Who do you know? ...from one techie to another

Who do you know?

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Written on September 18, 2007
by Rick Zabel, Publisher of Automation.com
We’ve all heard that old saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” As each year goes by, this old saying seems to become more true. But in reality, it’s the combination of the “what” and the “who” that makes us most successful. 
As engineers, we understand complex concepts and we inherently tend to analyze things in great depth. For example, when we see some new technology, we automatically want to know how it works. So, we study it and extensively investigate until we find the answers.  We are thought creatures. It’s how we are wired. We tend to think about things that most other people in the world overlook, or simply don’t care about. That characteristic alone sets up apart from other human specifies (Yes, I meant species, i.e. professions).
At some point in our lives, each one of us probably believed that we knew everything. We were arrogant, stubborn, or both. As a teenager in high school, we tried outwitting our parents. Or as a new engineering graduate, we thought we had the world by the tail. But then, at some other point in our lives, something happened that brought us to the hard realization that we didn’t know everything and we can’t do everything on our own.   We need other people. 
For an independent, confident engineer, this can be a tough concept to wrap your mind around. This is the main reason many engineer-owned companies have a hard time growing their businesses to the next level…because to do so, they would have to trust someone to help them. As engineers, we all know that nobody else can do things as well as we can, right? Well that may be true. But, the reality is, there is only one of us and we just can’t do everything ourselves. 
So what do we do? We find people we can trust and we collaborate. According to Wikipedia, “Collaboration is defined as a process defined by the recursive interaction of knowledge and mutual learning between two or more people who are working together, in an intellectual endeavor, toward a common goal which is typically creative in nature. Collaboration does not necessarily require leadership and can even bring better results through decentralization and egalitarianism.”
“What” we know will only get us to a certain level, but “who” we know will help us become more successful. So, it just stands to reason, that the more people we know, the more successful we can be. Suppliers develop solutions (what), but that solution doesn’t become successful if they don’t know any manufacturers (who) who can use it or systems integrators who can help implement it. Meet new people. Expand your network. There are a number of ways to do this. One of the latest trends is to use social networks (Web 2.0). 
I believe it’s more than a trend. Our children are growing up with the Internet as their primary research tool and millions of young people are using social networks to stay connected with their friends and colleagues. Many technical professional segments have also started using social networks sites to help them in their jobs. For this reason, we introduced My.Automation.com, specifically for automation professionals. I hope you are not getting tired of hearing me mention this new tool in my column, because it IS the future of networking and it WILL help facilitate your collaboration with other automation companies and professionals.  
In this week’s featured article, Collaboration Strategies fuel Growth & Success, Jim Pinto also discusses how companies and professionals should collaborate for success.
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