This post was originally published on Apr 23, 2013. It is being re-run as Steve is on vacation.
I ran across an article on ways to accelerate your career and for the most part I think these are good ideas and suggestions. Networking, finding a mentor, and more will help you no matter what business or field you are working. Some of the advice is geared towards those people looking to climb the corporate ladder and move into management, which is not necessarily what many of us want. If that’s the case, ignore those items. There was one item, however, that I thought was particularly interesting for data professionals.
The seventh item on the list notes that you should spend 10-15% of your time working on a project that’s outside of the scope of your job or team. That might sound crazy, and even dangerous, but it’s a good idea if your boss isn’t opposed to it. Having knowledge about the way your business works, the way they use data, or solve a problem, could be valuable in your existing job. You might notice a pattern or way in which you could improve either your job or someone else’s. Over time, helping in a variety of departments builds friendships, increases your networking, and might show your boss you deserve a raise.
Many of us end up working with data as a widget. The job of a developer or DBA is writing code or managing data, and sometimes don’t often think much about the actual industry in which we are working. Gaining deeper knowledge of the way your particular business works means you can better understand why you are asked to solve a particular problem. That knowledge can lead to a better solution. It might also make your job just a little more interesting.
For the typical US worker, that’s 4-6 hours a week. For the IT person, that might be a little more time, but I think it’s worth the investment. I wouldn’t be overly driven in this area, and if I were working on extra projects at work, I’d eliminate (or cut down) on the time I was spending learning new technologies. Life requires balance, and if you tackle something new in one area, make sure you know what you can give up.