Maximize your productivity and build your professional brand by tool building

Sometimes a single activity can have multiple positive professional advantages. Building small tools in the workplace is the poster child for this phenomenon.

Regardless of your area of expertise within IT, there are small tools you can create, that once built, can make your job a little bit easier and a little bit more productive. Examples of these tools are: • If you are a DBA: Stored procedures that look for data inconsistencies across tables and/or databases. • If you are a programmer: Stub programs that mimic interfaces to other applications • If you are a tester: Create template testing plans. • If you are a help desk technician: Write custom scripts that do PC diagnostics or install company specific drive images. • If you are a project manager: If your IT shop does not currently use a formalized project management methodology, create one. • If you are a data communication specialist: Create a collection of vendor and open source based networking tools to detect, troubleshoot and correct networking related issues.

This list could go on and on. The moral of the above examples is to think about your specific job responsibilities and define a collection of job aides that you can create yourself, get permission to buy, and/or download for free.

The creation of this self-formulated toolkit has advantages for the company, your department/boss, and of course you personally. From your company’s perspective, your toolkit allows you to provide better service to the recipients of your service. To your department/boss, this toolkit, if shared with your co-workers, not only helps your department provide better overall service, but it can also enhance the department’s overall efficiency, quality, and effectiveness.

For you personally, there are a number of benefits. 1. The creation of these tools can increase your personal performance by allowing you to work more efficiently and not recreating the wheel every time you have to perform a commonly needed task. 2. Using standardized processes and tools allows for higher consistency and quality. 3. Sharing your toolset with members of your team puts you in a position of leadership within the team because your fellow employees must come to you for instruction on how the tools are used and to request enhancements in their functionality. 4. Defining, designing, purchasing, and/or building your group’s toolset puts you in a position of thought leadership within your department. 5. With your company’s and boss’s permission, you may have the opportunity to describe your toolkit to others by speaking at professional conferences and/or get published in technology-related magazines, thus widening your professional brand and reputation as a thought leader well beyond your company’s walls. 6. From a personal branding perspective, gaining a reputation as a tool builder, problem solver, and thought leader can help you move ahead professionally more quickly.

As a software developer earlier in my career, I personally liked to build small pieces of software that helped me write code more efficiently. I was always happy to give these tools to others when asked, but didn’t understand, at the time, the professional advantages to be gained by sharing these personally developed routines. My goal for you here is to understand what I did not. That is to say, certainly be a team player and be willing to help your coworkers, but having done so, learn how to maximize the professional advantage of having done so.

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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