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Building A Network Of Trusted Advisors

IT is changing at an accelerating rate with plenty of IT jobs at stake. And yet, doing a job may not be enough in this IT-as-a-Service paradigm that hybrid IT is ushering in. With IT jobs evolving and forking into multiple paths, deciding which path to take and when become integral to continuing and advancing an IT career.

The IT career path is one of the hottest topics that I regularly discuss with my industry friends and peers, even when we are talking about current IT trends. This brings up an important task that many IT professionals often overlook, which is building a competent, trusted network of industry friends, peers, colleagues, and resources. This is one of my golden rules that has served me incredibly well: I make a concerted effort to continually do what I can to earn -- and return -- trust.

I have formed and leveraged a network of trusted advisors, who have helped me progress throughout my career. From my start in the office of the CTO and joining the virtualization revolution during its grassroots stage to engineering solutions for the Global 2000 and working on the first iteration of converged infrastructure, I took on every opportunity that presented itself after counsel from my trusted network of advisors. This even extends to my time at a cloud startup now a part of Big Blue, and my decision to accept the role of a SolarWinds head geek. My circle of trusted advisors continues to play a major role in my life and my career, especially with so many opportunities presenting themselves in this new hybrid IT world.

Don’t just take my word on the new hybrid IT reality and the changes it is driving—in SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2016, almost all IT professionals surveyed said they believe in the value add of public cloud and its continued growth in providing IT infrastructure services. However, a majority also believe that not all IT services will be migrated to public cloud. The end result is what is known as hybrid IT.

Fortunately for us, the CIO’s SLA remains the same in hybrid IT: deliver security, leanness and agility. With that in mind, we need to have a game plan for our IT careers.

However, too often I meet IT professionals who have no career game plan, which means that their IT career planning lacks the rigor and discipline they apply in their current role. The biggest challenge is having visibility into your own marketability and what opportunities are available. Much like IT, you don’t know what you don’t know. In this case, rigor and discipline includes a network of trusted advisors.

If you haven’t already started, here is a simple plan to start building your advisor network:

  1. Participate in an applicable IT community, whether it be through meetups or local user=group events.
  2. Share your knowledge with your IT peers via blog posts, on social media or at those community events.
  3. Treat every interaction as if it were a job interview.
  4. Make this a continuous activity and not just action to be taken when you’ve had it with your current role, or worse yet, in the event you lose your job.

These steps will help you begin to build or extend your network of peers, and help you improve their perception of you by providing an opportunity to earn trust as well as evaluate competence. Trust and competence are the two things that we are judged on as IT professionals and key drivers of whether we get hired or not.