What is Culture Consulting?

When you go into a hospital for the fist time you encounter an information desk. They will direct you to your doctors office, or the registration office, or the room where the person you are going to visit is. After you have gone to that same hospital several times you do not need to stop at the information desk anymore but you know how to navigate the place.

One of the added values of a consultant is experience in an industry or field. During my career I have worked in some government contracts as well as some real state related services, but most of my experience has been in the Insurance and Healtcare industry. I have worked inside of many hospitals and was actually one of the first people that got to read the HIPPA rules before they were even final. That makes me valuable to a company that needs to enter that type of company because they will not have to train me on some of the general procedures or terms, but I can get into the specifics of the project.

When it comes to document imaging, I have not just installed big systems to make a company paperless but I have actually written some piece of them from scratch. I have had to evaluate both hardware and software and figure out what the ROI (return on investment) is going to be. Again that knowledge makes me capable of entering projects that require document management with knowledge that can help things move a little quicker.

Every industry has its own culture and knowing how to navigate it can mean the difference between a successful project and a disaster. Identifying the person that has that information is as critical as gathering all of the requirements prior to any project. A culture consultant is the person that can do that for a project. They should be the person that infiltrates the organization before a business analyst starts the talks with the people.

A culture consultant can also be someone already in the organization. It should be someone below middle management that knows what the glue that holds the company together. If such person does not exist, someone has to come in a identify the type of culture the company has and be able to come out of it with ways to improve it or at least optimize it before a project begins.

Culture consulting does not stop at the level of an organization, but more on a later post. Working with clients in both big and small cities in the us and also international clients hast taught me that every geographical location has its own way of doing things. The difference should not be ignored and taken into account when starting any kind of new project within a company.

A Good Start

My first week at my new job is going to consist of training on what the company actually does. I have worked for several companies and it is the first time that I actually go through the business training this way.

Before I have even asked companies to let me train on what the people do so that I can better understand what the system is supposed to help do, but it has always been considered a waste of my time by them. I have always concentrated on building tools for the people in the company to make their job easier and I have encountered resistance. I have been told that my time is too valuable to try and automate something that a regular employee can do, the return on investment has been pretty much ignored and I was told to just concentrate on other things.

A big fault that many programmers fall into is into believing that they understand the business better than the people that actually perform the tasks. While I do believe that there are plenty of talented people out there that can grasp a business concept from a general overview and have a vision I think that it does not replace talking to the people that actually do the job.

I take pride on being able to talk to people about systems in simple terms. I do not like using complicated language to explain something simple and understand that using technical terms with a non technical person causes more harm that good. If a programmer goes into a conversation thinking that the other person cannot understand what they are going to say, I am willing to be that communication will not happen.

I am very excited that this company believes in making everyone in the company understand their business. All employees, even the corporate people have to sit down and learn the business from the ground up. To me that is a very good start.

Posted in IT

Love your job?

I started to write an entry about how important it is to like what you do, and then I thought about necessity. There are a lot of people out there that are doing jobs because they have to and not because they want to. Consider yourself lucky if you actually like what you do for a living.

When I chose a career I tried to go for something that I would always love and computers it was. Granted, I thought I was going to become a video game programmer but after the recruiter for my college lied about the curriculum I ended up just taking the video game part out.

I have worked in professional environments ever since and I am sad to report that the corporate world is full of nasty people. Professionals are not very professional. I have encountered a lot of people that fold under pressure and resort to high school type of behaviour when faced with a real life situation. At those moments I wonder if blue collar workers deal with this kind of behaviour. Then there is the backstabbing, the get ahead no matter what, the do whatever it takes.

I am left with a lot more questions than answers, but I do know that I have to do something that I love or it becomes very hard to show up to work every single day.

Experience vs. Education

The USA Today’s Snapshot for today indicated that the IT industry prefers to hire experience. 84% of those hired have previous IT experience, over just 16% of new college graduates. As an IT professional getting started I had the opportunity to start my career during college. Even though that really helped me overall, it took a while for me to understand what “experience” really meant.

The best career advice that I can give besides having a strong resume is to start working in the field of your choice before you graduate. While co-op programs are great, I believe you have to take your destiny into your own hands and try to get into a company doing the “grunt” work of your field while you go to college.

I still would like to stress that Education is the best way to get into the corporate world. That diploma is your passport into companies. However, experience is that elite club that will get you to the head of the line. I am careful not to say that without a diploma you cannot get into the IT business, I know a couple of people that made it in without one and are very successful, but it does make it easier to get a better pay from day one.

Speaking of pay, experience will get you better paid… but you might have to sacrifice pay while getting experience. Something that you should always keep in mind is to never step backwards in pay unless you are going to gain experience.

You might be asking yourself what is experience really? My simple answer is that it is the ability to deal with situations that someone without “real world” work experience cannot handle. A little more in depth answer is that it is the skill of being able to apply self tested solutions to problems.

Education makes you trainable, experience makes you valuable. People that go back to school to change careers later in life will tell you that most of the skills that made them great at one profession will count towards the experience in the new field. Human relationships are a huge part of experience. Learning how to deal with clients and peers are things that are hard to teach, they are things that someone just has to learn on their own.

Today when looking at someone that I would like to bring onto my team, their experience is a huge factor. However, I understand that new graduates still need an opportunity to gain that experience and I am trying to come up with ways to expedite that process. Technical knowledge can be “boot camped” however, I don’t know of a good way to cram experience into a class.

I tend to agree with the figures that USA TODAY presented. I with it was not the reality, but Education and Experience are not mutually exclusive. They complement each other well, but the most powerful candidates will always have a mixture. In the end Experience still wins.

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