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Tech Manager—Running on Empty: Tips for Refilling Your Tech Tank

Last month, I asked, ”What Have I Done for You Lately?”. I talked about what you have been doing for others and your company. I encouraged you to write down everything that transpires, because you do so much that it might be easy for you (and others) to forget. I suggested keeping a journal and tracking accomplishments (not to brag), but to remind others of your value. It also helps you remember key dates and decisions. Then you can answer those that tend to forget how often you help others.

Now, I move on to what you can, and should, do for yourself. Don’t forget to provide what you might need to reinvigorate your efforts, sharpen your focus, or bring clarity to your visions of the future. Let’s take a quick stab at what you might want to do for yourself.

You have a personal Tech Tank that gets filled and then gets used, and used, and used. You need to refill it so that you are not running on empty. Just like the gas tank in your car, sometimes we have a full tank and can make some great progress. Other times it seems like we are running on fumes. Personal disclosure: I run way past empty all the time in my car. The estimated range for miles I can drive my car, tells me, has gone to zero many times and I just keep driving. I take it as a challenge to see how far past “empty” I can drive. This may leave me stranded on the side of the road if I guess wrong. May it never be like that with my tech skills, knowledge, and desire. I want a full tank. I do not want to run on empty. I do not want to be stranded.

We all go through flat periods in our work life. Things just don’t ramp up the way we expect. Cycles are expected. But snapping out of them should be our focus. Our “Tech” accounts, on many levels, need to be refilled and topped off so that you can draw on those resources when we need to fuel the future. Your tank gets drained as people need technology support and efforts from you. You must fill it from time to time to ensure it is there when you need it most.

Tips for Refilling Your Tech Bank Account

Research Some Tech

Tech changes so quickly that we all need to stay up with the latest trends. We have to do it with purpose. We have to follow up on innovative ideas no matter where they come from. I have followed up on leads from junk emails (no – I did not click the links, I searched apart from the email). I chase down ideas that are mentioned in meetings. I make notes about something that was said in passing on a webinar. I dig into items that family members mention at holidays or birthday parties. I investigate things I hear on the radio, TV, or while surfing the web. I do not spend hours doing it. I may see that some ideas are out of our league rather than quickly and move on. Others may take more searching. But I do the research, the reading, and the pondering. As I do this, the needle moves a little from E to F.

Buy Some Tech

Moving from research to purchases for the entire firm is a first step. When you look at technology and find something that might benefit the company, you need to get your hands on it. Buying technology tools needs to happen on a small scale at first. It might be a trial version or you may have to buy it. Your budget should have some funds devoted to R&D (if you followed my advice from the budgeting articles in the past). Now is the time to spend that funding. Get copies for yourself and if it looks promising, get copies for others and get their input.

Play with Tech

Whether you get it free, buy it or already have it, you need to actually play with tech to get a good feel on if it will work for your environment. As you know, not every tool does what it claims to do. Not every tech supplies what you might need. There are tons of features and many processes that might be improved, but unless it scratches where you itch, it may not be a good fit. Some of the best advances I have made is with software and hardware we already own that is not used to its fullest. I dig and dig into the tools that we use every day and review the features list months after an upgrade to see what we may be missing out on.

Get Yourself Something

Get a new phone. Add a second or third monitor. Upgrade your laptop. Buy that software utility to address that lingering little annoyance that you keep putting off. We usually are good at budgeting and buying technology for the firm and others, but we may seldom buy something just for ourselves. Don’t forget to treat yourself. Seeing what new tech can do for you personally can open your eyes to things that might work for others.

Delegate More

Need some free time for the above items? Then ask others to help by taking on some of your load. Even if they do not work for you, there are others in your firm that would love to help you get your job done. Define some things that can be delegated to others. There are plenty of people that can do an excellent job of making progress on your initiatives. Allow them to do some research. Ask them to test out new tools. Get them to try another process that you think might be a better way. Let them have input.

Do the Obvious

Get some training. Video training, online webinars (you must get as many email invites as I do). Attend an event in your local area. Full day or half day, these can be a gold mine when you need to see what is happening in technology. Join a User Group, listen to a peer give a talk. Talk to others at the events and compare notes. Take a mental health day, just go to the park with the kids.

Take some time to rejuvenate your skills, perspectives and focus as well as time to play with the tech tools that may soon define the future of your firm. Move your needle fully to “Full” so that when you are called on to make tech progress, you have what it takes to get to your destination.

Mark Kiker has more than 25 years of hands-on experience with technology. He is fully versed in every area of management from deployment planning, installation, and configuration to training and strategic planning. As an internationally known speaker and writer, he is a returning speaker at Autodesk University since 1996. Mark is currently serving as Director of IT for SIATech, a non-profit public charter high school focused on dropout recovery. He maintains two blog sites, www.caddmanager.com and www.bimmanager.com.

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