In “Guest Column: Why Technical Specialists Have A Tough Time Moving to Higher Value Work” by Wayne McKinnon on the Contrarian Consulting website, Wayne McKinnon discusses the trouble some technical specialists have in expanding their roles. He points out the background education technical specialists receive is most often focused on having “the” right answer rather than a more holistic approach. Add to this mind-set the fact that often technical specialists are removed from the rest of the business cycle and lack understanding of how business units work or what they do, and this puts technical specialists in a particularly difficult position when trying to move higher up the value chain. Technical specialists are further hindered by the dual tasks of, “labor-intensive project work [and] the ongoing requirement to learn new technologies.”
Despite the difficulties in transition technical specialists shouldn’t despair, there are steps they can take to ease this process along.
- Make time specifically to focus on your transition. Schedule yourself time every week to, “focus exclusively on activities necessary to make the transition.”
- Use conversations outside of your specialty to discuss anything other than technology. “These new conversations are your opportunity to learn how to converse like the rest of the world.”
- Moving forward, anytime you interact with the business units of your company engage them in discussions about what they do. Use these interactions to learn as much as you can about the business side of your company; how it runs, what it does, who does it, etc…
- Recognize that you have value, not just skills.
For a technical specialist trying to transition, a clear understanding of the knowledge you need to gather and an honest self assessment of your business skills is key. Don’t be daunted by the task, take a deep breath, and approach this challenge like any other; one step at a time.
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