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Hi, This is Wayne. This is my site, my stuff, my blog, blahblahblah. The site itself is powered by WordPress and the Scary Little theme. I thought it was cool, and I still do.

August
9
2007
10:25 am
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I’m losing touch.

We (our IT dept) just brought up a new Jabber server, running OpenFire on a CentOS distribution of Linux and we support a lot of Trillian clients.  And I didn’t do it – someone else in our group did.  And they did a great job.  Why does that make me feel bad?

For the unititiated, I wrote a brief description of each of the terms used above (Jabber, OpenFire, CentOS and Trillian) in the extended entry, below.

I’m usually the one who does the cool new stuff.  I bring up this or that cool new implementation of whatever and then spread it around.  In the past, this has been Sharepoint, a whole call center, an inventory system, web analytics, you name it.  But more and more, I’m not the one doing those things.  The other people on my team are.  And they’re doing a good job.

Example 1: Jabber.  In no time, we have a new Jabber server and I didn’t have anything to do with it.  Now we have a secure, open messaging platform that’s FREE for our ~500 employees to use to chat, and it’s mostly self-administrating in that the openfire server talks with our Active Directory system so people automatically get created and it just plain works.

Example 2: file dropbox.  We needed a better way to transfer files to each other and to/from customers than an open FTP server (big security risk) or email (painfully slow and bad for our email servers).  So another of our guys went out and got some open source software, a spare server and now we have a production Dropbox server so people can use their web browser to securely drop off files to/from customers.

Example 3: SMS.  Microsoft has a management suite called SMS that lets you automate the deployment of operating systems and software packages to users’ machines, and it has some inventory capabilities.  We rely on SMS heavily at work, and I didn’t have anything to do with it’s installation or implementation.  That’s huge to me.

What is it about letting go of these projects that is so hard?  I’ve been told many many times over the last 10 years from various bosses that “Wayne, you need to stop thinking of yourself as an individual contributor.  You’re a manager (or director) now.”

I’m IT Director of a company that’s gone from $2M revenue to over $150M in 6 years.  In those early days, we would not have survived if I stopped being an individual contributor.  Now we’re bigger, and sure, there are more projects and more people to do the projects, but it’s still hard to give up the doing.

Maybe my motto all along has been – “I do.  That’s what I do.”  I still have a hard time being the one who plans.  Or the one who manages.  I like doing.  I like building, architecting, teaching.

Is this narcissism, always wanting to be the star?

Here are some more details about the terms I used at the beginning.

Jabber

Jabber is an instant messaging protocol, like AOL’s AIM, Yahoo’s chat client, MSN Messenger, etc.   It lets two or more people chat, but unlike the others I mentioned, it’s open source (free), secure and extensible.  Let’s say you want people inside a company to chat with each other and have that communication encrypted.  And you don’t want to have to buy the software needed to do that.  Jabber can fit that need.

OpenFire

OpenFire is one of those open source server packages you can download and install for free.  Think of it as your own private AOL chat server.  It doesn’t hurt that OpenFire is rated at 97% of “feature score” at the jabber site, so it really gives a ton of features.

CentOS / Linux

A lot of people know Linux as an open source operating system.  What this means is you can run a Linux mail server or Linux web server (or phone system, or chat system) and not have to pay any software licensing costs for the underlying operating system.  Compare this to paying Microsoft for Server 2003 or Sun for Solaris 10 or IBM for AS400 code and it opens up a lot more people to the possibility of running servers.

However, even in the land of Linux, you can still end up paying fees to a company.  Like Redhat.  Here at the company we embraced a number of Redhat installs and chose that over FreeBSD or Debian because for $300/yr we could buy a license, get support, and get updates throughout the year (up2date).  But even that is more expensive than free.  Sure, it’s less expensive than Microsoft from a licensing standpoint, but one might argue that the administrative cost of keeping Linux-qualified people on staff vs MS-qualified people is something worth considering.

Enter CentOS.  CentOS is a lot like Redhat, but for us it became easier to install, and we still get the updates.  Basically you slap in the CentOS CD to a new server, run through maybe 5 questions and BAM the server’s up, secure, up to date and ready to go.

If I were trying to manage 10 or 20 servers, I don’t know that I’d care one way or the other.  But we have more than 200 between the data centers, so it all adds up.

Trillian

Trillian is a multi-protocol chat client.  So instead of having AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, an ICQ client, etc all installed on your computer, you can use one and it can connect to all those systems.  For example, I use Trillian Pro, and I have an AOL ID, a Yahoo ID, an MSN ID and an ICQ number.  I can use one chat client, one set of skins, one set of preferences and connect to people on all those systems.

And lo, the people did comment thus:

9 Comments

  1. michelle says:

    Hi Wayne. Sorry to say it but yes, it is narcissistic.

    In addition, it is a dangerous mindset with respect to your corporate goals and career. You have always had two problems:
    1. Delegation of work
    2. Teamwork

    You have a fantastic skill set. But you don’t work well in teams. I am not saying you don’t get along with others. You just haven’t developed the team mentality. When you fail to truly lead a team, you and your team both lose out on their greatest potential.

    Even when you are the “doer”, and not the “leader”, you must learn to appreciate the value of a team, rather than what you produce solely. You must also learn how to build self-sufficient teams and let go. If you are going to be the leader, you must NOT teach your team members of the glory of doing something solely. In order to provide the most effective results for the company, you must teach your team to share the work, experience, and tap into the top skills of the team as a group; not individually.

    Being a leader is much more than delegation. You are shaping these individuals to lead one day. How you teach them to lead is extremely important. And the first step is to teach them the value of teamwork, and teach them the value of not working alone.

    Refer to John Maxwell’s “The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork”, and his leadership book.

    You are responsible for growing that team professionally and emotionally. This includes teaching them all about true leadership. They learn by example, and they are learning the wrong things by your behavior.

  2. whall says:

    But the glory is the fun part :). I’m objectivist in that way (see Ayn Rand). I guess I’m more interested in being the ‘IT guy’ who knows and can do just about anything vs the ‘IT Director’ who shuffles projects, priorities, etc around. Fortunately I’m still in an area where I have enough to do/teach that I don’t have to lose my mind.

    And as usual, you’re right.

  3. michelle says:

    You entirely miss the point of objectivism. That philosophy is not relevant to your issue. When it comes to objectivism, you won’t win any debate with me on it. I can run circles around you on what it truly is. 🙂

    The problem with being an “end all be all” to the IT department is that you actually become a liability to the company. You are not doing the corporation any service by being a superstar. I have learned this through personal experience and a fantastic manager that required us not only to study leadership and teamwork, but to practically demonstrate it for our reviews. I didn’t do so well. It was really hard for me, and still is, because I am very much like you.

    Do what you like. Don’t do what you don’t like. We talked about that already. But with respect to leadership and teamwork, and the principles behind the same, you would do a service to yourself to begin to acclimate to it, learn it and profit from it by providing the means to boost yourself, your team and the corporation.

    Otherwise, you will just be another dispensible liability; not indispensible; and that’s exactly the environment you are creating for yourself.

  4. whall says:

    Yeah, like I said, you’re right.

    I just don’t like it.

  5. michelle says:

    Rarelyh does anyone like what I have to say, unfortunately.

  6. whall says:

    _so_ not true 🙂

  7. Ren says:

    I must take issue with the characterization of a superstar being a liability for a company. Certainly a risk, but not a liability; and risk, properly managed, is not a bad thing. There are certainly many examples of superstars in corporate America that have a significant positive effect on their company (as well as examples of where the risk comes to fruition). In fact, two examples of both that come to mind are Steve Jobs and Martha Stewart. Now, for all I know Martha Stewart is a great team motivator, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that she is a huge individual contributor. And there are countless anecdotes about how much Steve Jobs is not a team player.

    Being a star has its place and a good manager can provide the proper environment for both the stars and the team players to shine and even complement each other. Of course, if someone needs all of the glory, then that is a different problem.

  8. michelle says:

    Hi Ren. Long time no talk. I hope you are doing well.

    You are right. I should have represented my thoughts better. Of course it is okay to be a superstar. I am glad you brought that up, because I began to feel uncomfortable with saying that it is not, but I couldn’t edit my post.

    My biggest concern with “superstardom” is the lack of team playing skills that I have seen in the past. Additionally, from personal experience, I have pigeon-holed myself too many times being a superstar for a particular product.

    On an off-shoot, one of the negative aspects of being attached to an application is that we become a commodity; the goal is to be able to affect the business through IT by being an innovator, a good leader, and an effective team player. Superstardom has it’s place, most certainl y, but we have to also learn to work with others’ best assets to provide the best solutions and ROI for the company.

  9. Poppy says:

    W, IT directors direct people. Let it go. But it means you’re awesome that you’re having a hard time doing so. My buddy Break Boy is the head of the sysadmin group and he has the same problem with projects. He is responsible for our Jabber server and many cool things we have implemented, but he now has a team of 7 who share the work. He’s too busy managing them to do it all but he still wants to do it all. 🙂

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