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On Becoming Indispensible

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IT employees must develop multiple strategies to protect their jobs during this economic upheaval.

 

Cathie Black--media mogul, president of Hearst Magazines, and author of the book Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life)--was interviewed recently on NBC's Weekend Today (remember, folks, I only watch the best on TV; I am also a devotee of South Park and Family Guy) for tips on how to avoid losing one's job during the economic crisis. "Be essential," was her reply.

Also, be indispensible and/or irreplaceable.

 

Recall the old adage that everyone can be replaced? Well, it's time to start thinking about what skills, talents, responsibilities, relationships, qualifications, experience, and, yes, metrics make you essential, indispensible, and irreplaceable.

Back to Basics 

During her interview, Black cited some basic tips: Come in early; stay late. Be the model corporate citizen: ask not what your company can do for you, but what you can (and should) do for your company. It is imperative to keep your finger on the pulse of all company projects (not just IT projects): which ones are likely to continue getting the green light and which ones are likely to be canceled. If you are assigned full-time to a project that may get the ax, it is time to enlighten not only the supervisor or manager to whom you directly report, but other managers (in other lines of business) regarding the value you can bring to the green-light projects.

If you don't already have it, request a copy of your job description and then compare it to your updated resume (I know; it's on your to-do list) to determine if you have skills or experience of which your manager, your department, and/or other departments are unaware. Employees who are actively seeking to utilize all their talents, who understand not only their jobs, but also the various direct and dotted-line relationships and how they fit into the big picture are likely to be valued by the company and more likely to stay in their jobs. Moreover, be sure to keep a folder of all your performance reviews. In the event you are either reduced to part time and/or let go, you need to have firm footing upon which to negotiate.

 

Cross-training always gets a lot of hype, but it is essential to your corporate survival to be as fluent as possible in, for example, more than one programming language (or eager to learn), to be able to work with DB2 and SQL Server as if they were interchangeable, to understand the finer points of security and compliance, especially in your industry vertical, and to ensure that you are highly qualified to do more than what your job description implies. There are plenty of gratis industry magazines out there. Subscribe to and read as many as you can.

 

Returning to school to finish your undergraduate degree or obtain a graduate degree in a complementary area of expertise is another suggestion, but don't give up your day job. The fact is, in order to resuscitate the depressed (and depressing) economy, banks will have to continue making loans. This is the stuff (read: "pixie dust") upon which our economy is built. And while banks--especially after the recent debacle--are less likely to make loans based on criteria such as "are you breathing" or "do you have a phone number," loan programs such as the Stafford Federal Student Loan Program are still open for business to qualified candidates.  

The Worst-Case Scenario

If I may digress for a moment, it is paramount that you are able to negotiate clearly and effectively in the event your hours are cut or you are in danger of losing your job. This means having copies of all awards, performance reviews (hopefully, they demonstrate that you continually exceeded expectations), certificates earned at your present job, an updated resume, etc. If you are downgraded to part-time status or fired, first you need to understand why. Then you must be able to shrewdly negotiate to keep certain benefits (if the former applies) or get a decent severance package (if the latter applies).

Be prepared.

 

Don't allow yourself to be blindsided or pressured into making an on-the-spot decision, unless, of course, security has been called to escort you from your desk. (In that case, there are other avenues of recourse.) Before you get downgraded to part-time or discover you are being let go at a later date, remember to tell HR or your manager that, before you sign anything or accept anything, you would like some time to review the new offer or severance letter at home (not at a bar). Then you should take the time to discuss it with your spouse, your partner, your parents, your lawyer, a trusted friend, or your dog. This gives you time to prepare your case. For example, suppose your company wants to reduce your hours to part-time and revoke all benefits. If you have been a valued employee--and can prove it--succinctly state on paper, in person, or both that you will take the reduction in hours but that you believe that your impeccable track record should entitle you to keep some benefits (such as medical insurance).

And Now for Something a Bit Different

There are also other innovative strategies you can employ to demonstrate your indispensability to your company. The following is a short list at which I arrived when I put on my thinking cap:

•·        Use metrics--First, understand what your total cost to your company is. If your tenure with the company is under one year, you need to include in your calculation recruitment fee (if any), yearly salary, bonuses or other allowances you may have received, and your benefits (roughly 33 percent of your yearly salary). The longer your tenure, the more valuable you become to your company because of the intellectual property you have acquired along with experience and seniority. Moreover, the type of job you have and the way it fits in with the company's mission can determine if you still have a job after a reorganization. For example, a data architect is a key position because actionable information is crucial to a company's ongoing viability. Likewise, a network specialist is integral to keeping everyone up and running.  

To formulate metrics, you need to examine the projects upon which you have worked and then analyze what their realistic return on investment (ROI) has been to the company. You don't need to calculate this down to the last penny; some high-level number crunching works just as well.

Let's take a simple example. Say that as a direct result of your ability to better automate shipping at one distribution facility, your company reduced product ship time from 10 to five days. This should reduce the time payment is received as well as reduce the cost of maintaining inventory. If you have a reasonable idea of the cost of the product (to your company) as well as the wholesale price paid by your distributors, you can reasonably calculate the monetary advantage to your company's bottom line.

•·        Map skills to critical success factors--If you don't already know, you should find out what are your corporate culture values. Obviously, it will be a healthy bottom line, but how the company prefers to achieve it is key. Is your company conservative in how it does business, does it reward risk-takers, does it value a team vs. individual approach, etc.? By understanding the company's modus operandi and the factors it deems critical for success, you can begin to determine how your skills, or lack thereof, fit into the big picture and figure the appropriate adjustments. For example, if your company values and rewards team efforts over individual accomplishments, determine how you can become part of a team, especially if you tend to be a lone wolf.          

•·        Know thy business--I know I sound like a broken record (you do remember records?), and I have written about this for over 20 years. Back in the day, IT people were considered to not have good communication skills (read that as they could not write a comprehensible sentence). I learned early that being able to write could tip the scale in my favor. After the advent of personal productivity skills, it became all the rage if you could communicate effectively via PowerPoint or if you were a wiz at Excel.

Times have changed, and today it is paramount that you understand the business you are in. Knowing the technology and having two bucks will get you a ride on the New York subway. Period. If you understand how the business operates, then you can work to improve it and, in so doing, become essential to it.

 

•·        Brand yourself--In her article "CIOs must learn to brand themselves despite stereotypes," Linda Tucci, senior news writer at SearchCIO.com, provides excellent advice to CIOs, which can extend to every employee in the organization. Tucci quotes Atefeh Riazi, CIO at New York-based ad agency Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide Inc. Riazi asked audience members to think of their workplace selves like a brand. Not just about selling soap or salad dressing, branding is about the "core of who we are and the experience we have with others."

A novel idea, I thought. We all understand brand names. Many people tend to buy brand-name products versus off-brands or generics. Are you a generic programmer/analyst or business analyst or are you a Visual Basic programmer/analyst or a finance business analyst? Branding, where appropriate, helps you to stand out in a crowd and maybe be recognized for the great work you do.

Bottom Line

Even if your job appears to be secure or you are in a secure industry, it never hurts to have an updated resume, to keep all your professional currency in an accessible folder, and to be continually looking at how to increase your productivity and your knowledge and make positive contributions to your company.

 

One last tip: don't overlook your hobbies and your volunteer work. They are untapped resources when it comes to getting a job and keeping one. An employer who knows that you volunteer at a soup kitchen knows more about your character than the fact that you have 10 years experience in SQL.

Maria DeGiglio

Maria DeGiglio is president and principal analyst of Maria A. DeGiglio & Associates. Current clients of Maria A. DeGiglio & Associates include the Visiting Nurse Service of New York ; Experture, LLC; and MC Press. Ms. DeGiglio has more than 20 years of experience as an IT consultant, industry analyst, and executive. From 1997 to 2005, she worked for Andrews Consulting Group and the Robert Frances Group.

 

Ms. DeGiglio received her Masters Degree in Health Advocacy from Sarah Lawrence College and graduated Cum Laude from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree.

 

 

Ms. DeGiglio has worked with IT and C-level executives to enable IT alignment with business goals and to implement best practices. She has experience and expertise in both large enterprises and in small- and medium-sized business. Ms. DeGiglio has authored over one hundred articles, reports, and white papers.

 

 

Since 2004, she has worked in the healthcare industry and in health IT investigating the legal, ethical, and regulatory aspects of creating, implementing, and exchanging electronic health records (EHRs). Ms. DeGiglio is an expert in security, privacy, and HIPAA regulatory compliance.

 

 

Ms. DeGiglio may be contacted at mdegiglio@aol.com.

 

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    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.