4 Ways Tech Employees Can Be Exceptional at a New Job

Posted by Ben Weiss on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 @ 11:09 AM

By: Ben Weiss (@InfusiveInc)


Last week, Infusive released an article describing how several technical leaders in the greater New York area differentiate exceptional résumés and interview performances from the rest of the pack.

Going further, we thought it would be equally important to understand the characteristics these technical employers look for in exceptional employees once they’re actually on board.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how a few IT hiring managers in New York City identify their most promising new recruits.

Note: The leaders quoted in this piece were chosen for the challenging and rewarding technical environments they represent. Consequently, if you can measure up to their definition of exceptional, you’ll be in good shape.

But, first remember:

  • It is unlikely your new manager will differentiate you as exceptional or less-than-so based on technical skills alone. Why? Because if you’ve made it onto the team at a company with a robust IT department, odds are you’re baseline abilities were vetted thoroughly and approved during the interview process.

  • All of the factors below remain important throughout your tenure with an employer but are especially important in building an ‘exceptional’ foundation with a new firm.

  • Balancing the continued refinement of your technical prowess on top of mastering the skills below will help fuel an ongoing perception of you as an exceptional employee.

Now to the point.

1) Become Intimately Familiar with Your Expectations: Exceptional new employees don’t get surprised at their first performance evaluation because they’ve ascertained what’s expected of them so they can not only meet but exceed those expectations (more on that below) without stepping on anyone’s toes.

Takeaway: Exceptional employees talk with managers and colleagues right off the bat to ensure there is deep understanding of their responsibilities and authority.

2) Aggressively Get to Know the Environment: According to Tom Stazzone, Director of Information Technology at Epiq Systems, a global provider of managed technology for the global legal profession, developing intricate knowledge of a particular environment is critical to a new technical employee’s success.

“Often times the first task [I assign to new employees] is to get to know the environment because understanding server names, naming conventions, IP schemes and access information is crucial to the success of IT staff,” says Stazzone. “If you’re here for a few weeks and don’t understand or take the initiative learn those basic components, you probably will not make it out of the probationary period.”

Takeaway: Exceptional employees can expertly navigate their company’s infrastructure so developing deep understanding of the way a particular environment operates is critical to success during the onboarding period.

3) Responsiveness: We once had a candidate starting at a financial services firm when on his second week, he stepped out of the office for a mid-morning snack. Not unreasonable. However, his fatal flaw was ignoring his managers repeated attempts to get ahold of him and ascertain where he was. Consequently, without proper justification for his communication breakdown, he was promptly let go.

Far from exceptional behavior.

The lesson here is that responsiveness is key in illustrating you take your job seriously; a requirement virtually every manager is looking for (especially those evaluating a new hire).

For example, Stazzone explains he utilizes the onboarding period to ensure candidates aren’t taking advantage of the company’s time and resources.

“Perhaps we have an outage situation and we reach out to all staff members to join a conference bridge,” says Stazzone. “Even if [a new technical hire] can’t assist, I expect to see their participation on the call for future reference so there’s at least an understanding of what’s going on and to assist in the prevention of repeating the same issue. New associates who insert themselves and show team spirit right out of the gate are usually long lasting employees. ”

Takeaway: Being responsive illustrates dedication to your post and failing to make yourself available could detract from your positive perception, even if you’re technical skills themselves are exceptional.

Not a nice to have4) Proactivity: Employees just beginning their relationship with an employer can best illustrate they’re not just capable of completing tasks, but propelling the firm forward with appropriate, proactive behaviors. Here are a few that are likely to lay the framework for you to be considered a rockstar employee once you settle into maturation.

Pick Up the Slack: An excellent strategy for yielding positive recognition is to learn the jobs of those around and above you and then demonstrating mastery of those skills when the opportunity presents itself (for example, when colleagues out sick or on vacation or when requests are piling up in the queue). These could be big chances for you to show your internal fire and your qualifications for top-flight projects.

Make Suggestions: You’ll be hard pressed to find a technical manager who isn’t interested in team members who proactively suggest strategies, technologies, processes or otherwise that would improve performance, stability or customer/client satisfaction because ...

It Shows You’re Informed: With the pace at which Information Technology evolves and changes, exceptional technical employees are the ones engaged in lifelong learning, keeping up with the trends and tools emerging around their skill set. Consequently, scratching your employer’s itches with innovative solutions will often illustrate your ability to move the firm forward since your ear is kept close to the ground.

You Can Supplement Managerial Knowledge: While many excellent managers come from a technical background and maintain some degree of hands-on abilities, the nature of a managerial role often necessitates a migration away from day-to-day technical tasks. Therefore, you can become heavily relied upon when you prove able to help the firm keep pace.

It Shows You Can Think Independently: One CTO in the exceptional résumé/interview piece explains employees that take a company furthest are those who can not only do but think. With that in mind, proactively making valuable suggestions is an excellent way to prove you’re not coming to work just for the paycheck but to help your firm be the best it can be.

In fact, many top managers consider useful proposals a necessity, especially for tech employees earning their stripes during the onboarding period.

“I always have an open door policy for all staff members and welcome discussions of how we can improve as a company,” says Stazzone. “Actually, that’s a requirement. That’s not a nice-to-have. Our engineers make very good salaries and I expect them to bring new ideas to the table, and I want to see that start in their first thirty days and continue to expand in different technical areas as they become familiar with the environment. One topic that can bring a great discussion is analyzing single points of failures and making suggestions to improve stability .”

Consider though that [a passion to know what’s new] “can be a double edged sword and really is a balance,” says Frank Fitzgerald, Partner/Director of Technology for quantitative financial management firm O'Shaughnessy Asset Management. “Some programmers are fixated on what they know and don't progress to utilize the newer functions in a language architecture. For example I have met programmers in C# who still are not using LINQ which is astounding to me. On the other hand I have programmers that would love to jump into the new technology before it has matured and the functionality has progressed, which can be a waste of time.”

Takeaway: The onboarding period often sets the tone for the rest of your employment with that particular firm. Therefore,  it’s wise to start on the right foot by tactfully taking advantage of the opportunities around you without overstepping your bounds.

Related Posts:

New York Tech Leaders Define "Exceptional" Résumés and Interview Performances

The Counter Intuitive Part of Building Credibility in Information Technology

Why You Need to Network (Even When You're Employed)


Infusive Solutions - a technology placement firm in NYC - showcases several of its most recent jobs.


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Infusive Solutions is one of the premier technology staffing companies in the Greater New York area. We specialize in placing software developers, Windows engineers, DBAs and helpdesk support professionals in a broad range of industries and our talent specialists would always be happy to provide a detailed salary analysis and comparison candidates for any search.

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