Building a strong network of people is very important in creating a successful career in IT. In these posts we will start first look at why building a network is important and in the other posts we will look at how to actually build the network and how to make sure that you are also contributing to the network and not only exploiting it.
If you came here to read about connecting cables or routing protocols, sorry, this is not that kind of post. This post is about how to build a network of people.
People often understimate the power of having a big reach in the industry through a network of people. I often hear in my role that I’m almost too effective sometimes. Part of that is because I have a very good network of people that I trust and rely on. In this blog we will look at WHY you want to build a network of people.
The Borg Mind – Have you heard of Star Trek? No? Are you sure you work in IT? 😉 Jokes aside, there is species called the Borg in the series which do not so nice things. What it is nice about the Borg though is that they have a collective mind. We humans will never be as efficient as the Borg but by having several minds thinking about something, we are more likely to find an answer to our problem. If nothing else, you should get input that will help you make your own conclusion.
Increase the Knowledge Base – There is no way to cover all technologies by yourself. I have a very good grasp of routing and switching technologies. What if I run into something tricky in the data center world? I know what people to reach out to. Googling for answers will only bring you so far. Sometimes you need someone with experience. If you manage to learn people working for that vendors equipment you are working on, that will be very helpful the next time you need expert knowledge.
Staying Updated – We all know how tough it is to stay updated in the IT industry. It’s moving so fast and there’s always new technologies and products coming at us at a faster pace than we can consume. I try to stay updated as best I can but it’s a lot easier to do that if you have a good network. Let’s say I’m interested in Cisco’s ACI product. I don’t have time to consume all the information on my own. I do know people working with ACI, both inside of Cisco and outside of Cisco. If I can ask them where to learn more and what’s the drawbacks that aren’t mentioned in the Power Point slides, I’ll be able to consume information much faster and be able to form an opinion of the product/technology.
Career Development – I’ve advanced rapidly in my career. Hopefully because I’m good at what I do but a part of it is that I have a good network. I can ask people what companies are good working at. I can get a reference if I want to when I’m applying for a job. My gut feeling from working in the industry is that the people advancing the fastest aren’t neccessarily the best engineers but the people with the best networks and that can interact with people in a proper manner. There’s a much bigger chance of you landing your dream job if you have a good network.
Motivation to Learn – By interacting with other smart people, hopefully you get inspired to learn more in other technology areas. Bust those silos! Your learning path will also be much more effective because those people have already been through a learning path and possibly a certification. They can guide you in what books and labs to use and they can also teach you on real deployments. You will be in a continous learning environment where you are learning even when you don’t know that you are.
Friends – It’s always nice to have friends, even if they are from online. Hopefully one day you get to meet them. Maybe the next time you are traveling you have a chance to stop by that guy that helped you on something the last time? By knowing people in different places of the world you will also be able to ask them about the culture of that country and what restaurants are good etc. The next time you attend a conference, maybe you will bump into an aquaintance? Cisco Live has been a blast for me because that is one of the few times I get the chance to meet up with friends from all over the world.
Pay It Forward – Mentoring and helping people evolve in their careers can be very rewarding for both parties. One of the best ways to learn is to teach! Personally I hold a lot of respect for people that can teach and are willing to do so. These people after gaining more experience may pass their experience to other people coming up in the industry. This creates a better and more dynamic industry.
In the next post we’ll look at how you actually build that network. Stay posted for the next part of this series!