So you got your first IT job at an MSP. What now?
Starting a new job is like learning how to play a game. You start as a rookie. Anxious, nervous, and a raw passion to prove yourself.
Illustration: Karthikeyan Ganesh
Then, you slowly grow through the rank to become a pro at what you do. You see yourself transforming, internally and externally. You become more confident. You intuitively know what needs to be done. Finally, you start coaching others around you to play the game just as you have.
When I started my first IT job right out of college, I was clueless too. So afraid of pressing the wrong button and firing the wrong script. Looking back, IT was the best place for me to start my career. The kind of impact you could have on the business through IT is underrated.
Here are 5 things that I wish someone told me when I started my first IT job.
Ask why, not just how and what
It is very easy to get lost in the details. There are so many configurations to manage, buttons to press, and devices to monitor. But ignore the big picture and you'll find yourself getting left behind. When you start your first IT job, keep an eye out for the big picture. Why are we monitoring these devices? Why is that a P1 incident? More importantly, why does the client care about this?
Focusing on the big picture will keep you focused on the ultimate purpose - helping the business grow. You will start noticing how your job ties to the success of the organization. That will lead you down a path where you start recommending solutions to better the business.
Context is a beautiful thing. It can make the right wrong and the wrong right. Yelling "STOP!" is unacceptable when someone's about to give you a hifi but absolutely essential when they're about to walk into a wall because they've been looking at their phone.
Before you start recommending solutions, take some time to understand the context around you. Why are things the way they are? Investigate business and technology decisions. Why did that client choose Google Suite over Azure? Why do we have a 24 x 7 support SLA? Why do we use a self-hosted solution instead of hosting it on the cloud?
The sooner you internalize the context, the better your decision-making will become. You'll find that you're constantly making the right call independently.
Google it first
The people around you will be nice to the rookie. "Don't hesitate to ask me anything", they will say. They mean it too. But it's a better use of everyone's time if you decide to do your own bit. It's 2021 but the Internet is still underrated. When you're trying to find a solution to a problem, chances are that someone's already faced that problem and posted about it on the internet. Start there.
You'll also find that the beautiful world of IT enthusiastically helps each other on the Internet through forums. Reddit is a good place to start for anything IT or MSP. If you need technical help, start by searching for it on YouTube. You could also sign up for online courses to gain some extra knowledge on any topic.
Focus on people, not just technology
In an organization, technology and people need to be symbiotic to co-create value. If you want to be successful in your IT job, you must learn to navigate the human aspect of an organization.
What's the org structure? Who are the stakeholders? Who needs to influence decision-making? You need answers to all these questions. It's not enough to just know these answers but you must do something with them. That brings me to the next part
Communicate value, not functionality
The value of technology isn't apparent. If it was, Blockbuster wouldn't have refused to buy Netflix at $50 million. We cannot blame those outside of IT when they don't see the benefits. It's not their job. They don't have the same context as you do. It is up to those in IT to clearly show what value it brings to the business.
Talk to them in a language they understand and show them how anything you've done adds value to the business. Attach business metrics to the benefits and clearly show them how they would benefit.
These are some of the things that helped me not just do my job but also enjoy it. You might be surprised to find that none of these things are focused on IT. That's the nature of an IT job. It's not about IT, it never was.