Lessons learned from ServiceNow

5 Life Lessons that are (still) Applicable in ServiceNow

My father was someone who worked in IT his entire career.

He started off in the lower-level machine languages of his time, grew into a formidable data guy of the twenty-first century, and ended his career as an architect. The person who just gets to sit back and decide whether that new requirement should be met by building something custom, buying something new, or modifying an existing system.

Pretty common arc there, no real revelations.

I, on the other hand, spent most of my adult life fighting to become anything but.

What I didn’t realize though, was that while I was striving to be a writer, a poet, a linguist, a traveler, a lawyer, a professor, a translator, (anything but the stuffy IT guy) his life was informing mine.

Now, as a Technical Consultant here at Acorio, I’m finally seeing how those post-dinner conversations, attempts of his to explain Primary Keys, optimizers, normalization, all those snippets, and half-caught clauses casually strewn about my home life, have been more valuable to me than all my schooling and my work experience to date.

As I progress in my own arc in IT, I realize how he has smoothed the rocks in my path, and unwittingly, the result is that I was washed, not just in the water, but in the blood, as the saying goes.

The following are five of the top lessons I have carried with me from rebellious dreamer to ServiceNow Technical Consultant.

1. If you aren’t sprinting ahead, you’re falling behind

ServiceNow is building out and updating business apps at a breakneck pace. Maybe you were an expert in PPM a build or two ago, or you were a SAM wizard, but what can you tell me about SAMP?

IT is not a career choice for the “mental sloth.” You need to be the perpetual learner (and my father constantly stressed the need to be a perpetual learner to me, too). Take a night class at your local college, stay fresh on new technologies, write about them, talk about them. This is one of the hardest parts of being in IT, but also one of the most rewarding for me.

It also allows for the novice just entering the field to be able to bring value to an enterprise nearly immediately.

Just under a year ago, I accepted a position in the Academy program at Acorio. This program gave me the runway that I needed to become successful as a technical consultant. I can’t fully intimate the regard that I have for all of my team members at Acorio and how they are all perpetual-learners incarnate. Personally, I spend a few hours each night as well as sections of my weekend trying to shore up the areas where I could stand to know more and I am addicted to certifications and accreditations.

2. When building out your team, pick the failures

It’s hard to forget the steel in my dad’s eyes when he told me, time and time again, that you don’t shy away from the person who had a recent implementation that blew up in their face. He would say, “Give me the one who made that incalculable mistake, I want the person who blew up an entire implementation, who was humiliated publicly because they won’t do it a second time.”

Never choose the seemingly ‘perfect’ option, choose the individual with the scars to know better.

I have written a script before in ServiceNow where I infinite looped myself and brought down a sub-production instance before (come on, don’t act like you’ve never done that). I have run a Background Script that made an innocuous update forgetting to call autoSysFields(false) and setWorkflow(false) and caused a world of woe for myself. But these mistakes have become like armor to me, and I know how to best proceed going forward.

Surround yourself with people who know what it means to work hard. The strength of a coder isn’t in how few mistakes they make, it’s in the solution they create after.

3. Don’t move until you understand your marching orders

Spend the time up front! No matter how many people are telling you that it’s ok that your requirements for some build aren’t completely clear, and that those gaps will be filled in later, or the slack will be picked up in the next release, blah blah blah, you just ignore all that noise.

You don’t move until you have a firm understanding of what’s being asked of you.

Otherwise, have fun logging all those wasted hours reverting a bad build and starting from scratch on what you should have done in the first place. ServiceNow has a really well-built application for Agile Development, but, even good tech cannot fix bad process.

This is one of the areas where I am most proud to be at Acorio. We have resources with the conviction to push back against our customers’ requirements when they deviate from best practice. We don’t just build band-aids, we put structures in place that are upgrade-proof because we strive to work with our customers and guide them when creating their ServiceNow roadmap.

4. There is no one else

This one has been on my mind a lot recently, since Acorio released our culture code, specifically the pillar of “There is only us. There is no ‘them’. Own it. Create. Innovate.”

My dad used to tell me that when he started out as a developer there were no discrete QA teams or grand templated testing suites. He would tell me how he and his developer peers were utterly responsible for their code getting pushed to production bug-free and they were, in themselves, their own Release Management.

Although I don’t doubt the truth of this, I always smile as I picture him saying this because it feels sort of like that ‘When I was your age, I had to walk uphill in the snow…’ feeling. The meaning that I extracted from this lesson is that there is no one else. If you don’t produce a clean build, it’s not going to be magically improved by some other party. The responsibility falls on you, and your team, as the developer(s).

5. If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it

Much of ServiceNow is intuitive but because of the incredibly powerful systems, parts of the platform can get complex. It’s nearly a Sisyphean feat to master all applications within ServiceNow so you need to rely on, and trust, your team. I personally am so grateful that Acorio we have true masters that can explain the most difficult processes with a quick metaphor or pair of sentences. Paulo Coelho wrote in his book, The Alchemist, about what he referred to as the goals of Alchemy and the Language of Things. The protagonist realizes at the end that, ‘…these things are all so simple that they could be written on the surface of a single emerald.’

If you ever ask someone to explain something to you and they start of with, ‘Well, it’s complicated…’ you should keep looking for another teacher. If there is true understanding there, nothing is really complicated.

So Now What?

Well, ServiceNow is a journey. As a company, they are the fastest-growing, billion-dollar company ever, as a technology they are emerging as the top player in enterprise service management, and, as a career, ServiceNow is a constant adventure and the best decision I have made yet.  So now what means keep learning and testing what ServiceNow can mean for your business, your career.

And, in closing, I would be remiss if I didn’t also note that the pedigree my Mom has passed to me in being one of the most skilled IT Project Managers I have ever been able to observe, but that’s a whole other story…

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