it. Start with one process or one application at a time. Set a goal each week to add a little more. You’ll be amazed at how much knowledge you accumulate over a month.
2. Contribute to a publication
Guess what? Enable Sysadmin articles aren’t written by a highly trained team of bloggers who sit around a table at an undisclosed location and make this fantastic content. A small core team manages the site, reviews the content, and makes suggestions. The real heart of Enable Sysadmin is the community of dozens of volunteers who have a passion for a topic and write about it. (Yeah, I am not getting paid to write this blog. I am just passionate about growing and seeing others grow as well.)
3. Join a community
Some of my best ideas come in the wake of a conference or a meetup where I sit around a dinner table for hours chatting with fellow nerds and techies.
Inevitably, we talk about a problem one of us is facing, and someone else has a solution. I am just a person who loves writing and telling stories. However, I couldn’t grow without the help of those more competent individuals around me. (Yes, it’s usually me trying to do something dumb in my home lab and someone else bailing me out.)
Look online. Look in your city. There are meetups and communities for just about every conceivable interest. Some of my favorites are DevOps Days or Linux user groups (LUGs).
Can’t find one? Start a community! It’s not as complicated as it seems. Find a place to meet, pick a time, find something to talk about for 15 minutes, and invite your friends and or coworkers.
Many charitable organizations need help. Find an organization that focuses on an issue you care about and email them or call their office. Tell them what you have to offer and see what happens.
Not only can you make a real difference in your community, but you can also sharpen your skills in the process. (Yeah, that also looks good on a resume.)
5. Be a mentor
If you’ve been in IT for a few years, find someone new to the field and take them under your wing. If you are new to IT, find someone doing something you find interesting and introduce yourself.
Talk to your mentee. Form a relationship. Get to know their interests and their drives. You have more to say than you think you do. I owe much of my career to having trusted relationships around me, guiding me.
Many companies (Red Hat is one of them) have mentorship programs where you are matched with someone you can lead—or who can lead you—in a particular career path or technology.
I am writing this on an international flight home from Tech Exchange, an internal Red Hat conference where technologists meet to learn about our product portfolio, grow their skills, and get to know one another. I got the chance to speak about many of the resources that the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) technical team produces.
During one of the team dinners, a solutions architect came up to thank me for the work I was doing. Content I produced made an impact on his career. He felt more confident as a technologist and as a Red Hatter.
That moment was humbling to me. It wasn’t but a few years ago that I was on the other end of that conversation, where I was guided into my current career path by friends and co-workers. Busy and intelligent people saw more for me than I saw for myself.
Step out of your comfort zone. Make some human connections with people. The impact you have on them will also impact you.
This article was originally published on the Enable SysAdmin blog.