The hidden secrets of highly successful engineers, technicians and technical sales professionals ...
Ownership, perseverance and technical ambition!
For more than 40 years I have been equipping technical professionals with te skills they need to succeed in high-tech environments. For most of the past 20 years I have taught different aspects of network security. Among the thousands of students I have taught a handful have distinguished themselves as being the most successful sales professionals, engineers and technicians. Among these elite I have noticed three common characteristics.
What is the difference between these “superstars" and everyone else? Just three disciplines that can be mastered by everyone but are ignored by most ... Ownership, perseverance and technical ambition!
“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”
― Isaac Asimov
The most successful professionals take personal ownership for the knowledge they need to excel at their profession!
Mediocre professionals complain that "they don't provide me any training”. Mediocre professionals make their success dependent on their employer, school or a government. Highly successful professionals know that the only person they can count on to ensure their technical skills is themselves!
Never in the history of the world has so much technical training been available to so many at such a small cost. Where are all these inexpensive training resources? Let's look at a few:
Wikipedia, YouTube and Google are great resources for free articles and training videos.
The latest technical books are available from companies like Pearson (https://www.pearsonitcertification.com/store/books) and Apress (https://www.apress.com/). These companies have periodic sales offering up to 70% off their books. BTW get use to reading e-books, they're cheaper to buy and easier to carry with you.
Incredibly good and inexpensive courses are available from companies like Udemy (https://www.udemy.com) and Educba (https://www.educba.com).
If your tastes are more highbrow, many Ivy League universities now offer their courses online for free! MIT and Harvard are two good examples.
Many others schools offering free audits of their courses are listed at these two sites: https://www.edx.org/ and https://www.coursera.org/
Finally, I can't help but brag on my own company which is offering free cyber security training to anyone until the end of this year. https://www.fortinet.com/training/cybersecurity-professionals
There is no better time than right now take responsibility and ownership of your technical skill set!
It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer.
Always be looking for gaps in your knowledge. "Gaps" are the things you don't know, the terms used in your profession that you don't fully understand, concepts that other people are using as buzzwords that they don't understand. These are the gaps that you constantly want to be filling in.
Now that you've identified these deficiencies of knowledge, commit that you will never be caught in ignorance on the same issue twice. Use the Feynman method to keep that commitment. What is the Feynman technique? Richard Feynman was a renowned professor of physics who developed a four stage technique to understand and communicate technically challenging concepts.
1.Identify the concept you want to learn about.
2.Pretend you are teaching it to a 6th grader.
3.Identify gaps in your explanation; Go back and learn about those gaps.
4.Review and simplify.
Beyond just closing your knowledge gaps, recruit a “council of experts” who will help you to identify the most important technologies and skills that you need to acquire in the future. This group should consist of two to four people that you respect professionally and that you would aspire to be where they are in 20 years. Don't be shy. You might think these people are too busy to be bothered with you, but my experience is exactly the opposite. Successful people always have a place in their heart and schedule for others who are also trying to be successful. In my observation, very successful people have little time for mediocre people just trying to "get by". But they always have time for those who are striving to be excellent!
If you will pay attention to the things you don't know now (gaps), and work on learning what you need to know for the future, in a very short time supervisors and coworkers will begin to depend upon you as one of their most astute technical experts!
“The story of life repeatedly assures you that if you will use what you have, you will be given more to use.”
― Zig Ziglar
3) TECHNICAL AMBITION
Too many careers stagnate because of complacency! Excellence is a lifelong pursuit. And if you stop to rest complacency sets in like rigor mortis. This is especially true where technology is concerned.
When I began my career, vacuum tubes were the primary way that electronics operated. Now we have hundreds of millions of transistors that take up less space than a single vacuum tube. Vacuum tubes, while they still exist, are mostly relegated to antique radios and hobbyists. 40 years ago, modulating 96 voice channels onto a single microwave carrier was considered high-tech. Now we put tens of millions of voices (or their equivalent) onto a single glass fiber. Technology changes at an incredibly rapid rate. Your knowledge must keep up!
The good news is there is a simple way to ensure that your skill set is always cutting edge and highly marketable.
Seek out every challenge and opportunity to work with the latest technology and/or newest products available. In my experience this is not difficult. We are all lazy by nature. And when a new technology or product shows up your company (or any new company) the leadership will be looking for someone to take on the challenge of learning this technology. Most of your coworkers will resist learning this new technology/product. Perhaps because it is hard work or perhaps because they think it beyond their skill level.
If you volunteer to be the subject matter expert for this new field you will not be competing with the crowd of people for this opportunity. I can tell you from decades of experience the number of people volunteering for these types of assignments are few. Don't take my word for it, ask any manager of a technical team and I think you will find that has been his/her experience as well! Make a habit of always volunteering to be the person to learn the new technology and you will be constantly refreshing your "technical toolbox"!
Owning responsibility for your own technical skills, habitually improving your technical knowledge and aggressively seeking out new technical challenges may not seem like amazing career changing insights. But if you embrace these three disciplines in just a few short years your career (and even your life) will be markedly change for the better!