Troubleshooting performance problems, configuring routers or responding to help-desk calls might not bring images of mum to everyone's mind, but network managers say that without applying key lessons learned from their mothers, they couldn't have succeeded in IT.
James Kritcher, vice president of IT at White Electronic Designs says his mother taught him not to sweat the small stuff and to treat everyone with respect -- two lessons that help him stay focused on the task at hand and on good terms with co-workers, peers and managers.
"IT can often be a lightning rod. Sometimes you need a thick skin to work in IT. I pick my battles wisely and I don't get defensive when I receive criticism -- valid or not," Kritcher says. "The instilled habit of treating everyone with respect has helped me relate to co-workers at all levels -- a critical factor for a successful IT career."
It may seem like common sense, but a bit of respect goes a long way, according to Craig Bush, network administrator at Exactech. He says his mum told him to always be nice and respectful to people. Although many may hold onto the image of an IT professional locked in a server room away from others, in reality his job requires him to be a customer service expert -- which means knowing how to deal with people no matter what position they hold.
"Whether I'm in a help-desk support, network support or network-administration role, or even dealing with vendors on the phone, it has always been a benefit to me to be nice to people," Bush says. "It has made me many contacts in the industry and has gotten me out of some tight jams when I needed help."
For Kamal Jain, expecting to run into some resistance among peers and learning to put it aside are things his mother taught him. Her advice to "forgive and forget" has enabled him to maintain professional relationships even when disagreements occur. Considering the conflict that can arise when working in IT -- users not following policies, managers not allocating budgets or projects not finishing on time -- Jain says it's critical to him to realize holding onto anger helps no one in IT.
"In IT, we're often imposing rules and restrictions on people or providing specific services to customers, so we both have power and are at the mercy of other people's requirements many times. We're generally a cost center and yet often report to a CFO or other areas that have financial oversight," says Jain, director of operations and customer service at Auraria Networks. "In other words, conflict is common, almost to be expected. You need to learn how to explore limits and sometimes feathers get ruffled."
Jain also learned by extension that maybe he could expand his horizons by maintaining a mutual and healthy dialog with peers. "I learned from my mother that it's important to look for new ways to do things and to figure out which ways yield the same or better results in less time," he says. "It worked well for her in the kitchen, and it has certainly served me well in the data center."