Intelligence vs attitude in IT and commerce

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By Chris Wilkins CEO, DVT

There has long been a focus on academic intelligence in commerce and industry, and IT is no exception. Intelligence in academia is measured primarily by a demonstration of understanding.

This understanding is measured and tested in written exams, longer term projects, white papers and dissertations. This measurement of intelligence favours those who respond well to an insulated and one-dimensional environment.

Insulated because all activity takes place within a small institution and is measured by a select group (the teachers), and one-dimensional because success is heavily dependent on students responding well to recollecting arbitrary facts and constructing sound academic arguments (exams, projects, and white papers).

Nevertheless, many tertiary educational institutions provide a sound platform from which to start, but it is a starting point.

Unfortunately, the commercial demands placed on IT professionals are neither insular, nor are they one-dimensional. Therefore, it is worth considering what additional skills are required to have a successful and rewarding career in IT. And perhaps become a leader and even a CEO in the industry.

When we gaze down the winding road of life with what we believe is a decent education, and perhaps a globally recognised qualification, it is not easy to accept that this is merely an indication of ability; it is not guaranteed to gain respect and wealth in business and specifically with IT.

The first test of intelligence in IT, and commerce, is a person?s ability to measure their success by their own standards. Ultimately, you have to decide what you want to be. And you then take the path that gives you that result. You don?t write an exam to become a great software developer or a CEO. So if my attitude is that I want to become CEO, I then have to discover and develop a multitude of attributes and skills that did not help me pass an exam or write a white paper.

These are attributes like listening to what colleagues, staff and clients are asking for, and skills like developing a business model that allows you to maximise the potential of your company?s services, and the skills of the people you employ. In addition to developing the right skills and attributes, the road to success depends on having an attitude and appetite for taking advantage of the opportunities presented to you.

Opportunities rarely come by twice, and it takes breadth of vision and courage to jump on the bus when you have a short window of time to think about it, and then take action. Taking instant action at the right moment comes from a steady flow of deeper thinking that prepares you for your opportunities. So if your attitude is to always be thinking about how to take the next step towards where you want to be, then you will probably recognise the opportunities for what they are. If your attitude is that you have a great qualification and that the doors will open for you, then you will probably miss your allocated quota of opportunities.

Another test of intelligence in IT is the ability to learn from the wisdom of others, and apply this wisdom on the road to your objectives. This comes hand in hand with respect for great ideas and a willingness to challenge and be challenged. In our world today, leaders who cannot stand to be challenged lose their credibility.

But the caveat is that there are times to listen and perhaps make changes, and there are times to move on quickly without delay and procrastination. It takes the right attitude to decide what approach is best. If you know where you are going, and you constantly think about where you are and what needs to be done, it becomes easier to see when discussion and consideration are important, and when quick decisions and fast actions are better.

So traditional or academic intelligence is an indication of what we can do with our commercial lives, and in IT in particular it is a very good start. But every day will present a list of challenges that require less of an academic solution, and more consideration for what it is you want to be, and what you want to achieve.

In other words, your attitude will determine how you tackle these challenges when they are presented to you. And this attitude affects you, shapes your destiny, and influences outcomes for the rest of your life. Your academic qualifications merely gave you a better chance to start in the right place. What you do with that start then depends on your attitude.

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