Don Jones

Tech | Career | Musings

Take a look at your company’s employee handbook, expense policies, and other procedural documentation. Why does all that exist? Probably not just to make employees miserable, I imagine, or to complicate the workday. “To cover their ass,” you might think – which is an outcome, but not a reason. But understanding your company and your career, and navigating both, requires you to understand those reasons. To understand, if you will, your company’s perspective. 

Rules exist as a kind of immune system for a company. Every rule represents a problem that your company, or another similar company, had at one point. Rules are designed to prevent those problems. Human being do this all the time. Our laws, for example, are largely intended to prevent or discourage people from doing things that we don’t want them to do. Looking at your company’s rules, and really flipping your perspective to the company side, can help you understand how your company thinks about things.

In fact, it’s worth flipping your perspective on literally everything about your work day, starting with why do I work here? Not from your perspective – you probably work there because you enjoy getting paid, and because you’re presumably good at what you’re paid to do. No, what was the company’s reason for hiring you? “Well, they needed someone to manage the servers.” Nope. That’s not digging deep enough. I mean, why are the servers there in the first place?

My company hired me to maintain our servers, because those provide valuable and mission-critical functions that help keep the company running. 

Close. We know your purpose, to a better degree, with that statement. But why you? Why not simply outsource the server-feeding to some local Managed Service Provider? Because it’s less expensive to do this with full-time staff, perhaps, or because we have a lot of proprietary information, or maybe something else. That starts to get to the heart of your company’s perspective. There’s a financial component to that perspective, which means you’re only there because you’re the cheapest alternative – which should help set your expectations with how the company spends money in other places. Or you’re there because the company can’t have outsiders mucking around in its data center – which can be a little tenuous, frankly, as the basis of a career. These statements help us understand what the company finds valuable, and how the company defines and realizes that value.

This perspective is useful when it comes time to help your company make IT decisions. If you know the company’s core drivers – the things that the company focuses on when it makes decisions – then you can speak to those drivers when you pitch something. Want to buy some new administrative tools? Well – what’s in it for the company? This will make my job a lot easier! is not compelling, because the company isn’t driven by you and your level of ease. This will lower our costs by $____ might work better, if you can be accurate about the number, when your company is driven by cost savings.

Always remember that every party in a conversation has a unique perspective, even a corporate entity. The way to get something you want, or do something that needs doing, is to understand as thoroughly as possible the other side’s perspective. You don’t have to agree with it. You don’t have to think it’s right or just. You can even think it’s evil. That’s fine – but you need to understand it.

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