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Don Burleson Blog 









How to be a successful computer professional

Don Burleson


Also be sure to check-out my tips for for improving observational skills and the skills of personality assessment.

I recently had a question from a College student about how a person can stand-out on their field and become a top-shelf computer professional.  It's not a "secret" really. 

While I advocate a strong education in science or business administration, it's also important to be articulate and to have on-your-feet thinking skills.  I recommend Toastmasters and better still, auctioneering school to learn the communications skills that are vital for success.

Personal success is really nothing more than a strong moral compass, simple common sense and lots and lots of hard work.  Here are some of my guidelines.

Have High Personal Standards and Expectations

I'm sometimes criticized for having "unrealistic" job screening requirements.  I make no secret that I prefer people with high moral standards, people with top-notch educations people who give-back (servicemen, people who donate time to charities) and people with a demonstrable work ethic, and above all, no history of moral turpitude (paying bills late, criminal convictions).  I have many consultants who far exceed my own abilities, and I make no excuse for hiring the best people that I can find.

Click here for more on personal integrity and honesty

Be Obsessive

I was always rewarded for following-through with tough challenges and I'm the first to admit that once I locked-in to a task, I let nothing stop me.  I firmly believe that the only thing to be ashamed of is not giving 100% to every task you undertake.

I learned that I was not going to be stopped by people telling me that something cannot be done, and I worked relentlessly on every ask I undertook.  There is an old saying "If you want to get something done, give it to the obsessive guy".  When I was teaching graduate school at the University of New Mexico, I would give students difficult problems that other experts said "could not be done".

Have a real work ethic

I have always had contempt for self-entitled people, and I hate those annoying TV commercials offering to give people "the cash that you deserve". 

Who the hell says that you deserve anything? 

You get paid exactly what the market demands, and not a penny more.  My strong work ethic was because I grew-up poor (my Dad was a Disabled Veteran), because I had high-standards imposed by my parents and because I was orphaned as a teen.  I'm also very conscious of providing value for my clients and all of my consultants share a real desire to be as productive as possible.

Get Real-World Experience

The "Catch 22" argument is a common theme with many aspiring DBA's.  I get e-mail saying "I need experience to get a DBA job, but I can't get a job without experience".  If you have this problem, do what I did. 

I worked for free for my professors and took my first job at a place with very low-pay, just to get the experience.  I later did database work for charities to sharpen my skills, and there are loads of charitable organizations who want volunteers with database expertise.

The USA is a true bastion of upward mobility and anyone who wants to be successful can get there with hard work and dedication.

Be Creative

Thinking outside-the-box is the hallmark of American Ingenuity and you should always foster your creativity by exploring new uses for technology.  Being hindered by proctologic thinking is a serious deficiency for any computer professional.  Creative people commonly face objection from experts who say that because something has never been done, ergo, it cannot be done. 

Me and my wife Janet faced this when we were attempting to housebreak horses and we were told by experts that it was impossible.  We faced even more ridicule from experts who assured us that horses could never be trained to safely guide the blind.  The experts said it couldn't be done, so we went ahead and did it.  Today there are four full-time guide horse teams in America.  We also saved a horse with a broken leg by questioning experts who told us that it couldn't be fixed.

Don't trust any expert who say "It's never been done, so it must be impossible".

Also beware of turgid experts who oppose novel uses of technology solutions.  For example, American drug researchers discovered that the anti-depressant Wellbutrin reduced nicotine cravings, and today this drug has helped millions of people quit smoking.

Don't trust any experts who say "Do can't do that.  It was made for another purpose".

Possess Courage

It takes guts to put your reputation on-the-line and to invest your savings into new endeavors.  Starting a consulting business requires money, lots of friends and connections, but most of all, courage and a firm belief in your abilities.

My father spent years in a Veterans hospital when I was a kid, and I spent hundreds of hours chatting with "real heroes" in the hallowed halls of the V.A. wards.  I know courage and I know cowardice, and I believe that there are many courageous people in the USA and it's my job to find them for my staff.

Right is right, wrong is wrong, and I have the strength of my convictions to guide me.  I recently went to great lengths to expose an Oracle scammer, and I have the guts to fight for what is just and right, no matter the personal cost. 

So, there it is, everything you need to know.  Like my Grandpa always said "There's always room at the top".  It's true, you know. . . .    



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