The IT18NZ Conference on IT careers and recruitment just took place in Auckland and the speaker lineup was a who's who of successful kiwi startups including Xero, Trademe, Vend, Movio and Orion Health. The speakers were all amazing but there was one strong theme for me:
Everyone has an opinion on what makes an A player but in my experience A players love what they do and tend to have deeper knowledge because of that. This means they can both do more and also do it without having to be asked.
There were some good tips and really concrete resources from successful managers at IT18NZ for technical people (in particular from @kalmanb and @cgarethc). I've listed some below so you can get to work on being an A player from this point on.
- Join up to 25 Meetups for things you like, want to learn about.
- Go to at least one a week
- Find a mentor (you'll probably find more than one at those Meetups)
- Talk to as many people as you can at the meetups to find out who's great and how they got that way. This will also help with the next step.
- Improve your communication skills, A players want to be on championship teams and to get on one you need to be able to communicate. Go on and join Toastmasters.
- Join Github, if you're a coder this is where employers really want to see what you do.
- Do something on there, contribute to someone else! Too inexperienced? Just use something you like and point out the bugs for people.
- Be a leader, organise something in your life. Even something small like a sports team or a meetup! Volunteer in a community group. You might need to a manager sooner than you think.
- Check out the Australian Dept of Defense Core Capability Framework. Orion Health used it as a basis to create their own capability framework. It's extensive and extremely practical and if it's good enough for them it could really help you.
- Read about the Skills Framework for the Information Age and see what it means for you and your career. Your employer may not be as specific but it doesn't mean you can't be.
- Rinse and repeat. Measure and improve. Do these things early in your career or before you start and watch the results.
By the way, if doing even one of these things seems like a drag then that's not a problem either. Force yourself to do at least the meetups. It may be you don't love technology that much. But it's a huge industry and getting out there and talking to others may help you find an area that'll be exciting for you. There is no point in engaging in a long and meaningless career in an area that doesn't excite you because the reality is you'll also just be an average player if you're only mildly interested.
No one wants to be average and you don't need to be. We're all A players in something, the key is finding that thing that makes you want to get out of your car and run into work each day.