Making The Most of The Holidays in IT

Tuesday Dec 18th 2007 by Eric Spiegel
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If you are one of the unfortunate souls stuck behind the desk the last week of December, this is your time to make a list and check it twice.

I was in the office during the week of Christmas and not a soul was stirring, not even a mouse. To be truthful, the little rolling ball in my mouse was making an annoying squeaking sound and I really had been meaning to order a wireless mouse. But you know how the little things never get done in IT because we are all so busy (barely) keeping up with the big things day by day (and sometimes night by night).

Well guess what? This is the perfect time of year to tackle the tasks resulting from your year long procrastination. You need to get off your rump and put all that energy stored from over consumption of holiday party treats to good use.

A lot of people take this time off for vacation and if that includes you, stop reading this article and go back to sunning yourself on the beach. But if you are one of the unfortunate souls stuck behind the desk the last week of December, this is your time to make a list and check it twice.

Over the years, here are some tasks I have tackled and a few I wish I would have (and still might this year). Not all of these are tangible, but that doesn’t make them less important.

• Take a look at your desk. Can you see it? Or do you see a stack of papers? It may be that you know exactly where everything is (as I claim) but one strong breeze from a hastily closed door or an accidental spill of your coffee mug would put your “filing” system in disarray. Take this time to clean up your desk and do some filing. You may even come across some papers that will add a couple more tasks that otherwise would have been overlooked.

• I would say that it is more important to clean and organize the files on your personal computer and maybe shared file servers. Go through all the directories on your computer and, if you have the rights, do the same on the file servers used by the team. But don’t get too overzealous. Make sure your backups are all working first, so if you inadvertently delete an important file, you can restore it.

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• The holiday season is a great time to network. Take account of important people in your network that you haven’t connected with recently. Either drop them an email or give them a call to see what’s new and fill them in on your recent doings. This is the time of year where people are in a good mood to connect and you might set the stage for a business or personal opportunity in the coming year.

• Continuing on the networking front, if you have been postponing joining an online network now is the time. The dominant player is LinkedIn and it seems to be loaded with IT professionals. If you enter your professional profile now, by the end of next year at this time you’ll have a burgeoning network that you can leverage for answers to technical questions, finding recommended contractors and job searches (hiring for your team and for your next job).

• Take a close look at your heavy usage personal hardware. Many companies have set plans to cycle equipment every so many years, but many do not. Identify the desktops, laptops, printers, PDA’s, etc. that keep needing repairs or are more than a few years old and do some holiday shopping for the business.

• If your company gives a holiday present to employees and you have a say in the matter, consider giving something cool or productive. Something cool would be an item that is hard to find like a Nintendo Wii. The company doesn’t directly benefit from giving out games, but there could be some loyalty built up. Something productive would be an upgraded PDA or bigger flat screen monitors for everyone. It may be the case that if you give out something like an iPod, it will not be a big hit because most techies have one. Whereas if you give something that can use every day to make their jobs easier, it benefits the company and the person. Be sure to make it clear if the company owns it or if it is a personal gift, otherwise you’ll have people walking out with monitors when they leave the company.

• Test drive some software you have had your eye one. Many companies have a freeze on in December, so no new software can be deployed in production. There is however, nothing preventing you from evaluating software that doesn’t require an entire team or production resources. This is especially true if there is something you can run on your desktop or in a virtual machine. You can try out the software now and start an official evaluation next year if it is something you dig after playing with it on your own.

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• Not like you need to give out hugs to your team or your boss, but letting them know how much you appreciate their work is one of the more important year end tasks. Of course annual reviews are on most peoples mind this time of year, but keep in mind IT surveys regularly rank a show of appreciation at the top of jobs likeability criteria. Praise people for something specific, like if they stayed late one night to help another colleague complete a time critical task. If nothing specific jumps to mind, then let them know that their consistent job performance has made your job easier and helped the organization achieve goals. Of course, if you can find nothing good to say, just wish everyone happy holidays and start planning what improvements are feasible for next year.

There is one other item that everyone should do and it has nothing to do with your job or IT but it could save lives. Please make sure the batteries in your smoke detector at home are working. This is a popular time of year for house fires and there has been a recent spate of deadly fires where working smoke detectors would have saved lives. Besides, just think how hard it will be for your boss to replace a talented IT professional like you.

Happy holidays.

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