Episode 115 – Become a Motivated Self Learner and a Good Listener to Uncover the Future Direction of Tech with David Linthicum
Today’s guest on the IT Career Energizer podcast is David Linthicum. In 2016, he was named the #1 cloud influencer.
He has been working in the IT industry for more than 30 years. During that time he has headed up his own business and headed up 4 successful publicly traded companies as CEO. He is a top thought leader in the cloud computing sector, so his services as a speaker are in great demand. David has shared his knowledge widely, writing over 5,000 articles and 13 books. He also continues to host a weekly podcast.
(1.07) – So David, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? David explains that he is currently the Chief Cloud Strategy Officer at Deloitte Consulting. During the past 30 years, he has run his own firm and been the CEO of four publicly traded companies. All of which were all sold. He is always looking ahead. Working out what problems we will be solving and identifying how we are going to be doing that.
(1.46) – Is there anything in particular that sort of motivates you, that gives you the drive in terms of what you focus on in IT? Helping people is a huge driver for David. He enjoys helping people to leverage computing properly, to grow their businesses change directions when they want and produce great services and products. Seeing people who work with him, read his books, listen to his podcasts and books succeed, is something that David gets a kick out of.
(3.00) – David, can you maybe share a career tip, perhaps one that the audience doesn’t know and should. David’s most important piece of advice is to be willing to self learn. In his experience, they are the ones who become truly successful. They are the people who think in terms of where things are going and acquire the skills needed for the future. Often, they become interested in a particular subject and immerse themselves in it and become passionate about the subject. When they do this they automatically become great employees.
David also explained that it is important to be passionate about what you do. If you do not enjoy or get excited about your work, it is time to look for a new career.
(4.09) – So, you have touched on self-motivation, do you have any particular approaches that you use yourself? Being able to see the benefit of what your doing is a big motivator. Knowing that you are making a difference will push you out of your comfort zone a bit. But, doing so will ensure that you grow and gain recognition for your efforts. Sometimes the reward may be a long way down the road. For example, it took a couple of years for David to see and truly understand the positive impact his first book had on people. You need to figure out what it is that you find rewarding and seek out those projects that are likely to work best for you. Taking this approach will help to keep you motivated.
(5.21) – David is asked to share his worst career moment by Phil. Like most people, David made mistakes when he was young and just starting out. He started his career working for MOBIL OIL, as their Computer Services Technical Director.
David had a system that he wanted to build. One that he thought would add value, but he was not listening to anyone else. As a result, he ended up building an elaborate system that virtually nobody used.
That experience taught David that you have to test the value of your ideas. You need to weigh up the opinions of the target users, your peers and consider the market too. Combined they will provide you with the data points you need to make sure that you are building the right stuff.
(6.26) – So how do you do things differently, now? Do you have any particular tips? David’s main tip is to look at the market and what it is going to do in the future. Don’t simply read the analyst reports and use your feelings or opinion to do this. Instead, use all of the data points that you can find. You need to look at the facts to figure out where the market is going. What technology are people using? How are they leveraging the technology? What do they want to do with it next? You need to figure out where the ball is going to be kicked to next, to recognize the upcoming trends.
David has been very successful at doing that in the past 20 years, especially when it comes to cloud computing. All he did was to do the research, gather the data, put it in a line and determine what the facts said. It is not magic, you just have to take the time to do that.
(7.51) – Phil asks David what his best career moment was. David’s biggest success was AI, specifically enterprise application integration. He saw the need for this in the mid-90s and understood that AI had the potential to integrate legacy data from all of the various systems.
David immersed himself in the subject and wrote many articles about it. He also wrote a book called Enterprise Application Integration. But, he could not get it published. Everyone kept on saying no and did not understand the potential of his solution. It wasn’t until people started coming out of client-server and understood middleware that they recognized the value of what David was saying. Once the book was published, things went crazy and David’s ideas were widely adopted and implemented across the world.
Today, it is still one of the best selling IT books in the world, having sold 20,000 plus copies and been translated into 21 languages. But, getting there took great perseverance on David’s part. Having to fight so hard for his concept pushed him hard and fast ramping up his level of competence to a level far above his expectations of himself.
(10.14) – Phil says people should be able to relate to the approach that David took. Setting themselves a sort of mission is definitely a good way to progress a career. David comments that people typically start out by doing this in an incremental fashion. Even little successes are seen as big successes by your mind. They are something that you automatically build upon. So, something as simple as getting an idea implemented at work gives you the confidence to set bigger missions for yourself. Phil agrees he has also seen what a positive impact relatively small wins have on a person’s confidence levels. That in turn has a significant impact on career progression.
David goes on to say that is why you need to learn to get around the failures and move on. Every successful person has failed many times.
(11.47) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? David’s response was the fact that we are going to end up automating a lot more. We are going to be solving the last mile problem. It is finally going to be possible to leverage AI to do many of the mundane tasks we have no chance of completing.
This will increase IT’s reach and value to businesses. The work they will be able to do will have far more than monetary value. IoT and the digital economies will start to take off. David thinks that when board directors start to recognize that is happening, he will enter the most exciting phase of his career.
(13.08) – Phil shares the fact that a lot of his guests see things the same way David does. They are also noticing that IT is moving towards being the core of what their firms do rather than just being merely a support service.
David elaborates on this further. He can see innovative companies leveraging systems and tools to create disruptive technology. To drastically change the markets they are working in. More people are capitalizing on these new markets, creating new products and ways of doing things. Momentum is increasing. If you are innovative and creative you are going to own the market. Those that do not do this will simply fall by the wayside.
(14.35) – What drew you to a career in IT, David? From a very age David was building and programming computers. He owned the Timex Sinclair, a Commodore 64 and pet based computers. David loved the fact that they could make our lives better.
You could say that he started his career at 12, when he got his first computer. That is when he became a self-learner.
(15.44) – What is the best career advice you were given? David was once told to “listen to everyone”. Unless you do that, you are not going to get the 360-degree view. David ensures that he talks to everyone, even people who are low in the organization. They all have something relevant to share. Some of these ideas have changed the business pattern.
(17.03) – If you were to begin your IT career again, what would you do? David said he would start by getting directly involved in architecture. The ability to understand the strategic nature of IT is vital. You need to get above the weeds to see the whole picture, so you can produce something that works for everyone. To do this, you need to almost go from the top, down. This is because learning about how everything joins together is far harder to do when you have to go from the bottom to the top.
(18.28) – Phil asks David what career objectives he has. David said that he feels he has already achieved everything he wanted to do in his career. In fact, he was planning to retire, write some books, do a little consulting and volunteer after SVP sold.
But, that changed when the Deloitte job came along. His current role enables him to continue to do what he loves, which is to help people to solve issues by leveraging technology. Over the years, David has been involved with hundreds of enterprises. So, he is now able to act almost as a doctor would. Now, he has the ability to speak with people and diagnose the issues their organizations have. Then provide them with the solutions, which they then go on and implement.
(20.49) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? For David, that is communication. When he first started work he struggled greatly with this. He was dyslexic and was also not a good verbal communicator. However, with hard work, he became a successful writer and conference speaker. He has honed his communication skills throughout his career.
(21.53) – Phil asks David to share a final piece of career advice. It sounds like a cliché, but the best advice he received to find work that he was passionate about. A great piece of advice that his father gave him.
(2.40) DAVID – “I get a kick out of people who I work for being successful.”
(4.36) DAVID – “If you’re going to become somebody who’s very much self-motivated, you kind of have to get into the work and reward kind of way of doing it.”
(6.44) DAVID – “The market doesn’t care about your opinion. So, ultimately, we have to look at what the facts are, where the markets going, what technology people are leveraging.”
(7.33) DAVID – “The secret is that there’s no secret and there’s just a lot of hard work that comes into you understanding where things are going.”
(11.29) DAVID – “Every successful person out there, I mean, to a person, has failed many times. And the reality is that they learn from the failure, they move on, and they build upon it.”
(12.26) DAVID – “ITs reach within the value of the enterprise is going to be a lot more, you know, than just a simple cost centre.”
(13.18) PHIL– “Some companies are more than now technology companies that have a business, if you see what I mean, rather than a business for the technology supporting function.”