Saturday, November 17, 2007

Chowda Chat: Margaret Meloni

"Chowda Chat" is a periodic Beantown Web installment that features a conversation with an influential member of the Greater Boston technology community. The purpose of "Chowda Chat" is to provide Web technology professionals with information to help advance their careers. The format involves three questions and responses followed by one final thought.

Today's issue of "Chowda Chat" presents the thoughts and observations of Margaret Meloni, MBA, an executive coaching consultant for information technology professionals. She has more than 20 years experience in the information technology field and is a Certified Project Management Professional. Margaret visits us from the Left Coast . Through her company, Meloni Coaching Solutions, Margaret helps Information Technology professionals 'Find the Joy in the Job'.

Information technology professionals are sometimes stereotyped as technically competent, but lacking in people skills. How might a lack of attention to the "soft skills" affect an individual's prospects for employment and advancement?

Let's map this out. When all other conditions are equal, most people will work with people they enjoy being around. We typically do not enjoy being around people who are unpleasant, difficult or treat us badly. (All examples of someone lacking "soft skills.") So, more opportunities come to those who are good at the technical aspect and the human aspect of their jobs. More opportunities generally lead to the better and more interesting assignments. Performing well on these assignments leads to advancement.
Advancement may equal a leadership position or it may equal a better raise, a bonus or a senior technical position. As you progress you will be expected to be able to clearly and confidently express your ideas, have productive conflict with others, form good relationships with your customers and contribute to your team's success. Those who cannot do this will be left behind.
For more on this topic, please check out Wanted: Workers who play well with others at

For someone who is transitioning into a technology job from a more "people focused" profession, how can someone who lacks technical experience play up their people skills during the interview process?

I think that in technology we should invite more people to cross over from other areas of expertise. If you are working on this transition consider approaching it from this angle:
You can speak the language of the customer, this means that you can take technical requirements and discuss them with my business partners. In turn you can help the technical team understand the business needs and how they relate to technology. You can act in a customer facing technical support role and be the liaison between the business team and the technical team.
The right company and hiring manager will see your value, the wrong company.... Well who cares about the wrong company, you do not want to work with them anyway.

In January you are conducting a four-week "Coachinar" entitled Your Professional Brand, Guard it with Your Life. Why should Web technology professionals care about personal branding?

Where does your reputation come from? It is word of mouth. Others define your reputation. But they do it based on your behaviors.
The smart professional gets to know themselves. They know their strengths and they use these strengths to carve out a brand or to differentiate themselves from the pack. Then the make sure that their actions map back to their character and their brand. Now when someone describes them to others, they are accurately broadcasting that person's brand.
Let's say I am hiring a Web designer. I interview four candidates. They all do well on the interview, they have the basic experience that I need. What will make one candidate stand out above the others? It's going to be something unique about them. It will be their differentiation. That's the brand factor. It's is taking your technical expertise and flavoring it with you.
Think about people you meet in networking situations or on the job. When someone stands out from all the others, it is because of their own personal and professional brand recognition.

Final Thought

We all spend a lot of time and energy working. Our behavior at work has tremendous impact on one another. So whenever possible, let’s make this a positive impact.

Margaret offers of FREE monthly eZine entitled The Positive Punch to help you take control of your reputation today. Sign up now.

Previous Guest Bloggers

Chowda Chat: Dan Keldsen
Chowda Chat: Dean Fossella