Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I don't know

When I first got into this business I had an incredible mentor, Perry. His South Carolina common sense advice guided me both in and out of the business world for years. He always stands up for what he believed, admitted when he was wrong, and treats others with respect. These values became the cornerstone of the consulting practice we created together.

During one of our first client meetings, the client asked us whether we could publish MS Access reports to the web (this was in 1996, mind you). We both looked at each other with a puzzled look for a second and then Perry spoke up. "I don't know", he said. I thought for sure we lost that project. Then he tacked on, "but we'll research it and get back to you tomorrow." We poured over manuals that night, tinkered with some code, and put together a simple report demo. The next day we made an appointment with the client and showed them our demo. After we finished the project, the client told us they signed the contract because we did what we said we would do and told them the truth.

I have been interviewing for a DBA position that is open in my company. I typically ask the interviewee tough technical questions on purpose so I can see how they might handle a situation under stress. Those people that say "I don't know" and then shutdown won't be able to handle the pressure. When they say "I don't know, but I would..." I know I have a keeper.

4 comments:

Bill S. said...

Jeff,
I started in I/T back in 1980-ish, and my mentor was a young guy from Antigua named Eric Edwards. He worked 2nd shift as a computer operator, and used to nag me into staying late and working with him (while he surreptituously showed me the ropes). One thing Eric always told me (and that I've never forgotten) was "You have to want to be the best at whatever you do, no matter whether you are the best or not. It is striving for perfection that matters, not necessarily achieving it." Still going strong 20+ years later (and still not the best, but trying) - thanks, Eric.

Jeff Hunter said...

Amen, I here you. You have to keep learning in order to stay around in this business.

Peter K said...

Jeff,
I think that this is a critical component in one's career. Having the right mentor helps tremendously and it provides a sounding board so that you can bounced ideas/suggestions without fear of sounding stupid.

If we are not learning anything new each day, there's no point in working/living as it's as boring as hell. :)

Nick said...

I was once consulting at an insurance company in East of England (Ipswich if you know it) where my last job was to train a permie.

He'd been given an open cheque book for training and had all other reponsibilities lifted. Since he bleated about his salary since I got there I thought he'd be happy as a sand boy.

Could I get hin to take an interest, no chance. Eventually I suggested he did the courses for the OCP. Not for the certificate you understand but I reckon it's a reasonable grounding.

Know what he said, "Ooooh looks like to much reading for me!". I would slapped him stupid but someone had obviously got there before me!