Is Your Introversion Holding Back Your Career?

Michael Paradise - CEO at Sysazzle, Inc (Business & Information Technology systems)
Michael Paradise is the CEO at Sysazzle, Inc (Business & Information Technology systems).

Even the most outgoing, extroverted professionals have a tough time managing their careers. But what if you’re an introvert? Do you have an even tougher time building the skills to get ahead, interact with colleagues who can help you progress, undertake a job search? And let’s drill down further — what if you’re an introvert in tech?

It sounds like a reality show — “Introverts in Tech!” — and research shows a preponderance of introverts in the field. IDG Connect, a technology marketing firm, surveyed 465 IT professionals, conducted in-depth interviews with industry experts, and collected first-person testimonials. Just over half (53%) of those surveyed said they were introverts, 20% said they were extroverts, and 24% claimed to be ambiverts (a hybrid). The remaining 3% didn’t know. IDG’s conclusion is that these results “correlate with a lot of the core work that IT professionals have to do.”

Indeed, the tech industry is included on Tony Lee’s list of “10 Best Jobs for Introverts.” Lee is publisher of CareerCast, a job listing and advice site.

So what, exactly, is introversion? Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” discussed this in a 2012 TED Talk. Introversion isn’t the same as being shy. “Shyness is about fear of social judgment,” Cain said. “Introversion is more about how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. So extroverts really crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched on and their most capable when they are in quieter, more low-key environments.”

The bottom line, then, according to Myers-Briggs, is the different ways introverts and extroverts get their energy.

IDG sums up the challenge of introverts in IT this way: “There is no typical IT personality, but there are different ways of working and engaging with others. And today, as the role of IT develops, IT leaders are increasingly required to move outside the narrow remit of IT in order to sell the benefits of their department into the wider business. This could prove a double-edge sword, but it is worth remembering that you don’t have to be extroverted to sell, although you may need to be introverted to spend 12 hours doggedly pursuing one single detail-oriented development task.”

That’s especially true at senior levels, where positions are no longer siloed and every executive is responsible for the bottom line.

It’s important to interject the obvious: before you can do the job you have to get the job. Introverts can remember a few simple tips for self-presentation for interviewing during the hiring process, according to Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. Writing in Psychology Today, Whitbourne boils down to this simple advice: prepare, prepare, prepare. She recommends asking about the interview process, scoping out the physical location, researching your interviewers, reminding yourself that you know your stuff, rolling with the punches during the interview, and leaving on a high note.

Introverts might take comfort by utilizing methodologies like the FIRST method, a communications tool used by top sales professionals and executives. FIRST aims to build relationships by uncovering the needs of others in each important meeting and conversation so you can work together successfully:

F: Foundation — develop rapport and build trust by getting to know the other person

I: Issues — uncover needs and discuss current and future challenges

R: Results — identify results sought and understand the consequences if unsuccessful at meeting the results

S: Solutions — discover and discuss possible solutions

T: Teaming — identify who else is involved in the solution and how to get started

“The key to this ‘other centered’ methodology is to be interested, not trying to be interesting,” says Richard Hoag, Esq., CEO of FIRST Professional Resources, Inc. “This is certainly a more comfortable approach for those not prone to extroversion, and people are universally more open to those who ask and listen, than those who try to tell them what to do.”

If introversion vs. extroversion is about energy and comfort, then outreach, collaboration, and consultation are the skills introverts must develop while remaining true to their core personalities in the workplace and throughout the hiring process.

What Kind of CIO are You?

Michael Paradise Hire IT

The role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is changing, expanding, and having a bigger impact on the bottom line. The growth in technology has morphed the CIO role into areas such as business transformation, change management, service delivery, and even the supply chain. Today’s CIOs require knowledge of both technology and business, not one or the other as in the past.

“We believe there are clear indicators that the existing role of technology management will evolve in a few years to a set of roles that includes management of innovation, information intelligence, customer experience and digital business presence,” says Fred Magee, adjunct research advisor with IDC’s Research Network. His report, “Worldwide CIO Agenda 2014 Top 10 Predictions,” describes the challenges facing CIOs and predicts that by 2018 70% of CIOs will change from directly managing IT to becoming innovation partners.

So — what kind of CIO are you? Here are a few responses from the Sysazzle network:

“The role of a CIO in any organization is one that has truly changed in the last 10 years. As more and more companies rely on the Internet, social media and cloud-based technologies, the CIO is a key member of the management team – involved in the daily operational activities and ensuring that systems are secure, available and have the capacity to ensure the company will prosper. Utilizing data to drive business decisions demands open, flexible and user intuitive solutions that can be easily accessed by the end user – putting data in the hands of the decision maker. The CIO’s role is not just to facilitate but to participate in the growth of a firm.”

David C. Lyons, CTO & Executive Vice President, Operations, Catapult Technology

“The CIO should empower their team by removing barriers, always being a bit ahead by providing them the tools they need to be successful. Being a good encoder and translating the requirements of the business, and of the changing business landscape, into actionable plans with their technical implications is a critical skill they must possess. The CIO understands and should be able to communicate and inspire their teams to understand that what they are doing has a direct linkage to revenue, cost reduction, and/or reducing risks — even the most seemingly insignificant function has to be tied to productivity and, ultimately, improving the health of the business. If it’s not, it should be dropped faster than that old Zip drive.”

Mark Skidmore, IT Director, Office of the CIO, Molina Healthcare

“I’ve found that many Chief Information Officers are hired to be technology auteurs, responsible for everything technical including managing infrastructure, application development, digital marketing and technology business strategy. The expectation that one individual can be good at so many disciplines drives turnover in the position because becoming the ‘one throat to choke’ for everything IT puts the role in conflict with itself. Even the best CIOs can be overly focused on stability, cost containment or security and find it difficult to advocate for technology innovation at the core mission level. In my experience, a successful model has been in healthcare, where IT infrastructure management strategy and the organization’s medical informatics are separate and represented by different executive leaders. In other words, it may be critical to add a range of IT voices…not just one…to an organization’s senior leadership team.”

Phil Hopkins, Solutions Delivery Director, Sysazzle

It’s clear that being a CIO who just “keeps the lights on” isn’t what the job is anymore. Today’s CIOs must be sure the necessary is getting done, but must also pave the way forward for the organization and connect technology to outcomes. Now more than ever, the CIO is responsible for the health and bottom line of the organization.

Why Does It Take So Long to Fill a Tech Opening?

Michael Paradise Hire IT

The US economy may not be booming for everyone, but it is definitely sprinting at a pretty good clip. With the June 2015 unemployment rate at 5.3%, the US has sustained 64 straight months of job growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and has created 12.8 million jobs in that time. And the tech economy is growing right alongside other sectors.

 What jobseekers are finding, though, is a different landscape than they may remember. Competition for jobs is still fierce, as always, but new technology and tools create more avenues (and more work!) for those seeking employment. Looking for work has always in itself been a full-time job, but ensuring your online presence is in sync with your real-world persona is an add-on many jobseekers don’t find welcome. Vehicles like LinkedIn are a great portal for employment-related activities, but they also create more stress to monitor and coordinate.

And the hiring process itself is taking longer, as employers have more candidates to choose from, as well as new processes and tools with which to review candidates’ backgrounds. The Wall Street Journal reported that as of April the average job sat vacant for 27.3 days before being filled, nearly double the 15.3 days it took to fill a job in mid-2009, according to Stephen Davis, an economist at the University of Chicago. Davis’s research is published regularly as the DHI Hiring Indicators report.

CIO Magazine recently wrote that “more businesses are planning to boost their IT hiring in 2015,” but are “struggling to find talent to fill vacant to newly created roles,” according to a survey conducted by HackerRank, a recruiter focused on custom coding challenges.

So…more candidates are looking for work, and more employers are looking to hire, but employers are taking longer to fill vacant positions.

We find that our clients aren’t looking for the “perfect” candidate, they’re looking for the right fit — a mixture of skills, interest, expectations, and potential to grow within the company. Being self-directed and able to work anywhere is admired and expected more and more, as the traditional office environment continues to change.

The economic collapse in 2008, coupled with the explosion of new and available technologies, sped up a host of changes that were slowly occurring in the workplace. The bottom line for those looking for work as well as those hiring is patience and adaptability are key. That’s why jobs remain vacant nearly twice as much as during the recession.

Simple Ways to Build Business Relationships and Trust

Michael Paradise - CEO at Sysazzle, Inc (Business & Information Technology systems)
Michael Paradise is the CEO at Sysazzle, Inc (Business & Information Technology systems).

No doubt you have a lot of assets built in to your business — YOU are your business, not just your company. One of your most important assets is the people you surround yourself with. Your business relationships are an asset that defines what your company is and what it stands for.

Those relationships — the ones you as a leader have with your people, and the ones you and your people have with your clients and customers — can make or break your business, your future and your financial success. Fostering those relationships and building trust is key.

The following attributes are important to maintaining solid business relationships.

Being honest.

Perhaps the most obvious measure of whether you’re able to build trust is whether or not you’re being honest. You don’t need to share proprietary information or expose secrets, but being open and acting in a straightforward manner will move you closer to your people. Those you’re close to on a regular basis will know if you’re on the up and up, and will respond accordingly.

Being a resource.

Don’t just reach out when you need something, share! We all have vendors, or even friends and family members, who we only hear from when they need something. Break that habit. Connect with your customers and employees just to see how they’re doing, or if they need something. Forward an interesting article or pass on a tip. Learn to be a resource so you’re always top of mind.

Not springing surprises.

Nobody likes surprises in business. There are enough challenges that crop up no matter how well you plan, so don’t make it worse. If something bad is a possibility, deliver the news early so everyone can prepare. And if possible, bring a solution along with the problem to minimize the shock and fear that might be baked into the surprise.

Meeting or beating deadlines.

This one’s simple: be on time with your deliverables. Be on time, period. No more explanation is necessary! (If you can’t hit your target, refer to the point above!)

Rewarding loyalty and expressing appreciation.

Let your people know where they stand if they’ve been standing by you. Be it your customers or your employees, express your appreciation for their work or their loyalty. You don’t need to throw an elaborate party — a simple handwritten note outlining your pleasure for their efforts goes a long way, in a personal manner, to strengthening a relationship.

All talk + no action = bad feelings.

Follow through on what you’ve committed to. You will lose the confidence of your clients and your employees if you offer them a constant stream of promises that aren’t kept. If you deliver a plan to a client, carry it out. If you tell your employees to expect some action on an internal agenda item, deliver it. The boy who cried wolf is a lasting parable because we’ve all experienced it in some way.

There is no magic bullet to fostering relationships and trust — much of it is common sense that is easy to get lost in the bustle of your daily schedule. But if you adopt these simple rules as part of your business routine you’ll definitely be on the path to stronger relationships that will benefit your business.

Why Do Tech Companies Need Liberal Arts Grads?

Michael Paradise Hire IT

 

 Yes, your iPhone is a technological marvel, and has changed how the world works in innumerable ways. And there are certainly many, many STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) graduates behind making that happen. But chances are a few liberal arts grads were in on the act too.

“It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough,” Steve Jobs said in 2010. “It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”

Liberal arts training provides creativity and critical thinking skills that move beyond the by-the-numbers technical nature of STEM. In an oped in US News & World Report entitled “Thinking Outside the Box,” Dr. Tuajuanda C. Jordan, president of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, wrote: “We don’t exactly know what the jobs of the future will look like. Specialized technical training that looks like a sure thing now may be useless in only a few years. Yet we can be sure of this: No matter the economic landscape, you’ll need a broad knowledge base and the ability to think across disciplines and make informed decisions, often outside of an area of expertise.”

For a 2013 report entitled “It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success,” the American Association of Colleges and Universities surveyed key executives and employers. Among its key findings:

  • More than 75 percent of those surveyed say they want more emphasis on five key areas including: critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings.
  • 80 percent of employers agree that, regardless of their major, every college student should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.

Our tech clients at Sysazzle expect the same — well-rounded candidates who can flaunt their technical skills but also have the ability to grasp and interpret concepts and challenges for wider audiences. It’s not farfetched to believe that any IT or back-office function job that can be outsourced to India, China, or somewhere else will be, and that those workers who can add value and generate ideas that propel growth will become essential to the American workforce.

“Businesses want more now,” Brian Fox, an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University and founder of Confirmation.com, a firm that specializes in electronic audit confirmations, told CNBC. “In places like Google, they want people who are self-motivated and articulate and can think on their own. It’s not enough just to have tech skills. Graduates have to do more.”