12 effective habits of indispensable IT pros

Ditch the slackers, take on dirty work, do it with data -- here's how to get the inside track on a highly rewarding career in IT

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"Even if you start small and informally over brown bags in the break room, it is a very cool way to step outside the norm and boost your career," he says. "By making the technical terms clearer to the business people, and by making the business terms clearer to the technical people, you can quickly become the go-to guy for your boss when he needs something technical explained to save the day," he says.

The opposite is also true. By meeting with the business side, you'll grow more familiar with their needs and concerns, as well as how they communicate, says Jay McVinney, CEO of DBA in a Box, a provider of on-demand support for Microsoft SQL Server databases.

"The most common failure of technical people is the lack of understanding of the business side," he says. "To be effective in the future, a technical person must learn key business concepts, learn the industry language spoken by their business units, and be able to translate freely and fluently between technical and business units."

Effective IT habit No. 6: Ditch the slackers, find a mentor

Hanging with a crew that likes to take long lunches and knock off at five (or earlier)? You're not doing your career any good, says David Maxfield, author of "Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success," a book about alter your career-limiting habits.

"The habits that hold you back are likely enabled, tolerated, or encouraged by others," he says. "Use positive peer pressure by surrounding yourself with hardworking friends who share your career goals. Distance yourself from the office slackers."

Instead, Maxfield advises you seek someone with more experience to steer your career in a positive direction. "Find a trusted mentor," he says. "That will help you navigate the career development opportunities that exist within the organization."

Effective IT habit No. 7: Do it with data

If your business users aren't drowning in information now, they will be soon. Taming the data deluge will make you invaluable to any organization.

"IT people who can make sense of business data, safely store it, categorize it, retrieve it, and especially analyze it are highly valuable," notes Scott Lever, a managing consultant with PA Consulting Group. "These are the people who are using customer data to help drive business decisions."

George Mathew, president and COO of business analytics platform vendor Alteryx, predicts one of the hottest jobs in tech over the next few years will be the "data artisan," a hybrid role that mixes data analysis with business savvy,  pulling market insight, competitive information, and customer data into business intelligence systems.

"Data artisans will be asked to pull from structured and unstructured sources to drive the most important decisions within an organization -- like where it should open its next retail location, whether to pursue a new market, and which products to push," he says.

Effective IT habit No. 8: Take on jobs no one else wants

Safe, predictable jobs won't get you into trouble, but they won't earn you any glory either. It's the tough jobs where you can prove your value, says John Paul Engel, principal for Knowledge Capital Consulting, a boutique management consulting firm.

"The best career advice I ever received was from then president of Citibank California who told me, 'Look for the biggest problem and solve it because there in lies your greatest opportunity'," he says.

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