What does it mean to be a “professional” in the field of application development, cloud, or IT in general? In fact, what does it mean to be a “professional” at all?  The word is a common part of our daily language but most people never really think about what it means, and to be fair, there are a variety of descriptions.

Personally, I believe one of the best definitions comes from the world of aviation. It is one I learned many years ago when I studied for my Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate (I am an aviation enthusiast outside of my normal “day job”). It really made me stand up and take notice, and it’s something I’ve taken to heart ever since.

So let’s put some concreteness around this word, and see how it relates to the ideas of learning and improvement – and indeed how you actually see yourself and your career. The definition of a professional in the aviation industry was described as follows, and my proposal is that each of us should take on this same mindset.

Definition of a Professional:

  • Uses good judgment
  • Extended training in his or her field
  • Uses reason and logic
  • Has a code of ethics
  • Studies, researches and keeps up to date with his or her field
  • Provides a service

A flight instructor who is not completely familiar with current…requirements and standards cannot do a competent job of flight instruction.

Aviation instructors should be constantly alert for ways to improve the services they provide, their effectiveness, and their qualifications.”

I love this definition. It resonates, and it should for you, too. Note in particular the importance assigned to learning and improvement. This is mentioned four times!

Here is why it matters. At Wintellect, our entire business is focused on providing best-in-class software development and Azure cloud-related services to our customers, and as a result, we strive to hire the top engineers in the industry.  (As a backup, this has resulted in many awards over the years, including most recently the IAMCP Worldwide Microsoft Channel Partner of the Year, and the MSUS Partner Award for Intelligent Cloud).

How do we create this success? One way is that we focus much of our hiring around those core attributes of a professional, and a key indicator is an individual’s dedication to continuous improvement and learning – both in depth (deeper learning) and breadth (expansion of skillsets). This is something we very carefully hire for. We want people who consider themselves professionals in their field (and act like it), not just technically savvy developers or architects.

Let me provide a real-world example that we often see during the interview process.  Although we talk to many smart people that bring a lot to the table, we often come upon one particular deal breaker.  When asked how they go about improving or expanding their current skills (“How do you learn new technologies?”) they make the following statement:  “Oh, I only learn what I need to learn for each project I’m on – but I pick new things up quickly!”  This is almost an automatic “no hire” signal.  These folks may be great people (they usually are!), and they may be quite smart, but they don’t meet the definition of Professional for us.

At Wintellect, a continuous learning philosophy is built into our hiring, development, and overall business operations. Since we have a Training division alongside our Consulting services, we are able to leverage our own instructor-led training and online video training (WintellectNOW) to provide free learning avenues for our consultants. We build a training and certification plan right into the original Offer Letter when we hire. And we have yearly incentivized (meaning paid bonus) objectives around learning each year for each person. Finally, we rotate our employees through technical conferences as well.

Indeed, a philosophy of continuous learning and improvement is core to our company, and core to what we believe a “professional services firm” should be. For you, the individual, I suggest that how you think about your career determines how you think about yourself, and then what actions you take to cultivate it.  A continual focus on deepening and expanding your “professional” skillset is a key component, and helps determine the face you present to your colleagues and your clients.

So…are you a Professional?