October 16, 2012, 12:22 PM —
I was speaking with a group of younger software and hardware IT professionals. They were a great crowd, extraordinarily knowledgeable in their specific areas of expertise, and just a joy to be with, but had a lot to learn.
As part of my presentation to this group, I asked them what they know about current technology megatrends such as Big Data, Green Computing, Social Media inside the corporation, Cloud Computing, Virtualization, and others. I found it fascinating to learn that most of the people in the room were not at all familiar with these trends. Most had never heard about Big Data. Some didn’t know about Virtualization. All knew about Cloud Computing, but many had no real idea how to take advantage of it within the workplace. Upon further discussion, it also became apparent even though these people truly knew their specific technology; they were not very familiar with the other technologies that surrounded them within their own IT shop. As we talked further, it became apparent to almost everyone in the room how a wider view of their chosen profession could help their current job performance and their future professional growth.
The moral of this story is NOT that techies should be an expert in everything, that’s impossible. The moral is that you, as an IT professional, should be a mile deep in your technical specialty and be a mile wide and an inch deep in the other areas of IT.
What I mean by a mile wide and an inch deep is that you should have a broad, basic understanding of the various technologies used within IT and a general understanding of the technology trends that are driving change and innovation within the industry.
The reason you want to have a general understanding (be a mile wide) of the areas outside your primary technical expertise is because the technology you work in, most likely interfaces with these technologies. As a result, the more you know about these other technologies, the easier it will be for you to connect your technology to these technologies and the more effectively you will be able to work with the people who work with them. Examples of the concept include the following: