The best IT career book I’ve ever owned

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The book that has changed my perception of business and the IT professional’s role in it is not about Oracle, or Hadoop, or NoSQL, or any development framework. In fact it has absolutely nothing to do with technology and was written only a year after Alan Turing’s famous Turing Machine was first hypothesized. The book is How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

It’s a book on people skills. There are tons of these out there, some wildly popular in managerial and business circles and full of modern business practices that will ‘boost’ your career. Why then would you go with a book from 1937 that’s chock full of door to door sales tactics?

Because it works

Technology has advanced, information has become more available, and business has accelerated beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, but the tenets of getting people to work with you toward a common goal have not changed. The beauty is that the ‘common goal’ may be one that your target audience never knew was their goal in the first place; however, with the right push, the right emphasis, the right details it can be. And that is what the book is all about.

Have you ever had a project you really wanted to get off the ground at your company but couldn’t? Or an initiative that you were assigned that you really needed more resources to accomplish? I’m fairly certain all of us have been in those situations at some point, even if all you needed was a $25 web tool for a small task. No matter how much the cost, it always feels like you’re pulling teeth.

This book honestly changed my life and career by changing the way I view business. I learned that the best way to get that new monitoring suite was not to impress the Sysadmin, but the business analysts. I learned how, no matter how many bullet points I gave or PowerPoint presentations I did, an idea never took hold until the people controlling the purse strings suggested it to themselves (like Inception). And above all, I learned to, as Dale Carnegie says, arouse in the other person an eager want. Projects (particularly those which cost money) are not about your ego, or the new resume fodder you’ll get out of it to expand your own career, or even about how it will improve your productivity or lessen your workload; no project will be taken seriously until the business decides that it is something that it has to have, must have, to meet its goals.

Many of the bits and pieces seem like common sense. But after reading (and rereading) the book I started paying special attention to how I interacted with companies with whom I was consulting. And there were definite areas for improvement. Likewise as a dedicated employee of a company, where the business is your client, the same rules will apply.

Of course, there will always be those companies that simply stifle all creativity or initiatives through mounds of red tape or the wisdom of backwards people. But if you feel like your every idea is cast to the wind and that no one takes your proposals seriously, give this book a try. Sometimes it’s as simple as stepping into the other person’s shoes.

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