Home > Articles

Building Your I.T. Career: Do Not Let Your Title Define You

Many technologists allow themselves to be defined by their job title or the technology they use. This can lead to missed opportunities, failure to adopt new technologies, and career stagnation. This article provides advice on how to avoid this situation and steps to become a well-rounded IT professional.
Like this article? We recommend

I hear it all the time: Ask a technologist what he does and he will answer proudly, “I’m a PHP developer,” “I’m a Cisco network engineer,” or “I’m a help desk manager.”

Although I understand the need to clearly articulate your skills and the tools you use, I worry that technologists often sell themselves short in their career by defining themselves by either the technology they use or the job title they currently possess.

Perhaps more concerning is that by defining themselves by the tools they use, they undermine future opportunities and actually hinder their ability to learn and adopt new technologies.

I refer to this as a tool-driven mindset because the tool is placed front and center as the most critical piece of their arsenal.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The above phrase succinctly identifies why this is a problem. If you define yourself by your title or the tool you use, every business challenge is viewed in relation to how your tool of choice can solve the problem. It is better for business challenges to be viewed and analyzed separately of any tool or technology. When there is a conceptual understanding of what will solve the problem, the tool or technologies to use become more apparent.

And certainly, existing tools are a great choice, so perhaps their tool of choice will be used. But often the solution may require a different direction. This can be seen and understood only if the business challenge is viewed outside of the tool or technology.

Tool-Driven Thinking Locks You In

What I’ve found with technologists who define themselves by their technology is that they believe they are, in fact, that thing. If they are asp.net developers, they develop only in asp.net. If they are Cisco network engineers, they build networks using Cisco products and technology.

Furthermore, they find learning technologies more challenging. It is as though they place a mental barrier between themselves and the new technology.

This often leads to self-inflicted career stagnation. When new opportunities arise, they have a hard time picturing themselves in the new role. They have predetermined what they are and therefore overlook opportunities that do not specifically match that. Over time this locked in mindset becomes more ingrained. It manifests itself as a distrust and disdain for new technologies.

With the advent to PC, many mainframe and midrange developers found themselves in this situation.

So how does an I.T. pro avoid being tool-driven and let their title define them?

View and Understand That Broad Concepts Are Critical

If you have found yourself caught in this type of thinking, step back from the specific tool you use and look at that tool for the common elements between it and similar technologies. Find articles that discuss your technology in relation to other technologies.

PHP Versus asp.net, for Instance

You might learn that your technology is superior in ways that are critical to you. But I suspect you may find merits in the other technology presented as well. Comments on these articles can also be revealing. First, you’ll recognize the tool-driven thinkers almost immediately. But second, the discussions may include links to other articles and even tools and technologies that are similar to those you are reading about.

This helps you develop a broad concept perspective.

Don’t be a Brand Snob

There are technologists who adamantly maintain their product or tool is the best and only way to solve the technical challenges of the companies they serve.

The truth is, there are typically, in any given space, several technologies or tools that can solve a problem. By failing to recognize this and being a sort of X technology snob, you necessarily limit your ability to look at and adopt any other technology.

The challenge is, as Cobol programmers faced in years past, both time and tool will pass you by. Suddenly, you will find yourself many years and many projects removed from anything remotely seen as current.

Although you can overcome this, the amount of effort necessary and the negative career impact may be substantial.

Try One or Two New Tools Each Year

I’m not suggesting you become an expert at two new technologies each year. That might be overwhelming…then again, it might not be. But at minimum, spend some time learning a new technology. Not a library or subset of your current toolkit but an honest-to-goodness new technology or tool.

Worst case: You learn something that helps you understand what is out there and what people are using. Best case: You are left with a greater conceptual understanding of tools being used, and you have, in fact, added one of those tools to your arsenal.

Fraternize with the I.T. Pros Using Different Tools

If you spend some time working with talented I.T. pros who use similar, but not the same, tool, it is likely you will see the merit and the reason why they use their technologies. Furthermore, this can help you see the broader, conceptual similarities between your current tool of choice and theirs.

This broader conceptual understanding is your key to more quickly adopting new technology and also seeing how you can undertake roles that stretch you beyond your current tool or technology.

Also, by doing so, you begin to train your brain on the process of rapidly adopting new technology. As you see conceptual and functional similarities between two or more technologies, you begin to realize that many concepts and skills transfer directly to the new technology.

Rather than learning a bunch of new facts, you are merely learning the differences between the technologies. There is no need, for instance, in programming to spend a LOT of time learning an if/then control construct. In fact, most programming languages are identical when it comes to control constructs…except for the differences. And those end up being largely the semantics of the language.

The same is true for networking: routers, switches, wireless technologies, and so on. Some terminology changes, but concepts tend to have a longer shelf life. Understanding this is good for your career and greatly reduces the stress associated with learning new technologies.

Many years ago, I was speaking to a group of technologists who focused on IBM midrange systems (AS/400 and iSeries). I suggested that an iSeries was similar to a PC running Windows 98.

I nearly had to flee the stage. But I ended up backing up my statement. I was NOT suggesting that they had the same power or capability to run hundreds and even thousands of simultaneous users.

I told the audience that, at their core, there was a processor, memory, storage, apps, and data. The job of the professional in charge of those systems was to ensure reliability of the system and effectively get data into and out of the system.

At the time, I worked on both iSeries and PCs as well as mainframes, Netware servers, Windows NT Servers, and Macs. In all cases, I started with a conceptual understanding of what I needed to achieve on each system. I then had to learn the particular interface and commands to achieve that objective.

I still maintain that they are all conceptually similar except for the differences.

What I have unfortunately experienced is I.T. professionals who, when faced with a new, largely unknown system, balk at the idea of rapidly being able to effectively work with it.

However, I’ve found that those who identify the broader conceptual similarities approach the new technology with far less fear. This, by itself, increases the speed at which they learn and become reasonably effective with new systems.

Concept First; Process Later

When I first wrote, Chapter 22, “Concept Over Process” (in Building Your I.T. Career), this was part of the paradigm. Although process (the functional talent of using a technology in this case) is important, I push my coaching clients and those who work with me on projects to think more conceptually about all of it.

Although some have suggested that there is NOT enough time to step back into this conceptual mindset due to the pace of change in I.T., I maintain that the pace of change makes this conceptual mindset absolutely necessary.

As I repeatedly say, this isn’t an either/or situation. It is a both/and requirement.

If you want to have greater success over the life of your career, you need concept and you need process. Or as I like to say, become concept driven and process savvy.

Pearson IT Certification Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Pearson IT Certification and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Pearson IT Certification products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.pearsonitcertification.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020