My 3 biggest mistakes when starting out in IT – Jana Dvorak – Coaching


My 3 biggest mistakes when starting out in IT

Looking back to my early days in IT, there’s many things I’d do differently. This is normal, I’ve gained a lot of experience since.

Where no communication with your manager can lead you?

Things didn’t go well at my first job after I graduated. I was assigned a ‘mentor’ who was in a permanent bad temper and who wouldn’t allow me to ask questions. I was forbidden from accepting phone calls because it would distract him! The atmosphere in the office was exhausting. I felt useless and incompetent.

What did I do? I took the situation as a fact of life. I went to work, dreading the day ahead. I was permanently stressed and it made my life miserable. In hindsight, I’m sure my colleague was bullying me.

What would I do now? I now recognise his behavior was unacceptable. The situation could have been avoided if I’d just had regular catch up meetings with my line manager. I only met with him twice, once when I started and once when I handed in my notice.

Clearly, my old manager has a lot to answer for, he should have been more supportive and proactive. If I’d however been more forceful with my manager I could have saved myself a lot of suffering.

Every person is different. Some are happy to meet with their manager once a quarter others once a week. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask to meet with your manager as often as you feel you need to. A good manager should be sympathetic to that and should be interested in what you’re doing.

 

Who knew how good I was?

I never considered how I promote myself around the business until I read ‘Women who brand’. Who knew how good I was?

I didn’t understand why a colleague would email everyone when they achieved something very minor.

I also didn’t understand why that colleague got a promotion even though I’d rate my own work much more highly.

What did I do wrong? My customers were happy, there were no escalations. Everything was delivered on time and exceeding requirements. But who knew about my successes? No one.

It’s important to advertise yourself. I know this can be difficult, particularly if you’re naturally humble. Try and share your achievements with your direct manager. Make it clear that no news is very good news. If your line manager isn’t sharing your achievements higher up makes sure you do so yourself.

 

Expert knowledge, junior communication.

You can be a technical wizard, but your emotional intelligence can be low. This was my case for a long time.

A typical example…

I get a challenging email, I lose my temper and start a battle. I would finger-point and look for someone to blame. My goal was to win the fight, not to solve the problem.

Nowadays, I try and follow a strategy:

  • I take my time before answering an email.

  • I write the email and then take a break. I think what emotions it’d generate in the recipients. If they’re negative, I’ll rewrite the email.

  • If I really can’t step away from my emotions, I ask an uninvested third party for their opinion.

  • I remember, that I’m not trying to win an email battle, I’m trying to get an issue resolved.

It’s how people communicate in these situations which often differentiates the junior and senior staff.

Remember! People prefer to work with people who make them feel good.