Today’s guest is Khris Hruska. Khris and I will discuss technology change. How things have changed in his 26+ years in the business as far as people, attitudes, and personal advancement. Khris has been a mentor to many over the years (myself included) and his viewpoints are honest and insightful. Listen in to hear how this ex-military man who had an mind for journalism ended up in IT with the rest of us and found an environment he could thrive in and help others do the same.
- Recently celebrated a birthday and got a cheesecake from me
- In IT for 26 years
- Started out wanting to be a journalist and worked in radio
- Turning point was last year in the service. Division officer came in and told Khris to learn desktop publishing software with no advanced computer knowledge
- Jumped in over a sleepless weekend and had a desktop publishing piece setup for the Navy
- Xerox based system running Adobe PageMaker back in the day. Had to fix it when it broke
- Got out of the service and thought journalism would be still be the plan, but this tech stuff kept cropping up.
- Started as an art director at a magazine. Was told to setup a bunch of Macs in a network for desktop publishing…which he had also never done
- His experience served well and he became a trainer and trained on graphics applications
A Project Manager is born
- From there, a person approached about getting two computers to talk and that’s how he started in networking. Which folded into application development and project management in many areas such as an Infrastructure PM. Did PM in public sector, app development, telephony and many others.
- His Boss told him he could either be a technical person or a project manager but not both. But Khris wanted to do both and be that technical PM. It was a lot easier to estimate timeframes when you had the knowledge yourself
- Additionally, IT people on projects would respond better when you had the background
Self-developed, self-made IT guy
- “One big lesson is your going to have to evolve.”
- Constantly reinvent yourself and learn on the fly. You won’t always be able to do sit down training
- These days he is the Director of information security at MSX International.
- Like many organizations around MSX’s size, they have determined InfoSec is not something that should be under Operations
- InfoSec needs to be able to manage applications and Infrastructure.
- Lot of conversations is going to the cloud and discussing what are the right policies for them to follow. The cloud makes a big difference these days. GDPR also comes into play very much so these days for a global company
- It’s an interesting program so far. He gets to build something from scratch. Looking at all the applications out there today and going through the POCs to evaluate what makes sense
- Security team is small and very compliance focused. Scope has increased and now there is a need to look at as few panes of glass as possible.
- Security can either be heavy handed and slow down the development of technology or it can be something that helps start a great foundation with the development team and Operations and drive the tech the right way
- “The ability of you to relate to the technology and how it can be used in your business is critical “
- If you can’t get out of bed to go to work in the morning, then you are probably in the wrong job”
- Organization have become so lean in the last 10years it’s hard to be of value without having multiple evolving skill sets
- “You need to have a primary, secondary, and a tertiary skillset” and those things have to always be in development so you are a fully-fledged member of the organization
- Being in the tech world can be like you are in the military. Constantly being deployed, under pressure, and long hours.
- There is no place to hide anymore. The organization needs your passion and skills
- If you have an org that is constantly in maintenance mode it’s not as engaging
- You have to be willing to step out and get out of your comfort zone to get the type of opportunities
- IT is like being the new doctor at parties. People are interested and intrigued by technology and they want to know more and ask questions.
- Unless you are willing to get out there and outside your comfort zone, it makes it difficult for you to be considered to lead that next big initiative
- It’s tough when you have never done something before and you are doing it for the first time
- Example: Right now, doing an integration for an HRIS package. There is a weird integration package between it and AD. So, it’s hacking their way through it and learning as they go.
No place to hide
- For the generalist, there isn’t any place to hide any more
- There are more places where you need to be a utility player and be able to move around
- “All experience is good experience because it helps you leverage where you go into the future”
- In the 90s, you started in 1st level support. Stayed there for a couple years. Then you got the break to be level 2. You could walk and connect and you’d do that for a coupe, years. Then you got to level 3. Supporting Telcom or AD and you did that for 3-4 years. Now its not like that. It accelerates much more quickly. So, you have to be ready and nimble.
- In the old way of staff development, you had a straightforward succession plan. There was always someone who was marinating in the rotation. Now, not so much. So, you need to make a conscious effort to make sure a person is well rounded to move quickly. The moves can happen in 24 months instead of 5 years.
- The mentoring component is different today than it used to be. The apprentice was the person who would run around with you and learn from you. Now, the people coming in seem more adaptable than before. They are more integrated into the technology. They can find information faster than previous generations.
- Previously, we would go to a bookstore and pickup the latest tech book. Then work through it and gain experience. Then go to a boot camp and take a cert exam and apply all that together and you were ready. Now, you don’t do that. You get the cert without the experience more so than before.
Development, development, development
- “I don’t ever want to be the smartest person in the room. I want people in the room smarter than me so those idea can find their way up.”
- People coming in now don’t have the historical background, so it makes it more difficult to integrate into these situations. People coming in today have a better work life balance than previously.
- In the team collaborative environment. Everyone is sharing information. That didn’t happen as much previously. So, that technology change is a good thing to see. Everyone shares everything now for the most part.
- No reason or need to shelter and not share that information. We need to be open and honest about it.
The slow roll
- In the 90s, an IT person was thought of as a wizard. It was more utilitarian back then. IT was developed to allow collaboration. Now, we are much more reliant on IT. Executives don’t have to understand exactly how it all works, but they need to iterate faster
- Many large organization have a very slow method to roll-out technology change. You can’t do that now and the executive team recognizes that. They recognizance technology is a disruption and moves quicker
- It’s gone from being a dark art to being more in the front room and the business value is better understood. What’s also happened is it allows IT to branch out into other areas beyond technology functions.
- It used to be you had the goal of being a CIO and that was it. But now that has expanded.
- IT is still kept at an arm’s length in many areas only because it is not fully understood. It is getting better however. Executives are less scared than they once were.
- For IT, you need to be able to speak with anyone in the organization much more. Gone are the days of staying in a corner with Mountain Dew and red blinking lights.
- Technologists need to be able to communicate. They need to make technology appear as appealing and friendly as possible. You also need to be able to communicate in different media. Writing, presentations, face to face spontaneous conversations.
- “You do these communications enough, it becomes easier and easier to get your points across.”- Tony V
- An executive doesn’t always need you crush it out of the park every time. They need to you to also hit singles and show you can do the day to day and prove you can handle those larger initiatives that come up later. Get to know your executives. It’s important. Ask about their pain points and how you can help.
Talk and inspire
- You always get the talk one day. There is an opportunity for you and it’s the management talk. It’s a hard thing. Many hard-core tech folks will thing they can’t be a hardcore tech person if they are a manager. Khris doesn’t think that at all.
- Applying all these skills we pickup as we go along through businesses are extremely helpful. Project Management base skills can be very important and are a good tool to use to work into your personal building.
- The talk to inspire you to cross over from a pure tech resource shouldn’t scare you. The struggle is figuring out how to be a good manager. You will make mistakes. Recognize it and talk to those who you think are good managers and ask how they became a good manager. Often, good managers will be more than happy to share that information.
- Borrow liberally from people who you work with to make yourself a better manager. You are a Frankenstein monster of all those different pieces you are exposed to and can use to make yourself a good manager.
- Tech people are different. They can be isolated. They tend to not be extroverts. Find the right things to talk with in working with IT people. Find out what motivates them. They are all different and you need to change your approach for each person.