This interview was part of the Ergon Magazine SMART insights 2021. Order your free copy now ->
New territory can be challenging. Trailblazers are full of good ideas, though. They’ll often take a step back so they can see how to move forward; looking left and right before focusing on the path ahead. Equipped with the right questions, they get teams over the finish line.
What's your role at Ergon?
I’m a security engineer in the Airlock Professional Services team. We link development, our clients and our partners. If it doesn't belong directly to development, it's with us.
Sounds like a broad area. Do all have their own field of expertise?
In our team, in theory, we can all do everything, so we can all do each other's jobs. Of course in practice we all have a specialist area that we've built up considerable capabilities in over the years. In most cases they're fields that we're really interested in at the personal level.
Has there ever been anything you didn't know?
Of course. That's life! Not knowing it all isn't the problem, though. You can't be an expert in everything.
How do you deal with that?
There's no doubt that a breadth and depth of knowledge helps but the most important thing is knowing and admitting to your own limits, and having contacts you ask if you've questions. That aside, I trust my gut feeling. It's a good one, based on all of my experience, as well as the logic that's so vital in IT. The ability to think abstractly, and to derive useful approaches from that, is essential.
It's at least as important to be able to communicate with clients, of course, and to be open and honest to build trust, even if you're still figuring out the details at the start of a project. The key to success is generally to ask the right questions so that you really understand the specifications or problems.
"The shared desire to achieve a good solution is a major factor."
What sort of questions?
More to the point, it's constantly questioning and challenging. You might find that the problem the client is describing isn't the real issue at all or that there are more problems. There's no use grabbing onto the first idea that comes along and racing along down that path. I always try to take two or three steps back so I can get the broader view. It also helps when you're focusing and setting priorities, so you can see what needs to be done first, and what's not so important right now.
What makes for a successful project?
When all of those involved; be they clients, partners or team colleagues, are all pulling together and aiming for the same end point, and that they trust and support each other. The shared desire to achieve a good solution is another major factor, especially where you don't yet have all the details.
It's also helpful to have a good sounding board of like-minded people, so that we can look at our proposals as a team, challenge them and improve them. I like to play devil's advocate in a way by introducing new ideas and suggesting directions in which I think the solution might go, I don't get into the nitty gritty of the technology – it's at a higher level than that.
What do you find most motivating about your work?
It's when, as a team, you've succeeded in making the client happy. The tougher the road to get there, the greater the satisfaction. If we were in new technological territory and found a new solution, so much the better.