2 Very Hard, But Doable, Steps to Becoming a Technical Thought Leader

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One advantage of being an IT professional is that you have the opportunity of becoming a thought leader in various areas including the following:

• As a thought leader in a specific technology, such as Java, .NET, Oracle Database, etc.
• As a thought leader in the use of a specified vendor’s software package, such as SAP, Seibel CRM, Microsoft SharePoint, etc.
• As a thought leader in a technical area, such as data communication, data security, mobile computing, etc.
• As a thought leader in IT related practices and methodologies, such as Agile/Scrum, Project Management, ITIL, etc.
• As a thought leader in technologies related to a specific industry or profession, such as equity trading, accounting, manufacturing, sales, social media, etc.

If done correctly, from a personal branding perspective and a technical expertise perspective, becoming any of the above can help get you promoted, increase your income, get a seat at the table when technical decisions are being made, give you the opportunity to speak at professional conferences, get quoted in industry publications, and other similar activities and accolades.

The first step in becoming a technical leader is to maximize your technical knowledge and truly become an expert:

1. Get any formal credentials, such as certifications, that exist in your chosen area. For example, if you want to specialize in project management, work toward and obtain your PMP. If your chosen area of expertise is in data communication, get certifications in Cisco and other data communication related projects that are used within your IT shop.
2. Spend some of your personal time (non-work hours) studying and/or playing with the technologies to expand your technical knowledge and expertise.
3. Read the technology related magazines, blogs, discussion boards, and websites to gain a deep understanding of industry/technology trends, issues, major vendors, and major players (analysts, recognized experts, etc.).
4. Attend industry conferences, local Special Interest Groups (SIG’s), webinars, and other in-person and web-based activities with the dual goal of expanding your knowledge on the topic and widening your general perspective.

Before continuing to step two, take note that step one is not a destination, it’s a journey. You will never learn so much that there is nothing else to learn. Also, given that you are a technologist, things continually change. If you do not continue to learn, your knowledge will become stale and out-of-date. (See my IT world column Your technology skills have a two year half-life and 6 ways to stay current for more details).

Step two is to begin to share your knowledge both internally within your company and externally within your industry.

1. Within your company, be the best employee you can be.

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