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Executive Director Message: Best Practices for a Successful Career in IS

Tuesday, December 18, 2012   (0 Comments)

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of attending the AIS Student Chapter Leadership Conference hosted by Brigham Young University.  It was a huge success for all who gathered and served as a springboard for continued development of our student chapter initiative. There were many accomplished speakers and one in particular was Kevin Ball, a BYU alum and ExxonMobil's DCM.  I was quite impressed by his presentation and following the conference I asked if he would share some additional insights for our readers. He has graciously accepted and I'm pleased to share my interview with him now.

This is also a good opportunity to remind our members who have not yet taken on the sponsorship of a student chapter to investigate the many benefits it offers. Did you know that many schools use it as a way to increase their enrollments?

Contact me if you want to learn more.

Pete Tinsley
AIS Executive Director


PT: You talked about consistently delivering "above and beyond". Can you talk a little bit about that and how that strategy has helped you?

KB: I strongly believe in the importance of delivering far beyond what is expected in order to create wealth, or the abundance of goodwill, good reputation, financial gains, and overall life balance.  Delivering above and beyond expectations is immensely satisfying for both the employee and employer, especially when the output is high in quality and quantity.  Here are a few tips on how to do both:
  • Quality: Be sure to make anything you are working on (a report, code, system, or even an email) something that you will be proud to deliver.  Furthermore, always seek new ways to build on and improve the ideas of others, being sure to always give others credit when appropriate. 
  • Quantity: Organize your tasks, and focus on the critical items first. As time allows, work on the remaining items.  I've found that I can do a lot more work if I plan my work, and work my plan.

PT: What ways have you found to be highly visible while also being highly productive at ExxonMobil?

KB: In most companies, you gain visibility through your productivity, your willingness to take on challenging work, and your desire to exceed expectations.  If you put these practices into place as a student, you will find that they will carry over into your professional life.  That said, allow me to temper this advice with an important comment: don't focus solely on building your career.  If you focus on doing a fantastic job on your current assignment, and thus early visibility through your productivity, the next steps will fall into place. 

PT: In a high tech company where technology is pervasive, it would seem that delivering products and services for your company that are unique and innovative could be a challenge. Can you give some ideas as to how new employees can distinguish themselves in this regard?

KB: New employees bring with them a sense of excitement that has the potential to really add step-change value to an organization. I encourage new employees to be bold in speaking up with their ideas on how to bring change to an organization, and I also encourage my supervisors to support these ideas. Don’t be afraid to be a leader from the first day, but make sure to work within the framework that is already in place.  A practical way to do this is to get a positive mentor as early as possible. Find someone in the organization that has walked the path ahead of you and can support your ideas while providing critical insights on what may or may not work. I find the most successful new IT employees are those that couple their enthusiasm and drive for new ideas with the seasoned experience of others.

PT: Do you have any closing thoughts about keeping work and family/social life in balance that you think would be helpful to our readers?

KB: I like to stress that life is an important juggling act, and some balls that you’re juggling are rubber and some are glass. You need to learn early on which ones can drop for a season and which ones you simply can’t afford to drop. To me, my family is a precious glass ball. I make sure that I don’t ever drop that ball at the expense of the ones that will bounce back.  In order to truly Make IT Work, you need to have all the pieces working well together. You can have a highly successful career and have a great family, community, and social life. In fact, I’d say that you need all of those great pieces in order to Make IT Work.

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