Sometimes What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
There is an old saying that goes- ‘What you don’t know can’t hurt you.’ In the IT industry, the fact is- what you don’t know can very well hurt you.
I have come across a lot of young people working in this industry who believe that if they do their work diligently they don’t need to do anything else. They couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is, doing what is entrusted to you, is considered non-negotiable and you do need to deliver results. However, there are several other aspects to your work that you need to be aware of. For instance, you need to be on the lookout for feedback on your work on how you relate to other people in your team, in the client organisation and in your own organisation.
Awareness of internal rules, processes and procedures is imperative for anyone who wants to work in corporates. Ignorance of internal rules and procedures is seldom accepted as an excuse for non-compliance within organisations.
Here are things that you need to know and be aware of, in addition to your work.
1. Internal rules and procedures
IT companies as with most companies, have an intricate set of internal rules and procedures that govern you at work. In the IT Industry you travel a lot, may need to relocate frequently, could be sent for training outside the company and so much more. All of this necessitate that you be well versed with the company’s internal rules, particularly the HR Rules and Travel rules. For instance, there may be a situation where you go on a project to another country and take leave there. You need to know what you need to do in such cases, who do you intimate and from a financial standpoint what do you claim as your allowance. Similarly, working at client sites may attract a different set of rules and procedures that you need to be aware of.
2. Appraisal procedure
Anyone who joins a company has some aspirations and people who work in IT companies are no different. To ensure that your aspirations are aligned with the company and the role that you are in, you need to have thorough knowledge of the company’s appraisal procedure.
Typically, most companies do a goal setting exercise at the beginning of the year where your supervisor will create a set of goals for you to achieve during that year. The goals could be a mix of objective measurable ones and subjective ones as well.
Very often I have seen people take the goal setting exercise very lightly believing that the goals set for them are realistic, achievable and standard across people at their level. This is not always true. Goals vary from person to person although a set of criteria may be common.
For instance, a person in a sales role will have some target for getting business, some target for billing and some target for collections as well as client satisfaction. While this may be common across sales roles, the quantum of the target and how it relates to the industry segment that you are in as well as the current market conditions in that segment may not be common.
Consider two people, one of them working in the banking and financial sector segment while the other working in the public sector segment. Now, if you compare the quantum of targets of these two people you may find that both have a similar number whereas the conditions in these two market segments are dramatically different.
You need to ensure at the beginning of the year that you understand your targets and discuss it with your superior to ensure that your targets are reasonable and achievable. If you fail to do this, as many people do, at the end of the year you could be in trouble if things don’t go as planned.
You also need to discuss the expected output from you to get you that promotion or career advancement that you are looking for. This has to be agreed with your supervisor ahead of time.
3. How to conduct yourself on overseas assignments
IT companies tend to operate globally with the business in other countries being larger than what it is in their home country, in a majority of cases. This is more so for Indian IT companies. Many IT companies provide training to employees who are being sent overseas on assignments. These could be a combination of technical training and soft skills training including culture sensitivity training.
Expecting that you will be automatically given this training if you are sent abroad for a project, is foolish. You need to look out for yourself, identify the training you need ahead of time, find out what kind of soft skills and culture sensitivity training is available in your company and request your supervisor to nominate you for it.
Additionally, it would be good for you to connect to people who are already in the country that you will be going to and find out more about how to conduct yourself there and if there are things that you need to be watchful about.
Sometimes what we think are small issues can snowball out of proportion. For instance, frequently speaking in your own language at your workplace, when there are other people who do not understand your language and know that you also speak English, could put people off. Similarly a knowledge of cultural do’s and donts’ can come in very handy when you are working in another country.
4. Organisational dynamics
When you are at work you often see group dynamics at play. Simply stated, people behave differently when they are in groups than they do when they are alone. Similarly, there are certain equations between your supervisor and his peer group or his boss.
Being aware of these equations can help you avoid conflict and get your work done smoothly. For instance, if you share sensitive information about your group or team with a person from another group or team in good faith, you could still cause problems for yourself. You got to be aware of what is going on in the organisation around you.
Modern day organisations have complex structures quite often with overlapping roles and responsibilities for people. Some people can be very sensitive about their area of work and may not view any transgression in their area of responsibility, lightly. Being aware of organisation dynamics can be a big help for you in maintaining cordial relations and ensuring support of your peers and superiors.
5. Corporate ethics
In today’s business world companies are very serious about ethics and any breach of ethics even if it is brought on by a lack of knowledge, is viewed very seriously. Many companies have a practice where they ask their employees to undergo online training in ethics and take a test thereafter, which they need to pass. The test has to be taken once every year to stay abreast with the latest stipulation for ethics.
You need to be thorough with what your company considers as ethical business and ensure that you don’t do anything that violates the company’s ethics.
This is particularly important for IT companies as they tend to operate in multiple companies where the applicable laws could be very different from what they are used to in their home country.
6. Feedback on you coming from different sources
When you work on a project or in any other area, regardless of whether you are working totally internally within the company or are interfacing with external entities also, people give feedbacks on your behavior, your performance and several other areas to people in your company.
In the event there is a negative feedback of any sort that you are unaware of, you may not be in a position to do any damage control or set things right. Perhaps the feedback conveyed about your behavior is a result of a misunderstanding. You can only rectify it if you get to know about it and take corrective action in time.
Sometime if a negative feedback about you or your work goes to your supervisor, he or she may decide not to discuss it with you and instead keep a close watch over you. If that happens you will be under a microscope without knowing it and even your genuine reaction or communication can be misconstrued in the light of a negative feedback.
So, knowing what is being communicated about you is important to you. If this is something that is positive, even if you are not aware it may not impact you. However, if it is something negative, you should definitely be aware of it.
7. Opportunities For Training And Skill Building
Many companies encourage their employees to attend training programs. This is even more so in IT companies where keeping abreast of changing technologies can give you a distinct advantage. However, you may need to take the initiative to identify what is it that you like to learn and how it will be good for your work.
Left to your supervisor, pressure of work may necessitate that you attend a lesser number of such programs. In such cases the onus is on you to find out what programs are being conducted within your organisation and the process to get yourself nominated for it. In addition, you need to find out rules pertaining to being sponsored by your organisation for training programs organised outside your company.
So, take the trouble of knowing more than you are expected to and you could be doing your own career, a favour.
There could be several other areas that you need to be aware of to be really successful in the IT industry. Do feel free to add from your experience.
About the Author:
Srinivasan is an independent consultant working in the area of strategy and technology interventions in the public sector domain. He has worked in companies like IBM and TCS and has over 30 years of experience spanning 24 countries.