Interviewee: David Gendel
Manager of IT Operations
Many IT managers begin their careers in computers and then get IT management training so they can manage technology departments, David Gendel did it the other way around.
Technology has always been one of his passions, but his initial training was in management and leadership, and it was natural for David to link the two and begin a successful career.
What is your IT training background?
My educational background includes the typical four year degree in computer science. However, there have been many more influences that have carried more weight. For instance, electronics training in the Navy, self taught electronics, a certificate level college course and the continuing education I must complete every year to keep several certifications current.
How did you get into IT management?
Prior to moving into a technology career, I began my management career first. This came in different forms including retail management, military NCO and other avenues. It was a natural shift, after I had moved into technology, to move into technology management. The science and art of leading people is applicable across domains.
How did you begin your training in IT management?
For technology, I began by working on electronics on a nuclear submarine. From there I transitioned into technology security (I had a personal knack for cryptography), and from there into general technology. Because my foundation of security spans all disciplines, it was a natural progression to become a generalist with a focus on security. My first span into general technology was as a senior manager over several departments (prior to that I was a security administrator for the same company).
What skills do you need to succeed in IT management?
Team building skills, at least a foundational understanding of the technology you are managing, finance and budgeting knowledge for the type of organization you serve, and vendor negotiation/management.
What is your average day like?
Typically it begins early, catching up on emails and phone calls with vendors from the east coast. After people begin arriving in the office, I begin sorting the incoming trouble tickets and scheduling any necessary project meetings.
Almost every day of the week I hold one or two meetings with one or more members of my team, and then proceed to work on any escalated issues myself. The afternoons are typically spent on project issues or meetings, with leftover time going to working on other emergencies.
How do you keep up on the fast-changing IT world?
I have several certifications that require me to complete over 120 hours of continuing education every 3 years. This, in addition to several other related tasks: I am a contributor and reviewer for the Center for Internet Security benchmark program, I read relevant articles and books on a regular basis, and I maintain current awareness of global news related to technology.
What do you look for in an IT employee?
First and foremost I look for a specific attitude. I want to find someone who has a passion for technology and a passion for learning. I look for puzzle solvers. Technology and specific solutions can be taught, however, if you don't have the base interest and passion, you are either in the wrong industry or past your prime.
How did your training help you motivate employees?
Aside from discounts to technical stores or a give-away every now and then, technology employees are no different from any other employee. Motivational tools include team lunches, goal tracking and discussion, public celebrations of success, and a career path forward to show they are not "stuck."
What advice would you give to students?
I would advise them to ensure they have a solid understanding of the business side of things and the leadership side of things. Technology is a specialty… however pure technologists typically make bad managers. It honestly takes a well rounded set of skills to be effective and successful.
What have you learned from your mistakes?
I learned early on that if you allow excuses and mediocrity, then you should expect to receive it. I learned that I need to set expectations high and enable the team to reach those expectations. Nine times out of ten you will be surprised to see how everyone can rise to the challenge and exceed even their own expectations.
What are the biggest challenges and rewards of your career?
The biggest challenges come in finding good employees and a good environment to work for. The biggest rewards come in seeing the results of your design and planning come to fruition—being able to see things work flawlessly and seamlessly for the typical user.