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The Milestone Revival

December 13th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Neil Hair

Dr. Neil Hair

This week was one of the most interesting work weeks I have had in a long time. It was not a bad week; after all it has inspired me to resurrect my website after many years of being offline. It did not change how I work, but certainly offered some different perspectives for how management could perceive what I do. Any time I am able to chip away at my role in the company, it becomes a good week.

The week before the Rotork Christmas party in Rochester typically marks the longest, most stressful week of the year for the IT department. Every salesman around the country comes into Rochester for meetings, conveniently scheduled so they can enjoy the holiday party at the end of the week.

The stress comes from being the most demeaning weeks for any IT professional in this position. Put away those projects that nobody else can comprehend, and field difficult questions such as “why is my email inbox full”, knowing that you walked them through the exact same steps of email archiving one year ago and knowing you will be repeating this groundhog day scenario at the end of next year. The real balance is trying not to fall into a Nick Burns from Saturday Night Live impersonation. You realize people will stop asking for help if they think you are inferring that they should have known something already. Compounded with the fact that we have added over 40% more people to support our growth over the past 3 years, the week becomes one of dread before it even begins.

Enter Dr. Neil Hair, a marketing professor at RIT to throw me a bone near the end of the week, and to pull me out of a mental slump. Neil came in as a guest speaker this week to present a lecture on Personal Branding, in the Age of Web 3.0. This was a very progressive topic for a 51 year old engineering company in a room full of large tie wearing salesmen, whom had no idea it was coming. I was actually surprised it made it past the big tie in the front office as an approved topic, but very grateful it did.

Stereotypes have been the hardest obstacle to overcome for myself, having been in the company for so long. There is nothing more valuable than having somebody already revered as a professional, come in and explain something that you already know as “matter of fact”. The fact that Neil was able to grab the audience’s attention and hold it for so long, on a subject of technology is a testament to his teaching abilities.

I used to volunteer my lunch hour once a week to cover trends in IT and technology, which was open for anybody to attend. In March of 2007 I held a class on social networking, and referred to how was already starting to apply to business. I had to actually setup my own Facebook account, in order to teach the class that year. I believe 8 people showed up, none of which were from management.

Less that two years later, having a room full of management and middle management hearing the message in a way they can understand it, was an invaluable step for the growth of our company. That being said, I heard people who dismissed the notion and still think it was a line of BS. At least they listened to the message and with Neil serving me up a favor, has painted a picture that I may know something about it. I am still working to convince people we had never met.

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Whether you embrace the concept or not will be irrelevant in a few years, as it is happening either way. The youth of today are more connected and more social than we ever were. Only because we don’t understand how they can perceive being connected on a web page, rather than in person or on a phone, doesn’t mean that they aren’t more connected.

Take a look at your own company and focus on your ability to retain younger employees in the past year or two, and the year to come. Our turnover rate has increased significantly with a dependency on age group as a baseline. Eventually those potential employees will be potential customers, and the eventually is happening faster than you think. Whether you choose to ignore it will define what type of company you want to become, and whom you want to attack to work for you.

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