5 Signs Someone Should Cross-Train into IT
One of the most important, yet underrated roles managers have is acting as an informal talent scout. It's easy to mentally silo people into the roles they already fill and not think of them in any other way. But they can be some of the most significant sources of hidden and undiscovered talent available to you.
Joe, the administrative assistant, has been reading articles about how to get into IT for months. Susan, the copywriter, recently added a second router onto her home network and has discovered a fascination with improving connectivity.
Neither of these individuals have IT responsibilities, and they probably won't apply to an IT position anytime soon. The trick for you is finding these people and fostering that desire to learn and grow.
When someone is ready to explore IT, you won't have to convince them to do so. They'll likely jump at the opportunity, but they might not feel confident enough to approach you first. Finding talent within your own organization is a bit like fishing: you've got to know where to look and what to look for. Consider these five signals that you might have untapped resources within your company.
1. Power users typically want more tech responsibility
A power user is constantly digging into the advanced features of their computer, tablet, smartphone, or apps. They're filled with an innate curiosity about what makes things tick, wondering how they can get the most out of their hardware and software. Occasionally you'll run across someone who wants to be known as a power user but isn't actually one. It's pretty easy to spot these individuals: they're the ones who are actively chasing their coworkers down and trying to convince others of their expertise. An actual power user is a person who focuses on his or her own equipment first and actively attempts to solve problems without asking for help.
One way to identify these individuals is to check the ticket logs. Power users aren't afraid to experiment, which also means they can get themselves into trouble without the admin rights they need to get themselves out. At first glance, a power user's extensive ticket history might seem to indicate that they cause more problems than anyone else, leading you to believe they have no idea how to interact with technology. Dig a bit deeper.
Are their issues run of the mill "I saved a file and can't find it" problems? Or, perhaps, are they attempting to connect the conference room laptop through an external wireless network via a VPN because the signal is terrible in that room and they're thinking outside the box?
2. Someone who asks for more privileges and responsibilities
People who have a passion for technology genuinely want to help. They're frustrated by being stonewalled at every turn by a lack of admin rights. They've probably asked you several times if they can have greater access to the shared drive, inclusion on more ACLs, or higher-level permissions so they can unlock port security to move office equipment themselves.
In addition to who is bugging you for more privileges, pay attention to who employees look to as the "go-to" tech guy in their office. Sure, they could call the IT department, but it's easier to ask Neil in the next office suite because he usually knows the answer. Find the person who replaces the toner cartridge in the shared multifunction device when no one else seems to know how, or even where the replacement cartridges are stored, let alone what to do with the used ones.
3. Foster healthy curiosity in people interested in tech
One thing that almost all IT professionals have in common is a tendency to ask "why" and "how" when it comes to anything technical. When you have to do an office reorganization and are mapping cable runs, pay attention to the office assistant who comes by on his breaks and asks questions about why you're doing something a certain way.
Let's say you're patching someone's computer, and a clerk in the office says, "Hey, if we did X with the shared drive, would that do Y?" Listen to what he has to say. Even if the concept is impossible and would never work, the fact that he's thinking along those lines might indicate there's talent you could develop.
People who always want to tell you what to do or how you could do your job better are know-it-alls who will never make it in IT. Individuals who are always asking why — not to challenge you, but because they want to know — are the ones with promise.
4. Pay attention to well-liked team players
Information technology is a team sport. Making it in the tech world requires that you're good with people. Of course, a person needs to be interested in technology and have some natural abilities, but it's all for naught if they can't play well with others.
When you notice one of the other signs on this list in someone, watch them interact with their coworkers. Are they hanging around you because they genuinely want to be close to anything technological, or are they excited that someone new is in the office because no one else wants to be around them? If they're good with people and well-liked, IT could be a good fit.
5. They're lazy… in all the right ways
Sysadmins and network administrators are always looking for ways to automate repetitive processes. When someone is lazy in the wrong way, they don't mind manually walking through the same steps a hundred times in a row without looking for another solution. However, someone who is "lazy" in the right way is the guy who researches advanced Excel functions at every opportunity because he doesn't want to manually execute a task if there's a tech solution he can employ.
You might notice someone in your company who is always walking around with a coffee cup or seems to perpetually put an inordinate amount of effort into playing practical jokes on his coworkers. There could be plenty of reasons for this, and just as many bad as good. However, it's worth checking out: if he has a ton of time on his hands because he leveraged technology to get all of his work done before anyone else, that might indicate an IT diamond in the rough.
Developing In-House IT Talent is a Win-Win
Keeping an eye out for people who could cross-train into IT is an effective way to develop a handpicked team. Virtually no one has access to unlimited hiring budgets, and selecting someone from outside of the company is always a bit of a crapshoot, regardless of how thorough the vetting process is. Fostering talent from current employees allows you to get to know someone, experience their work ethic and communication style, and see what kind of a team player they are.
It also lets you grow the depth of your bench. Having more people is something each of us wants, but few of us get. The more that you can delegate smaller IT roles, appropriately increase permissions, and develop overall IT talent within your organization, the easier your life will be.