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Homework Stinks

I recently shared with my friends, the fact that I had begun taking writing lessons. Yes, I had to finally admit that I was not confident in my ability to express myself in text. After a career in IT where a keyboard has been virtually an appendage, I took a step back to shore up my new craft. Yet my ability to tap some keys has been hampered by two things: I have to look at the keyboard when I type and I am self-conscious about what I type. So I started seeing a tutor, who I had hoped would be a mean old hag like the one Mick Jagger sang about in Jumping Jack Flash. You know, “I was schooled with a strap across my back.” But no, it was not to be. I ended up with Talley. I did not end up being scolded or beaten, as I am surely deserving of. I ended up with homework about a month ago. I have yet to do it, and instead I have had my articles all proofed or approved, or maybe corrected is the better term, by Talley. On my last visit to see Talley, I was asked by Rhonda, one of the management staff members, if I had done my homework yet. You see “Back to Basics” is normally a place where school aged kids get tutoring. Not many adults or old people like me actually go there for help with lessons, I don’t know why but maybe I am an experiment. Yes, maybe I am in a petri dish and all the kids watch me come and go as I try to better myself. Yet there, in front of kids and parents I had to admit I had not done my homework for the third time.

So here it is just for you Talley and Rhonda, my homework on the topic Talley selected for me after reading so many of my ramblings on the internet.


By Eman

No they do not. In the world of IT there are a lot of different kinds of people today. The pool we swam in back in the 1970s, when I began, was much smaller, and knowledge sharing was just that, a sharing of knowledge. No pretenses, we were on a journey of discovery and the spirit of competition was vibrant. Sure, tech manuals were available but hey, those dead trees were all about best case scenarios. We were motivated from within ourselves to conquer and solve the mysteries of a binary world. Who would of thunk that environmentals and compatibility between hardware modules might make a hugemoungous machine crash? Certainly not the folks who created the voluminous, “dead tree scrolls” that accompanied these systems. Soon geeks like me were all talking about what fixed what, where, when, and how. Bulletin boards were on fire with messages about new discoveries and fixes we were proud to post first. The information flowed freely among geeks.

There was a passion visible in our efforts and discussions, and we were all trying to be the best at our crafts. We became like geek gangs over time, with our own specialties and it was fun as we aggressively sought out new challenges. Strength in numbers was the rule, not the exception as the unrelenting surge to excel, pushed us and our peers to achieve. Soon, as training became more available, formal instruction helped to overcome the lag time we had experienced, and the geek pool became crowded. In the 1980s we had become an unruly gaggle of confident geeks. With some even parading around the pool all suited up with certifications, like some thong clad runway models on a Brazilian beach. Oh, yuk. I really am sorry for that awful visual folks. I mean, look at the typical geek. I think I just threw up in my mouth. Anyone who knows Scott Morris, Narbik Kocharians, Ethan Banks or countless other geeks, would scatter like a herd of nauseous mastodons to certain death, if they caught a glimpse of these guys suited up that way. (Oh no I have to stop for a minute and wipe off my keyboard.)

Sorry that was gross, but I had to make a point here, about being highly competitive in the IT world to be successful. (My homework assignment for Talley and yeah, shut up Rhonda) Collaboration is preservation, and is equal to our version of job security. So, to what end do we compete and when do we cross the line and become highly competitive? Well I thought you would never ask!

Competition is good, because in competing we improve our DNA. IT professionals are often weeded out through the process of competing for interviews, promotions, certifications, and for cherry projects. Distinguishing one’s self from the rest of the pack, and becoming recognized as the Alpha Male or Colony Queen is often the result of a good work ethic. When does the heady optimism of an IT professional cross the line into ruthlessness? I have created a handy meter for you to measure your competitive ranking. So here’s my test to help you assess your highly competitive attributes.

If you have checked off one of these boxes then you are a jerk, not highly competitive, and it is time for an intervention.

Being highly competitive in today’s world conjures up a lot of negative connotations. Since those people who behave badly always seem to get the headlines. So I did some research and some thinking on this subject to see if I could conjure up the traits of highly competitive IT professionals. The good kind no the triple felonious sort, that have made more money than they have earned. One of the criteria I believe is required is, being liked. The world is not a popularity contest by any means, but the concept of a team requires one to be civil and to inspire. Most IT professionals are exposed to others, and I would have to use the ultimate measure of respect and appreciation as parts of the traits for Highly Competitive IT Professionals.

My list:

  1. Crave Challenges and Enjoy Converting Them into a Competitive Situation
    1. In a team environment the chance to push mentors becomes a priority
    2. In a team the opportunity to match wits with peers is irresistible
    3. The winning status implied or granted for a mentee is priceless
  2. Motivated From Within or Without
    1. The driving force behind the competitive nature is often unknown
    2. Some are running on inspiration from mentors
  3. Hate Losing/Making Mistakes
    1. Not to be confused with a Bad Looser
    2. Will learn from a loss and share with peers
    3. No shame in learning from mistakes
  4. Passionate
    1. The emotion is obvious and positive and attracts mentees/mentors
    2. Take things personally
  5. Proud of Good Performance
    1. Enjoy feedback from peers especially
  6. Aggressive
    1. Hunger for challenge
    2. Willing to try new solutions
  7. Unrelenting
    1. Will not surrender
    2. Often lose sleep over technical problems
  8. Demand a lot of themselves and their team/peers
    1. Will inspire and motivate for success
    2. In the trenches mentality
  9. Confident
    1. Built upon experience and knowledge
    2. Best as result of a knowledge of team abilities
  10. Optimistic
    1. Always apparent in approaching all technical challenges
    2. Built upon a confidence in self and others
  11. Ruthless
    1. In the face of adversity
    2. When dealing with the Dark Side

Let’s face it people, we are not Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela, they are originals, and nothing but replicas remain to be minted. Yet we find in IT circles, many people who have inspired and raised our individual games. To be competitive in IT we need to raise a posse of devoted and close peers. To be Highly Competitive we need to raise our game to the level of influencers, beyond our physical bounds. Our regrets will grow, as wisdom is nurtured to a tangible level. Our regrets should not be about how we have treated others poorly, or behaved consistently against our own consciences. Do people need to be highly competitive to succeed? Did I say no? Yes they do, but remember this.

We must be proud to lead, not just others, but our own shadows where we trod.


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