[my article originally posted at ITMartini]
As IT professionals, we spend many years developing our crafts, and investing in our careers. Along the way, we have all probably been fortunate enough to get help from many sources, including colleagues and mentors who decided to take the time to share their knowledge and experience with us. As a result, we grow in our profession, and for most of us we inevitably ask the question – what can I do to give back, and make the same investment in others that someone made in me? Fortunately, there are many ways in which we can ‘return the favor’ in the IT community, and by doing so, make a positive impact on our industry.
For some, the thought of public speaking is frightening. Ironically, the best way to get over that fear is to do more of it. And if you can overcome your hesitations about public speaking, you’ll find that it’s both a great way to share what you know with others, as well as demonstrate your own level of expertise. You can speak at local events relevant to your field, and talk about topics that you’ve dealt with on your job which might resonate with others in your line of work. In addition to sharing your expertise, you can also share your experience. There are many local organizations who would love to have someone come speak to their group about the positive and negative aspects of your career or industry. You could speak to high school groups with students who are considering going into the IT field. Or speak to members of non-profit organizations interested in facilitating knowledge-share session on IT topics. Perhaps even your own religious or social groups would be interested in having you speak on a topic.
Giving away your knowledge may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s actually a great way to gain a relevant perspective on what you’ve learned over the years, and helps foster your own credibility as an expert in your field. Not only that, but studies show that your own understanding on a subject increases when you attempt to teach it to someone else. In addition to these benefits, there are many opportunities to teach what you know to others in your local community. Many schools are looking for technical professionals to serve as an instructor for their students, whether in the classroom or online. And youth organizations like TechCorps or BDPA HSCC are always looking for volunteers to teach youth computer skills that they can use to pursue careers in technology.
No, I don’t mean pull out your phone and mentor someone via SMS. But I do suggest that by sharing our expertise and experience through writing, we can find another avenue in which to give back. In today’s world, one of the easiest ways to do this is by starting a blog. This can come in many forms. You may find that you simply want to keep an online ‘journal’ of your saga as an IT professional. Or you may take the more technical route and share technology-specific information about problems you’ve solved, and how you did it. Both have value to others who may find your blog, and you may soon find your writings being followed by others who are interested in your perspectives. Writing can also come by way of social media – learn to stay involved in social forums like Twitter, LinkedIn Groups, or any other online platform where other IT professionals come together to discuss issues and challenges in your industry. Not only can you learn from these forums, but your participation and contributions can be helpful to others following a career path similar to your own.
There’s no limit to the number of creative ways you can find for giving back to the IT community. Pick any one and get started – you’ll find that it not only gives you a better perspective on your own experiences, but helps strengthen and grow our IT community as well.
-Graphic art courtesy of http://gilbertyoungart.com/