Executive Director Message: Best Practices for a Successful Career in IS
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
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.
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
- 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.