You Can't Fake IT Ecosystem DNA

I was 22 years old and struggling as a cub reporter at InformationWeek. The industry jargon -- ATM, Ethernet, hubs, routers, LANs -- was overwhelming me. I was ready to quit... until my editor told me to stick around, because I had the right DNA for the job.

Jerry Colonna mentored me a bit -- way back in 1992.

Jerry Colonna mentored me a bit -- way back in 1992.

The "right" career DNA often doesn't reveal its total potential overnight. It starts with passion, a piece of the equation that "you can't fake," my editor at the time told me in 1992. (That editor was Jerry Colonna, who went on to become a successful VC and is now a career coach.)

Student or Slacker?

I suspect you've had similar experiences in your own career. Facing a steep learning curve, you need to decide: Am I sincerely interested in this? Do I really want to invest a lot of time into this? For most of us, the answer is absolutely yes. There's something about IT's continued innovations -- and the associated ecosystems -- that keeps us all coming back for more.

My point: To succeed in any market, you need to immerse yourself in that industry -- and you need to be an authentic participant, rather than a Johnny-come-lately observer. If you're sincere, you'll build more and more connections -- and you'll emerge as a conduit between people. Over time, you could become part of an industry's "fabric." 

The big question: What does "you" mean?

  • "You" could mean you -- as a person.
  • Or "you" could mean your business -- an entity that stands the test of time as team members come and go.

Timeless Bonds or Weak Links?

The real challenge involves passing on that DNA from one generation of workers to the next. It's difficult enough for one person -- or a few people -- to build the original connections. That original fabric becomes a highway for influential conversations. Instead of monetizing that original fabric at all costs, you put others first -- and help influencers to find and connect with one another. The industry returns the favor by supporting your vision, and hopefully your products and services.

That fabric -- IT ecosystem DNA -- will thrive if every layer of your team (from line-of-business employees up to top executives) fully embraces the market, learns the trends, and truly addresses customer needs. But at some point, the DNA will whither if the leaders focus on the wrong KPIs -- growth at all costs, rather than relationships for long-term health.

"I Care (Sort Of)"

Either way, I learned the key IT ecosystem lesson early in my career: You can't fake passion for a topic or industry. Customers and true influencers despise pretenders.

What does that make me? I've always been more of an observer -- while helping influencers to network with one another along the way. My business partner, Amy Katz, has similar business DNA. At some point in the not-so-distant future, perhaps we'll share a boatload of new observations... with the right people, of course. If that day comes, you'll be among the first to know.

In the meantime, ask yourself: Are you passionate about the IT ecosystem in which you play -- and compete so hard? If not, why not?

Find the passion, and your hunt for the right products, services and customers becomes an enjoyable journey -- instead of a painful daily chore. 

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