Each month at Microsoft, we hold a large team meeting known as an ‘All-Hands’ meeting. This is where we get together to have a monthly catch up, celebrate recent successes and often have speakers drop and chat to the team.
This month our meeting was (coincidently) all about careers, we were lucky enough to have Terry Ighararo (motivational speaker, author and IT guy) drop by and present his very inspiring ‘CEO of You’ presentation to the wider team. I tracked Terry down near the end of his presentation to gage his interest in pulling together a short blog post for the IT Professional. Luckily, he was happy to…
Have you ever considered yourself as an IT entrepreneur and your career as your business?
Hopefully you said yes because the truth is we are all entrepreneurs. The reason most people do not see themselves in this light is because at one point or another they have fallen victim to the world’s greatest deception, which is “Entrepreneurship is reserved only for people that start companies.” Whenever I deliver talks to organisations I usually ask the audience what they think an entrepreneur is and get the answers - a business owner, someone that starts a company, a risk taker and a person that makes money to name but a few responses.
What does the word entrepreneur mean to you?
Before we move on lets get clear on what I mean by entrepreneurship and why we’re all entrepreneurs. For over 15 years I’ve been in the pursuit of business, I have started, failed and succeeded many times. Over the last few years I became ferociously curious about what entrepreneurship really was, and through my investigations I came to the conclusion that entrepreneurship was simply ‘The Power to Create’. We all have the Power to Create and you’ve been exercising this power since the day you were born. Whilst I was researching entrepreneurship I came across a definition by Professor Howard Stevenson of Harvard Business School who said that ‘Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard for resources not currently controlled.’ This really struck me because I realized that all around me everybody including myself was in the pursuit of an opportunity, that opportunity being a better today than yesterday, a better result than the last.
As I look back over the years of my pursuit of opportunity I’m brought back to my year placement at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) where I was working as a 1st and 2ndline support in the IT department. At the time I was studying a BSc in Business Information Systems and all I wanted to do was design and build databases. However what I ended up doing was very different in fact I didn’t build a single database but I did learn a heck of a lot about how the systems that I would design would fit into such an organistion and how IT impacts all stakeholders - everyone from the students to the kitchen staff to the Dean. LSHTM had a kick-ass IT department but I could never understand until now why they didn’t want to go an start their own businesses - what I’ve come to realize now is that they were as a team and individuals already running a business and creating massive value for the organization. They were exercising their entrepreneurial capabilities by seeking problems and developing solutions. Every member of the team had to lead and manage the business of themselves in order for the team to succeed in with its objectives.
By the end of my placement I had more clarity about my own career path. I knew that I didn’t want to work within an organiastion but I did want to work with organisations. This is probably the first time that I realized that success is easier when you know where you are going, and here’s what I mean:
If you take out your smart phone and open up the map app, it will tell you exactly where you are right now and if you take a trip 30-mins up the road it will tell you where you are again. In fact you will always be in the correct location because the map app has two functions 1) tell you where you are 2) tell you how to get somewhere, however until you give the map a destination it can’t give you directions. Once you input a destination you’ll be given a route to get there, so even if you take a left when you should have gone right the map will simply recalculate and give you the best route to get to your destination. Your career is no different; you need to have an idea about where you want to go so that you know when you’re on the right path and you can withstand the setbacks, challenges, temporary defeats and diversions that you may have to take. As an IT entrepreneur you have to map out your own career path and create your own opportunities because your career is your business. At the very least you should have a personal vision statementto give you direction. Your vision statement should consist of the following:
Purpose –The reasons that you want to do something; your belief; your cause
Principle –How you will think and act to accomplish your purpose
Practice –The actions that you will take to realize your purpose and principle.
With a well-crafted vision statement you will always be clear on what you should be doing and how everything is contributing to your career goal.
Fear of Failure is a major stumbling block for most of us. It’s the reason why so many people never take any real risks and follow their dreams. The truth is that we’re all professional failures. Before any of us knew how to walk we failed many times to take 2, 3, 5, 10 steps. If we had given into our fear of falling over we would not be walking right now. Failure is a necessary part of growth and success because in failing we are actually learning. Anytime you think you’ve failed at something aim to see the valuable lesson and you’ll find the golden nuggets to help you move forward.
Successful people and the companies that they build are clear on their capabilities, and you should be as well. You should maintain an up to date SWOT analysis of yourself. A SWOT is basically an analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. By being aware of your SWOT you will be able to better align yourself to do tasks that take advantage of your strengths, seize opportunities and reduce the risk of failure. About two years ago I wanted to build a mobile app so I decided that I would teach myself and I ended up getting stuck on a line of code for over 20 hours, that’s when I remembered that coding was never a strong point for me as I was an information architect. It would have been much wiser for me to outsource the development since I had already created the blue print for the app. Entrepreneurs don’t waste their time doing things they are not good at, they make sure they have an understanding of what needs to be done and then they delegate to a specialist.
IT is a business super power and is being recognizing it as the game changer. However the tech is only as good the people that develop and deliver it to the end user. As an IT professional or developer it’s your duty to be entrepreneurial in your approach to how you deliver value. You have to constantly ask yourself: How can this be done better?What are my stakeholder’s needs? How can I simplify? You can’t afford to rest on your laurels especially at the pace that the world is evolving. It’s a must that you position yourself as an IT entrepreneur with a primary objective of creating added value for all of your stakeholders.
If you choose not to engage with the inner entrepreneur it’s inevitable that you will be left behind because we are all competing on a global platform. The whole world is a stage and everybody has ‘The Power to Create’. The barrier to entry has been significantly lowered and now people from all over the word are able to showcase their ideas to a market thirsty for innovation.
Your Career is Your Business so make it your duty to:
- Understand the needs of your stakeholders (your employer, employees, colleagues, clients and suppliers).
- Go the extra mile, do more than what is required of you. Most people do just about enough to get by, if you go the extra mile you’ll eventually start to stand out as the go-to person.
- Create MASSIVE Value. By understanding needs and then going the extra mile you should be able to start delivering massive value to your stakeholders.
Being entrepreneurial isn’t easy but it’s necessary. It’s also necessary that you maintain a motivated and positive mind-set because as we all know life is challenging and the spotlight is on you to deliver value. So here’s what I recommend:
- Maintain focus on your purpose, this will help you to keep pressing forward whenever you feel like giving up.
- Acknowledge all success. Whether it’s a big victory or small one acknowledge it because success breeds more success so aim to make a note of at least 3 successes everyday.
- Get your FREE copy of my book Motivate 140. The book is made up of 140 of my motivational quotes. Each quote is 140 characters or less making each one easy to digest, easy to share and very Twitter friendly. Get yours today.
Get in contact with Terry Igharoro via LinkedIn at terryigharoro.com or emindstate.com. Find out more about Terry’s upcoming book ‘E Mind State: Think Like An Entrepreneur and GROW RICH’ here, or click here to get your free no obligation one-on-one strategy session.
Interested in getting further IT Career advice from the Microsoft TechNet team?
Find out more by checking out Andrew’s Careers advice for the IT Professional post.