Episode 100 – Move Your IT Career Forward and Play Your Part in Changing the World with Phil Burgess
Today’s episode of the I.T. Career Energizer Podcast is the 100th in the series, so it is a bit different, something special. Today, it is Phil Burgess himself who is being interviewed by John Sonmez. Phil first got involved in the IT industry in the mid-90s. He has developed and implemented new systems across numerous industries. Today, his focus is on helping others to develop their IT careers. He does so for everyone from absolute beginners to seasoned professionals.
(00.31) – Phil starts, by introducing John Sonmez, who was his very first podcast guest. Today, it is John who is going to be asking the questions and Phil who will be answering them.
(1.32) – John starts by congratulating Phil on his 100th episode. A remarkable achievement, especially when you consider that most podcasters only record around 7 episodes before giving up. John thanks Phil for inspiring so many in the coding and development industry.
(3.24) – In true I.T. Career Energizer podcast tradition, John asks Phil to share a unique career tip. Phil says that it is vital to look at your plans and goals, so that you can understand where your career is going. He encourages people to put together a five-year plan. Of course, no IT career is linear and the industry moves fast. So, the plan is just a guide to give you some direction and a way of recognizing where you are. Setting a guiding goal will help you to navigate through the ever-changing world of IT. Particularly, when you regularly review and tweak your plan. Phil explains that pairing a long-term plan with short-term goals is especially helpful. Short-term goals like learning a language, taking on a public speaking engagement, attending more conferences or writing articles are all helpful. Setting goals like these will help you to identify the best ways to grow your skills, network and ultimately move your career forward.
(5.24) – At this point, Phil is asked to share his worst career moment. For Phil 4 or 5 years into his career he attended a meeting with senior management and a director. The project was not going well, so the director was trying to motivate everyone and identify the issues. At one point, the director asked a technical question that had clearly been fed to him. When Phil answered it became apparent that the director had no real understanding of the issue, so could not really follow the response. Instead of seeking more understanding, the director tried to belittle Phil in front of about 15 senior managers. It felt terrible. But, it taught Phil the importance of understanding your audience. John says he has had a few similar experiences. It reminds him of one of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, one of which is “never outshine the master”.
(8.25) – How about your career highlight? For Phil being able to help others with their careers is the thing he enjoys the most. Running the podcast has enabled him to do this for more people, so for him this has been a career highlight. He has also enjoyed meeting and speaking to so many great professionals. As well as getting feedback from his audience and answering their questions.
(11.18) – John asks Phil to share one thing that excites him about the future of a career in IT. Phil says the fact that the possibilities are limitless is the most exciting thing. He went on to say that “the genie is out of the bottle”. In the future, there will be opportunities that we cannot even conceive of right now. John concurs, for example, the idea of a driverless car would have been inconceivable up until a few years ago. Phil commented on the fact that technology touches every aspect of our lives and moves really fast. He goes on to speak about the amazing rate at which the motor car replaced the horse-drawn carriage. In just over a decade, a New York City road went from having one car and dozens of horses on it, in a photo, to being full of Model T. Fords. A strong example of just how fast technology changes our lives.
(13.19) – What first attracted you to a career in IT? Phil explains that at university he did a building survey course, something that had nothing to do with technology, whatsoever. As part of the course he was introduced to AutoCAD which was running on Unix systems. For him, it was fascinating. By the time he left university, he was torn between pursuing an IT career working in the building surveyor field. Phil did not know what to do, so he took a local job with a pharmaceutical company. Fortunately, they were in the process of implementing a brand new system that a small software house had built for them. Phil got involved and off the back of that he was offered work by the software firm. That was it, Phil had officially commenced his IT career.
(14.50) – What is the best career advice you were given? Phil paraphrased the best piece of advice he has received, so far, by saying – “It’s all about the delivery of the message and be able to bring your message to life.” Someone he has worked for, a few times, explained to him that he needed to use stories and examples to add color to the message you are delivering. You have to make it come alive to catch people’s attention and help them to understand and recognize the importance of your message.
(15.49) – If you were to start your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Says he would be trying out as many things as he can before settling on something more specific. In particular, he would attend as many conferences as possible, listening, learning and evaluating. He also said that he would focus more on solving problems rather than the actual technology used.
(16.31) – What career objectives are you focusing on? Phil wants to grow his reach and influence so that he can help as many people as possible. He is also keen to finish his first book and get it published. Phil also says he wants to make sure that he keeps his podcast going strong.
(17.20) – What’s the number one non-technical skill that has helped you in your career? Listening is Phil’s number one non-technical skill. Really listening, rather than simply waiting for the break in the conversation, so you can make your point. Actually, hearing, absorbing and understanding what the other person is trying to say, then, taking the time to think before giving your response.
(18.23) – John asks Phil for a parting piece of advice. Phil says you need to remember that “it’s your career.” Of course, you need to achieve the appraisal goals set out by the company you work for. But, you also need to make sure that what you achieve your own goals. It is up to you to progress your career, to learn what you need to know and make sure that you work on the right projects.
(1.05) JOHN – “The IT industry is growing fast and going through a heap of challenges and it won’t get better by accident. Thank you so much for playing your part.”
(4.21) PHIL – “People need to set maybe a five-year plan in place, in terms of where they’re going.”
(6.49) PHIL – “Understand your audience when you’re actually responding to things like questions.”
(8.57) PHIL – “I’m quite keen to empower people.”
(17.37) PHIL – “The ability to actually listen and think about what you’re hearing before responding, is a really good skill to develop.”
(19.25) PHIL – “Think about what you want. Take ownership and responsibility of your own career.”
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