SDN Journal Authors: John Walsh, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Sven Olav Lund, Simon Hill

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Microservices Expo, Agile Computing

SDN Journal: Blog Feed Post

Managing the Capability-Experience Gap

The capability-experience gap creates a growth edge for individuals

It is exceedingly difficult for individuals to match their capability to perform a job or function exactly with their experience in that role. For the upwardly mobile, being promoted into a new challenging role means heading into something with the capability but minus the experience. And most of us know people who have occupied roles they are clearly not qualified for, in which case they have the experience but not the capability.

Regardless of whether the gap is on the capability or the experience side, the capability-experience gap creates a growth edge for individuals. Managing that growth edge is one of the keys to successfully navigating your career.

I was actually having this discussion with a colleague today. This is a gentleman who is blessed with all the talent in the world. He is a strategic thinker. He communicates easily, both in business terms and in extremely technical terms. He is a masterful pattern matcher with an uncanny ability to map lessons learned in unrelated areas to things he is working on. And he is extremely coachable, which means his potential is virtually limitless.

Having said that, he has had very little actual experience managing people. The way his career has grown, he has been a very important contributor to some very meaty projects, but he hasn’t had resources to directly manage. He is absolutely capable of managing a team, but he does not have the experience at this point.

Now I have had the good fortune to work with my colleague for years. I have watched him mature as an employee and grow as an individual. It is obvious to me that he will be a senior executive before too much longer. And as I watch his growth process, I can only think, “Please do not make the same mistakes I did.”

You see, my colleague’s capability-experience gap is on the experience side. He has learned a lot just by being exposed to different disciplines, but he has yet to put it together in a management role. And much to his chagrin, no matter the capability, he will not have mastered management until he actually manages.

This is perfectly acceptable by the way. Even the most skilled in their area of expertise (Tiger Woods, Beethoven, or Gallagher) must practice their craft and hone their skills before they reach any real objective level of success. Regardless of their innate talent, until they put their strengths to use, they cannot reach their full potential. So it is in the business world.

The question for my colleague is: how do you you go about gaining the experience to close the gap?

The most obvious answer is very Nike-esque: Just do it. The most simple approach to gaining experience is to just pick something up and try it.

While certainly a workable approach, the brute force method of learning is not really a deliberate growth path. When people get into the Just do it mindset, they tend to be more concerned with surviving than thriving. When you are tossed into the deep end of the pool, you certainly learn how to stay afloat. But if your objective is to become a world-class swimmer, merely keeping your head above water is hardly success.

Success in any discipline is about training, and training is practicing with purpose.

In a sports context, most people understand what training means. But what exactly does it mean in a leadership frame of reference?

First, you need to realize that leadership might be a soft skill but that does not make it any less of a skill than playing the guitar or rock climbing. If I told you that you needed to get better at playing guitar, you would probably take a lesson or watch YouTube videos. And then you would practice. If I told you that mastering guitar would make you a million dollars, you might practice a lot.

Leadership is the same way. But how do you practice?

I have read a lot of leadership books over the years. I don’t read the books because they are terribly interesting to me. Truth be told, I would rather go for a bike ride than read a book. But the books have been a part of my ongoing leadership training. Because I believe that it is important to practice, I take a different approach to reading than people who read for pure pleasure.

The first day after I finish a book, I begin looking for ways to put the content to use. There is a good book by Eliyahu Goldratt called The Goal. In it, Goldratt teaches the Theory of Constraints along with what he calls the Thinking Processes. The Thinking Processes are basically a flowchart-based way of structuring arguments and mapping out dependencies. For the 6 weeks after I finished the book, I intentionally worked these flowcharts into conversations at work.

If you talk to me today, chances are slim that I will grab a marker and break into a flowcharted discussion. In this case, having tried it out, I decided that the actual practice was not a fit for how I wanted to lead. But I couldn’t make that determination until I had actually given it a sincere effort. And, more importantly, having trained myself to use Goldratt’s reasoning tools, I was able to absorb and refine a lot of what he was teaching in his book. The result is that I have a very practical grasp of what he was teaching about constraint-based systems and dependency mapping.

Practicing is not limited to reading books and trying out their concepts. Chances are that there are everyday situations that can serve as practice as well. In my colleague’s case, he has been leading a project team. While the people on the team do not officially report to him, the project gives him the chance to train up his ability to connect with individuals. In essence, it provides a live-fire exercise that he can use to hone his management skills.

In similar situations, most people focus on the task. They don’t make the conscious effort to practice specific leadership techniques. They might feel too shy to practice things like active listening. Perhaps they feel that purpose-based approaches are too soft and fluffy to try out in real life. Maybe they are embarrassed to try something like drawing flowcharts for every conversation. Whatever the reason, when you subordinate your growth to the task, you are missing out on an opportunity to train.

Over time, if you dutifully embrace training (in leadership or Python or whatever discipline you are passionate about), you will ultimately narrow the capability-experience gap so that when you are promoted into a larger role, the gap is manageable. This is the difference between hitting every wall between you and your end goal and saving yourself a little pain. I learned my leadership skills by committing virtually every sin in the proverbial book, but if my colleague trains, he has a chance to sidestep a lot of the more difficult ones, which will allow him to succeed much faster and with much less pain than I ever did.

[Today’s fun fact: One in every four Americans has appeared on television. I have actually been on television several times, including when my friend won a huge prize on the Price is Right.]

The post Managing the capability-experience gap appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

@CloudExpo Stories
"Infoblox does DNS, DHCP and IP address management for not only enterprise networks but cloud networks as well. Customers are looking for a single platform that can extend not only in their private enterprise environment but private cloud, public cloud, tracking all the IP space and everything that is going on in that environment," explained Steve Salo, Principal Systems Engineer at Infoblox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventio...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, provided a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to oper...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, James Henry, Co-CEO/CTO of Calgary Scientific Inc., introduced you to the challenges, solutions and benefits of training AI systems to solve visual problems with an emphasis on improving AIs with continuous training in the field. He explored applications in several industries and discussed technologies that allow the deployment of advanced visualization solutions to the cloud.
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"ZeroStack is a startup in Silicon Valley. We're solving a very interesting problem around bringing public cloud convenience with private cloud control for enterprises and mid-size companies," explained Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP of Product Management at ZeroStack, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, discussed how by using ne...
Vulnerability management is vital for large companies that need to secure containers across thousands of hosts, but many struggle to understand how exposed they are when they discover a new high security vulnerability. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, John Morello, CTO of Twistlock, addressed this pressing concern by introducing the concept of the “Vulnerability Risk Tree API,” which brings all the data together in a simple REST endpoint, allowing companies to easily grasp the severity of the ...
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, discussed how data centers of the future will be managed, how the p...
"NetApp is known as a data management leader but we do a lot more than just data management on-prem with the data centers of our customers. We're also big in the hybrid cloud," explained Wes Talbert, Principal Architect at NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
"We're focused on how to get some of the attributes that you would expect from an Amazon, Azure, Google, and doing that on-prem. We believe today that you can actually get those types of things done with certain architectures available in the market today," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.