12 Ways Smart Data Professionals Act StupidThere are many articles available today that help data professionals prepare for job interviews. I have also written my share of articles on the subject. What I don’t see are articles that tell you how to be a good data professional once you have landed the job. That’s my goal for today, to offer insights on what not to do once you’ve landed that job as a data professional.

I’ve put together a list of twelve ways that smart data professionals act stupid. Many of these items will appear to fall in the “common sense” category. But I’ve learned that common sense isn’t so common. That’s why I decided to list them for you.

You’re welcome.

They don’t test backups

One of the easiest ways for a smart data professional to look incompetent is to not be able to recover data the moment it is needed. Taking backups is good, but testing backups is better. Smart data professionals know this. They also know to focus on building a good recovery plan first, and a backup plan second.

They give up when they fail

Failure is just a bump in the road to being successful. Ask anyone you view as successful if they have failed before. You will find that they have failed, a lot. As a data professional you will fail. A lot. Don’t give up. It’s OK if some things are harder than you expect. Trying something and failing at first does not make you a failure, it makes you human.

They always need to be right

I see this trait far too common amongst my data colleagues. There is an insatiable need to be right, to be the smartest person in the room. This need to be right is greater than the need for oxygen. It can feel like a personal attack if they are wrong about anything. Social media makes it easier for the trait to be exposed, as people argue over things as silly as tabs versus spaces (it’s tabs, BTW).

They always blame someone or something else

It’s never their fault. They blame the network. Or the developer. It’s the 3rd party vendor product code. It’s never them. A smart data professional knows that they must take responsibility for their work, they cannot pass the buck all the time.

They accept all defaults

For the Generation Next-ers out there (people who install software by clicking Next-Next-Finish), by accepting all the defaults they have increased their risk. Take the time to review basic security measures and take action to protect your data. After all, data is the most critical asset your company owns. Without it, you wouldn’t be in business.

They know everything

If you don’t believe it, just ask them. If they don’t know the answer they will make something up that sounds plausible. They are overconfident in their abilities, something noted by the Dunning-Kruger effect. The simple view of Dunning-Kruger is this: the people who are most certain about being right are also the ones with the least reason for such self-confidence.

They don’t keep skills sharp

Since they know everything, no need to learn anything new, right? Wrong. There is always something new to learn. Technology moves at a fast pace, and it is not slowing down. BTW, this describes 65% of my data colleagues as recently as 5 years ago with regards to the whole “cloud” thing. Many saw AWS and Azure as a novelty and not to be taken seriously. Some still do.

They don’t match solutions to requirements

They also don’t know how to gather requirements, or even understand what their business does to earn money. You need to have an understanding of such things in order to help build the right solutions for things like high availability and disaster recovery.

They lack emotional intelligence

By focusing only on achievements, they place more value on hitting goals than they do on the people and relationships it takes to reach that goal. They are often dismissive of others, both in private and in public on social media websites like Twitter and Facebook. The only relevant work experience is their own. Other people’s experience is dismissed as not important.

They push people too hard

This happens in two ways. One is by pushing a colleague to work harder, or worse, to work smarter, trying to get another person to live up to an impossible standard you created. The other type of pushing is akin to bullying, both in-person and online, where you talk down to others and mock them for not being as smart as you.

They multitask

They always seem to be busy, working with four different monitors, clicking on things that are blinking. But a study completed at Stanford almost ten years ago now suggests that multitasking makes you less productive. Ten years is a long time for this research to be available. You would think that by now most people would understand that having four monitors isn’t helping.

They have a hard time accepting feedback

Because they are perfect. If you don’t believe me, just ask them. You have to be able to accept feedback from others. There is always room for improvement.

Remember folks, getting a job is just the first step to having a career. Being a jerk to others or not recovering data when needed will get you escorted out faster than you want. The twelve items I listed here does not represent a complete list of ways you can fail. These are the common traits I see in data professionals who struggle when working in teams. Review this list and review your performance to see if you are guilty of any of the traits. If so, take the time to make a plan to limit the number of times these traits pop up during your working day.