Everywhere you turn these days, you see negativity. From economic conditions resulting in mass layoffs to those same mass layoffs creating additional stress for the survivors to tales of horrible bosses, it can be hard to keep a positive outlook on work. Considering the fact that most of us spend at least a third of our day in the workplace, it's really a shame that so much attention is devoted to a mindset that doesn't accentuate the positive aspects of work life. With this constant barrage of negativity coming from any corner and a never-ending stream of work, how do IT leaders stay positive and motivated? What aspects of the job make you get up every day and go to the office?
In this column, I'll tell you about the positive aspects of my job as CIO at Westminster College. In the comment section, describe what you like about what you do.
Note: Before I begin, I will preface this list by telling you that I'm focusing on the good here. Like every job, mine has its ups and downs and there are parts of my job that I'd gladly hand off to someone else, but the good far outweighs the bad.
- Flexibility. I can safely say that I have an extremely flexible job in which I'm able to better achieve some semblance of a work/life balance. Sure, I work a whole lot of hours, but it's much easier to accept longer hours when I can come in at 10AM after spending the morning having a long breakfast with my four-year-old daughter. If I need a day off or want to leave early, there's never a fuss. This kind of flexibility is something that I pass on to my staff as well. As a team, everyone works very hard to meet our department's goals. This commitment includes long hours and, sometimes, sacrifice. Besides, this flexibility is a two-street. It's difficult for me to tell someone that they have to work late with one hand, and with the other, tell them that they can't take a bit of extra time in the morning. Obviously, flexibility is easier with salaried employees that understand that functions still need to be staffed during our normal working hours. Everyone works together to make sure key operations are staffed.
- Variety. No one can claim that the world of IT is boring! The kind of variety that I see is one of the main reasons that I stay in IT. I get bored easily, so a constantly changing landscape is a perfect backdrop for my career. Beyond the constant change in IT, I manage to get involved in a whole lot of operational items at Westminster.
- Development. Personal and professional growth is important to everyone. I'm fortunate to work in an environment that encourages and nurtures growth. People are frequently promoted from within; there is broad representation from many levels on committees, including our strategic planning committee and a lot more. My boss, the president, also encourages - to a point - our individual outside activities. I tend, for example, to do a lot of writing for TechRepublic. This activity is encouraged and well-supported.
- Opportunity. If I can dream it, I can do it. Working at a college affords my staff and I the opportunity to try out a wide variety of solutions and technologies. The sky is the limit... budget and time permitting, of course. After all, college IT isn't that different than business world IT. IT is involved in every aspect of the College's operation and we're spearheading a number of process improvement efforts and data initiatives designed to reduce expenses and aid in better decision-making. This kind of involvement means that we're constantly learning how other areas of the College function. Even better, we get deeply involved in the mechanics in order to get an understanding of ways that we can make things better.
In short, I get up in the morning generally looking forward to going to work. Is my situation unique? I hope not. But with the constant barrage of negativity, it's important to step back and look at the positive side of what we do as well. As IT leaders, we're all under intense performance pressure, have more requests than we can handle and work very hard, but when it comes down to it, things might be pretty good.
Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.