Geeks Are Assets Too

I’ve already had my rant about Banner Guy, but where do our stereotypes come from?  When you hear business, do you think of investment bankers, sales reps, or accountants?  While everyone has their place, technical experts are among any company’s most valuable assets.  When Techies are not valued within their organizations, they jump ship.  What they really need is opportunity.  And that only comes with learning to talk the talk.

Technical Experts Left Out of the Club?
Despite advanced degrees and years of experience, many technical professionals in possession of in depth specialized knowledge don’t have the business savvy to advance to the highest levels of many corporations. Why can’t these engineers speak our language? It’s possible that the brightest minds are shining too bright for their own good.  The traditional ‘business’ people don’t have the technical knowledge to relate of that level, so they relegate technical professionals to a sort of pedestal/closet to work their magic. 

Technical experts are often not included in the same types of training and development as others.  Effective leaders require an understanding of the business that extends beyond a single department or function.  Setting experts aside on their own track only alienates them and risks the result that their work will not align with the company as a whole.  In other words, Techies need to learn the business in order to make the greatest contribution in their technical area.

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Teaching Techies the Basics
A recent Lake Forest Graduate School of Management study found that the most successful companies urge their technical experts to take classes to build broad business skills.  Specifically, the three areas identified were:

· Knowing the business
· Relating to people
· Delivering results

Why?  People who know the business are able to think strategically.  They recognize how different aspects of the business work together.  When you understand at least the fundamentals of supply chain, marketing, and the basic financials you not only make better decisions, but you also interact more effectively with members of other departments.
While experts shouldn’t strive to become generalists, those who gain a broader perspective on their businesses are more valuable, and may stick around longer too.