Sunday, August 3, 2008

Are you IT Management material?

[Nairobi, Kenya]
So, are YOU management material? What makes you think so? Do you want to be a manager out of passion or for some other purely ego-driven motive? I don't think I'd have any problems in a mangerial role because I understand how to communicate with people in an honest straightforward manner when push comes to shove. Most importantly, I'm confident in myself and my abilities. In other words, I'd be able to focus on the VISION and OBJECTIVES thingy as opposed to worrying about who's trying to move ahead of me up the corporate ladder and other silly games like that. One other important thing. If I'm the manager responsible for hiring, I think my good sense of character judgement would help me to eliminate a lot of potentially bad apples during the interview sessions. It's amazing how many flunkies get through the cracks to the detriment of the team and, ultimately, the company.

I've been an avid reader of
Ziff Davis publications like PC Magazine, PC World, BYTE, and PC Computing ever since I was in high school (grade 13). You see, I completed a 1 year Cooperative Education placement in Accounting & Computers at Computing Devices Company (CDC) located in Canada's Silicon Valley North. That's the name we use for the National Capital region that's made up primarily of Ottawa, Nepean, Gloucester, Orleans, and Kanata. It's here that great companies like Cognos, Nortel, Newbridge Networks, Corel, Mitel, Norpak, Simtran, QNX, Lumonics, JDS Uniphase and a ton of others came to life.

Anyhow, CDC is now part of the massive General Dynamics military industrial complex. Aah, now I'm starting to understand the significance of all those "special projects" that were going on in the
Anti Submarine Warfare department headed by Ken Charter back then. lol. Heck, I think those "Cold War" subs go for like $2 BILLION these days. Hmmn, can they at least drill for oil or do something else that's useful? Good lords, no wonder the US has a $9.5+ TRILLION national debt...and climbing!!! :-)

The good ole' days...
Back then, I'd work in the mornings between 8:30a and 11:45, and attend classes in the afternoon. Too bad Ontario high schools now go up to grade 12. I believe that extra year of classes adds maturity in a student that's lacking these days. How the hell does a 17 or 18 year old know what the heck they want to do on campus? Grade 13 back then, essentially, was equivalent to first year at most colleges and universities around the world...and it was FREE. Oh well, I feel sorry for peeps like my little brother who could probably use the extra year.

Thanks for managing me...
Anyhow, I started to get a warm and fuzzy after reading this ZDNet blog post: Signs you might not be IT management material. Why? Because I thought of old managers I worked for and realize that I was lucky as hell to have been "managed" by the right "managers" so to speak. Who knows, the wrong managers may have convinced me to pursue a different career altogether - like heading back to Barbados and working for my dad's construction and transportation businesses. And I know he'd make a crappy manager because he didn't have any people skills whatsoever.

Luckily, my 2 bosses (Claire Laliberte and Pierre Bertrand) at CDC were very flexible, caring and pointed me in the right direction most of the time. Thanks to them sending me in the computer lab to do all those Lotus 1-2-3 tutorials, I began to realize my true potential in the IT field. In no time, I was a spreadsheet guru, able to crank out sophisticated worksheets utilizing all of Lotus 1-2-3's power. I vividly remember salivating at the prospect of getting my hands on the King Jaguar or Baler spreadsheet compilers for creating stand alone spreadsheet applications without the need for the customer owning 1-2-3, Quattro Pro or any of the other competitors.

Another great experience took place when I became a freelance temp worker out of high school. I remember my old boss, Wayne Parker, at Bell Canada's Corporate Engineering (Planning & Standards Research division) department. He was a laid back techie who gave me tons of resources to crank out those massive macro-based Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets for the Transmission Quality Survey for the 416, 905, 613, 705, 416, 819 and 514 Ontario/Quebec area codes. My output (lots of graphs) was used by senior management to get a big picture on Bell's telephone line infrastructure and where to begin the roll out of fibre optic cabling.

I fondly remember the time when I commandeered a room of about 10 computers and printers to simultaneously print graphs from all my data analysis. We're talking spreadsheets with about 10,000 rows here folks! Heck, everyone in that department was so kool - except for that one crappy senior manager who has long since retired, or (gasp!) worse. Here's a big shout out to Mr. Parker and his family - wherever they are. Oh, and to Lubna Qureshi (aka LJQ) who was a brainy electrical engineer passionate in antennae design, but "that" crappy manager didn't even realize it. And how can I forget Estelle, the secretary. What a sweetheart. I do hope she's enjoying her retirement.

Once again, I was fortunate to have encountered great managers at Northern Telecom (now Nortel) for that awesome summer student job where I created a large Mac FileMaker database of all hardware assets (computers, network IDs, serial #s, printers, etc.). This was at their massive Corkstown Road facility in Nepean. One interesting note: I met this kool dude name Manabu Kato who was an exchange student from Japan. His interest back then was Artificial Intelligence. After his summer gig, he left for California and then back to the Far East. I wonder what he's up to these days! Hmmn, let's try Well whatever he's up to, I'm sure he's a smashing success.

I also want to thank Clay Grandy (CEO/President of AGO Industries in London, Ontario) for being a no-nonsense straight up manager while I was a summer student at his company. He knew his company's products better than any body. Not once did he rest on his laurels. Heck, he'd even dip his feet in IT and once did his own tech support on all his PC equipment (even setting up and managing an office LAN) before he got too busy. You see folks, here's a manager that leads by doing. Point noted Clay! By the way, Clay had a super sexy metallic silver corvette back then. Lucky for me, he'd be headed in my direction on my way home. Fast times indeed! :-)

Lastly, I have to give major props to Lindsay Phillips (and Nancy Bartlett) at the Bank of Montreal's swanky Institute For Learning in the Applied Technology department. He's the one who drove 2 hours down the Highway 401 to UWO to recruit me for my 16 month Computer Science industrial internship. This forced me to relocate to the amazing city of Toronto.

In fact, this act got me to explore Toronto's amazing night life which is second to none. Here, I found my passion for Electronic Dance Music (House, Tribal, Acid Techno, Dark Progressive House, Tech Trance, Funky House) at spots like System Sound Bar, The Guvernment, Kool Haus, Life, Film Lounge, The Comfort Zone and lots of big party events by sponsors like Bensons & Hedges, Smirnoff, Heineken among others. Talented DJs like DJ Myka, Kenny Glasgow, Mark Oliver, Goldfinger, DJ Addy, Dekoze, Jelo, Joee Cons et al continue to inspire me with their delicious sounds that are out of this world.
Let's just say that my life has never been the same after discovering the EDM scene. Stay tuned for DJ Sinister to the max folks. That's my next major hobby in a year or 2.

Anyhow, Lindsay was one tough manager in the sense that he didn't put up with crap. Yet he gave me a lot of freedom as well as provided me with lots of good advice when I first started out. He was forward thinking by allowing me to go on that Windows 2000/SQL Server 7 training workshop with Executrain. He also trusted me enough by giving me full responsibility to mentor 2 high school internship students. Personally, he didn't like the "corporate bureaucracy bullshit" that much so I'd say he was a very hands-off manager. One other thing...he taught me never to accept crappy products and services from IT vendors. Is this why I'm super critical of companies when they provide crappy service these days? Perhaps. Who knows? Well, I'm sure Lindsay's retired on some island by now. I recall he loved to travel.

Inspire me...
I guess what I'm trying to say by highlighting my most memorable managers is this: A great manager inspires you to want to perform for them and yourself too. They give your work a purpose. Now, I'm pretty good at inspiring myself, but I'm a little different from a lot of people based on my upbringing in 3 different countries mostly as an only child being raised between my mother, aunts, step mother, grand parents, and dad. However, I truly believe that the mark of a good manager in this present era is one based on his/her ability to inspire the drones (er workers/employees/associates). Times have changed. Employees are no longer loyal to any company. Mobility can be a costly bitch for a company that's turned over its staff to the wrong manager.

Food for thought...
In the above blog post discussion, a web surfer named Jeff Foxworthy highlights a funny but slightly true observation about IT managers. Perhaps some of you future managers here in Africa can learn from this.
You might not be IT management material.....
If you're not monetizing your synergies.
If you're not delegating the architecting.
If you think DNS stands for Doesn't Know S---.
If your employees whisper about routing around the damage, but stop talking as you approach.
If you forgot to send out the memo about the TPS coversheets.

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