Be an IT triple threat

We don't know for sure, but we suspect they can sing, dance, and act. Credit: flickr/Dave Hogg

The expression “triple threat” has historically been associated with two very diverse activities, the performing arts and football. My suggestion here is that you become a triple threat in IT, It can get you hired and/or promoted.

In the performing arts, a triple threat is someone who can sing, dance and act. They call people who have these three abilities a threat because, all else being equal, having this professional versatility makes it more likely that they would get the job ahead of those with only one or two of these performance skills. In the earlier years of football, a triple threat man was a player who could run, pass and kick. In today’s more modern football era, a person with a combination of skills is generally referred to as a utility player. Ok, enough about football and performing arts, let’s talk about IT.

If you are in the software side of IT, a triple threat in software development is

1. Programing 2. Database design / stored procedure development 3. Application architecture / user interface

I think that it is very possible to be very competent and experienced in all three of these skills. I’ve personally done it myself, even though I always felt my ability to write stored procedures was rather weak. That said, I’m not suggesting that you can truly be an expert in all three, but I do believe that if you are a programmer and are willing to step a little bit outside your comfort zone, you can become very proficient in database design and manipulation. Furthermore, if you have, or can acquire, a deep knowledge in a specific business/application area, such as finance, accounting, manufacturing, engineering, or other specific discipline or industry, then you can also become quite expert in the design and needed functionality of applications within this specialty. In software companies (selling the applications they build) people with the triple software threat are well positioned to move toward the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

If you are on the data center side of the world, there are two types of triple threats. The first combination is

1. Security 2. Data communication 3. System infrastructure

The second type of data center triple threat is

1. Operating systems and virtualization 2. Hardware configuration 3. Database administration

Certainly the above skill sets can be mixed and matched and other skill sets of note could be added. I divided them up in this way because of their relationship to each other. The first combination relates to the movement of data into and throughout the organizations. The second skill set combination is related to building and maintaining servers, SANs, and other large devices.

Because of the individual complexity and continual movement in each of these six highlighted technical areas, it’s enormously difficult to just become an expert in any one of them, let alone three. However, if you can be become expert in one and simply have a working knowledge in the other two, you become a rare and sought after commodity because of your versatility.

The last triple threat I would like to highlight is

1. Project manager 2. Business analyst 3. Subject matter expert in a specific area

If you are a regular reader of my ITworld blog, then you may have read my previous posts related to the power of the project manager / business analyst combination. Here, I would like to add a third component, namely deep knowledge in a specific business area. This area of expertise could be anything, healthcare systems, finance, human resources, investment management, engineering, insurance, or others. The key here is that deep topical knowledge in a specific business area greatly enhances your value and marketability as a business analyst and/or program manager within that market sector. Look at it this way, if you are trying to hire a business analyst to define the requirements of a new accounting system, all else being equal, would you hire the person with a deep understanding of accounting, or the person with no knowledge of the topic. For project managers and business analysts, topical specialization is the key to professional marketability.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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