“IT department, party of one.”
When you’re a one-person IT team, it’s like being an intern and the boss — at the same time. You’re maintaining infrastructure, resolving desktop issues, and fielding a wide variety of personal requests from your coworkers. (What’s wrong with my phone?)
Being the lone IT pro can have its pros and cons, but there’s a point when maybe you want to join an IT team, and you’ll face challenges that come with this transition.
Here are a few tips for the solitary IT pro adjusting to a role in a larger IT department.
99 Tickets, but Desktop Support Ain’t One
In your era of the one-person-IT-shop, your colleagues were probably used to making one-off requests in any format they wished. You usually responded quickly to these requests, and maybe you earned a reputation as a great problem solver, a linchpin, and a valuable asset to the business.
You don’t have to jettison the title as a problem solver. It’s just going to be different. Your allegiances now are to your team and the ticket system (and, okay, maybe a few favorites who come directly to you with requests).
Depending on your personality and work preferences, this could lead to a great reduction to your stress level. You don’t have the weight of the entire organization on your shoulders, but it also may feel like you’ve become less individually valuable.
The good news is that there are lots of opportunities that come with a growing team.
Teamwork = Soft Skills
Time management becomes a whole new ballgame as your responsibilities shift toward the team. You may be able to delegate tasks to new team members, which can relieve your workload, but it can be tricky to get used to. Or you may begin reporting to a new manager. After years of self-direction, that transition would be difficult for anyone.
If you find yourself in this situation, it’s a good time to work on your soft skills. As your team grows, you may be faced with new situations like giving presentations, attending conferences and networking events, and managing others, meaning you could be giving and taking criticism, resolving conflicts, and other scenarios that you may never have encountered before. Soft skills are essential for success in a team environment. Learn what to expect in our soft skills training course.
Prepare for these potentially difficult transitions. If you don’t face any challenges, great! But if you do, going into it with some self-awareness and practical preparation will serve you well.
Get Out of the “Just Do It” Mindset
How many times in the past did you take on a task with an “Oh, I’ll just do it” mindset? Naturally, a larger team will be able to take on bigger and more business-critical work than a team of one. Just getting something done becomes more complicated as the nature of work changes.
You’ll be working with (and among) lots of moving parts now. Don’t just do it. Keep pace with your team. Someone is relying on you now. Tackle these challenges by staying organized and documenting as much as possible. Be patient, and consider adding some project management skills to your toolbox, like ITILⓇ, PMPⓇ, or Prince2Ⓡ. Even if you’re not a manager of people, get into that mindset. Be a manager of components and processes. You should be good at that from your solo experience.
This adjustment period is natural. Your new team must implement new processes in order to scale, which takes time — and the rest of your company may have a difficult time adjusting, too.
Growing Your New Team
Depending on your role in your new company, you may be a direct participant in the hiring process for growing your team. If you’ve never taken part in the hiring process before — screening candidates, conducting interviews, choosing who to make an offer to, and ultimately onboarding someone new -— it can be challenging and even overwhelming.
You may be used to doing things alone, but don’t take on this process solo if it can be avoided. If your company has an HR department, lean on them heavily for help. They’ve conducted plenty of interviews, and should know the hiring process inside and out.
While you’re interviewing, your coworkers will be able to help you determine if a candidate possesses the ever-elusive “culture fit” to balance with the skill set that your team needs.
Even if you’re not involved in hiring, the transition from the solo IT endeavor to even a team of two or three brings more practical challenges.
Find Your Place in the Organization
As the solo IT pro, you were required you to develop a broad base of skills. Finding your place in a larger organization means figuring out if you want to broaden or specialize your skill set. To help you make that decision, you might want to watch our trainers discuss the “Wide vs. Deep” concept in this video. Maybe you want to do both.
The ideal team in any department is comprised of members with “T-shaped” backgrounds, skills, and experience levels. In other words, folks with broad knowledge bases to troubleshoot, analyze, diagnose, and problem solve, while balancing those skills with a specialization (or a few) to contribute to more complicated issues like upgrades, lifecycle management, and performance problems.
There’s opportunity to learn in a larger organization.
Congrats, You Get to Take Vacation Now!
Now that you’re part of a team, you have more flexibility to take that once-elusive PTO day, specialize your skill sets with new experience and certifications, or dedicate time to your soft skills or project management training. You will probably be busy, but it’s a new kind of busy.
Being the lone IT pro means you’re a single point of failure, and growing your team is a good thing. So even though it requires some adjusting, and you may face some bumps along the way, embrace your new status as a party of more than one.