Ok i have been thinking a lot about professionalism in the workplace and how i would define a professional. With the exception of my work in sweden i have only ever had one other job as a perminant employee and over 85% of my career has been working as a contractor, there are a few things that hold true; i will add to this list; anyone that can think of anything else to add just comment.. like all rules there are exceptions to them!
1. You have to be nice to your boss.
At the end of the day your boss should have your back, and theres only one person whos opinion matters come contract renewal/pay review time. its important to communicate with your boss especially if you have to piss off lots of other people.
2. You dont annoy people without a reason
Some people just beg to be wound up, but you dont do it. Sometimes there are reasons to upset people, i dont like doing that without a good reason, certainly you should never totally lose your cool, never resort to name calling, and if possible try not to throw people out of windows. Never let it get personal.
Its important everyone knows where you stand. If someone has done something to annoy you i dont see why you should keep that secret. As an englishman we tend to say what we think then its over and done with – bear in mind some people in some cultures arent so confrontational.
4. If you screw up, admit it
…but only if your likely to get found out. Everyone makes mistakes, the mark of a good professional is to cover them up before anyone else notices them. if someone is going to notice then put your hands up to it, and admit it. Dont do coverups.
5. Dont be afraid to say “i dont know”
This sentance should always be followed up with “but i will find out…” – you cannot possibly know or remember everything, a real professional will know how to go about solving any problem.
6. Bear in mind you are a service
You are paid to be a positive contributer to a team. You need to think about things from a customer perspective, not just do things from a minimalist perspective. When you fix a problem you should think about how to stop the problem happening again, and how to detect it before the customer does.
7. Be proactive
You need to think about not only reacting to problems but how to prevent them before happening. If your in charge of a server you should know how much memory, bandwitdth, cpu and disk space it uses. You should know when that server is most busy, when it is least busy and when rougthly it is going to run out of disk space. From a management perspective dont wait to be told to do things, look for things that need to be fixed, then highlight them to the manager if you intend to execute a solution.
8. Back things up
You need to back up anything your going to change, be it a server or a simple file. being able to get back to how you were before is going to save your ass.
9. Be confident in your own ability.
not cocky, not arrogant. be aware of what you know and what you dont know, and enlist help where need be.
10. Be aware of the people around you
Who is good, who is bad, who is incompetent, who is bitchy.
Look at things from other peoples perspectives.
Documentation will save hassle in the long run even if its no fun to write. Assume that your entire team is going to be killed when some bastard flies a plane into your building and think of the poor guys that will have to resume the service – they need to know what is done, how its done, how to build servers from scratch, service level agreements, working processes. Having this documentation can save you months of training if you get a new guy, and is great if you ever have do deal with global sourcing.
13. Never say “it was like that when we got it 3 years ago”
its not an excuse for anything, and it makes me want to break rule 2 spectacularly and in some cases cause bodily harm. As part of a team you should help people fix things. Excuses in general are bad unless specifically asked for them. if i ask when something will be done i dont want an excuse for why it isnt done already unless i ask for it.
think of better ways of doing things, communicate them through the command structure, identify areas that need improvement to your management.
15. Know the rules
know whats expected from both your customer and the manager, especially if your intending to break them. sometimes we have to work around the rules, but if we do that, there had better be a bloody good reason that will hold up if you get found out…
16. Know Why…
dont blindly do things without knowing why you are doing them. sometimes you will realise in asking that question that ideas are not always thought out as well as you had first thought.
Know whats important and what isnt important, and action them in order of importance; of course you will sometimes hold off on an important issue sometimes to clear a lot of unimportant issues before they are escallated.
Ok, i cant possibly socialise with everyone but its important to sometimes have a relaxed moment or two.
19. Know what you did
Keep track of what you have done; its important to not only know what youve done this week but to have a fair idea of what youve done in the last year. This is doubly important for contractors.
20. Formal vs Informal
Having informal relationships with the customer and other contractors is ok, but you have to be careful with this. Its ok to knowledge share to a degree providing your not breaking any confidential agreement, and that you bear in mind you are representive of your company. This can really pay dividends and give you a unique perspective on a customer situation with a client.