10 traits of great IT pros

A net admin with more than 20 years of experience lists common traits of IT professionals who excel in their careers.

Team of corporate professionals in office corridor

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IT professionals who are great at what they do usually have certain traits or skills. By no means is the following list exhaustive or exclusive to IT--it's merely based on my observations of working in IT for more than 20 years and noticing that some of the most talented colleagues share similar qualities. You are not necessarily destined for a life of IT greatness or infinite riches by demonstrating these skills.

SEE: Tips for building a successful career as a software engineer (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Confidence

When IT pros have a certain level of confidence, it brings not only an air of comfort that the issue will be taken care of, but also assuages concerns that would otherwise turn a bad situation worse. As we become more comfortable with our work and some goals begin to get accomplished, our confidence level will naturally grow. Over time, this will progress, and you will find that even a little confidence when tackling issues or addressing customers' concerns will have a pleasantly positive effect on your interactions with them.

2. Good listener

As humans, we like to speak. We love to overshare and explain ourselves--it's part of how our minds function. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but as Sylvester Stallone's character, Rocky Balboa so succinctly put it, "As long as you're talking, you're not listening." And a large part of our job is resolving issues that often require listening to someone in order to get to the root of the cause before it can be solved.

3. Effective communicator

Managing communication and its flow is at the heart of what IT does. Being able to communicate effectively with all stakeholders is paramount; otherwise, we quickly find ourselves mired in repetitive questions and buried in minutiae by not better managing expectations.

SEE: 10 good habits of network administrators (TechRepublic)

4. Grace under fire

I was just speaking with my wife about this topic the other day. IT departments sometimes have it pretty rough. When there are tech issues, the consensus is that IT isn't doing its job; when things are going well, people say IT is getting paid to do nothing. Thankfully, this isn't every IT shop, and not all users of that mindset. But when they are, it is a virtue to be able to look past all the negativity aimed at you and simply get the job done as quickly as possible without adding fuel to the fire with vitriol or retaliatory comments of your own.

5. Empathetic and compassionate

We're emotional beings, and that causes us to sometimes get lost in those feelings and do or say things we wouldn't normally. It's easy to get swept up in that tidal wave of emotion, but at the end of the day, will that get the issue resolved? It almost never ends there. Try not to take it so personally, and maybe consider the person who wronged you is going through something that's the cause of their misdirected emotions.

6. Good problem-solver

I always think of the carpentry proverb, "Measure twice, cut once," when an issue crosses my desk that has the "solution" already included in the work order. It's not that I'm pessimistic or have no faith in my coworkers, but I understand that we all take missteps from time to time and feel it is much easier to take a few minutes to confirm a problem, then implement a solution, only to find out the cause was something else and spend more time than necessary undoing and redoing things.

SEE: The 10 IT jobs that will be the most in-demand in 2020 (ZDNet)

7. Eager to learn new skills and tech

Never stop learning. Even if you've been in the same role for the length of your career, I guarantee that many tasks have changed as technology has advanced. The moment you stop learning in the technology field, that's the beginning of obsolescence. Challenge yourself to learn a new skill or specialize in an up-and-coming technology to stay ahead of the curve, or simply to get better at performing tasks to make your daily work life easier to manage.

8. Mentor

"Pass on what you have learned," Master Yoda said. Within each IT pro there lives a wealth of knowledge amassed from formal education, hands-on work, and experience--accomplishments and failures. There is always someone, somewhere who can benefit from this knowledge base, from veterans to newcomers alike. The exchange of wisdom can bring nothing but good to all involved.

9. Asks for help

Show me one person who has never benefited from a helping hand, and I'll show you someone who could've resolved the issue faster and with only a fraction of the frustration. We all need a little help now and then, and it's infinitely better to get (or lend) a hand and complete a task than to let it linger or push past the project's schedule. That's a really important lesson for any IT pro to learn and helps them make better decisions when future projects loom on the horizon.

SEE: 10 signs you ARE cut out for IT (TechRepublic)

10. Owns their mistakes

Probably the hardest skill to learn and hold onto at times is owning our mistakes. This goes double when it comes to mistakes that weren't ours to make, but we're nonetheless tasked with cleaning up the mess. It's a bitter pill to swallow, and everyone's situation will be different. But in the interest of moving forward, you own your mistake, work toward coming up with a plan to resolve it, and learn what to do (or not to do) next time--without the finger-pointing or playing the blame game.

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