What Advice Do You Have

clip_image002Our SharePoint projects are teetering between steps right now, so I thought I’d move away from the core subject of this blog to talk about and to solicit some feedback from you on the subject of mentoring. I’m bringing this up now, because in a few days, one of my coworkers and I will be participating in a Career Fair at an area high school. Between us, we will be talking to six different classes full of 10th, 11th and 12th graders about careers in our industry.

The questions we are supposed to answer are:

  • How did you end up in your profession?
  • What is the training?
  • What is the job outlook?
  • What do you do in a typical day?
  • What do you like and dislike about your career?
  • What skills are needed?
  • What advice would you have for High School students interested in entering your profession?

When I started to consider that list, I found myself scratching my head. I mean “do I even have a typical day?” I can point to a host of lessons and skills I learned in college that I rely on every day, but I also have to recognize that much of what I do didn’t exist until recently. There are fundamental threads that lead to success in this industry, but I don’t know if there’s a sure-fire road to follow. An interesting twist to those questions comes from a different mentoring experience. Another coworker and I are mentoring a senior MIS Networking and Communication class at a CT state university. As part of that assignment, we had to build a case study for them to work on during the semester. We took a working aspect of our business, our foreign reinsurance, and cast it as a new business opportunity that we have to gear up to support within a short amount of time. So their assignment involves imagining how we would do our business differently, if we started today and had to be ready to operate within this budget year. I am curious to see if the solutions they come up with would be something we should actually think about.

If you have the opportunity to work with students, at any level in the education system, I would urge you to do so. First, it’s rewarding – both the students and the teachers, instructors, professors you will work with will truly appreciate hearing from people who are doing this stuff in real life. Second, when you sit down to prepare to help these students, you will likely find yourself reflecting on your current situation. “How did you get here?” and “is this where you / your company should be?” are tough questions that we should all ask from time to time.

Swinging back to SharePoint, is there any danger that we have become trapped by our investment of time and money? Is SharePoint still the right choice for your business? I had to answer that question last November, and although I answered in the affirmative, that question also was a head-scratcher. I don’t ever want to stand up in front of a bunch of 18 year olds and say “well, I’ve been doing the same thing for 10 years, because I didn’t feel like changing, growing or questioning the value of the products I work with.” I am certain that SharePoint is still a good choice for our company. I recognize that if I had to choose today, the process would be more involved and I’d have more products and services to consider. I also realize that there is no guarantee that SharePoint will remain the best choice forever, in fact I like knowing that, because that should keep the pressure on Microsoft to keep SharePoint moving forward. I don’t plan to tell the high school students that “I work with SharePoint” – I’m going to go with “I’m an information professional” and tell them that products come and go and that they should get used to that.