Career Notes 12.18.22
Ep 130 | 12.18.22

Don Pezet: Stepping stones are the start of your career. [CTO]


Don Pezet: My name is Don Pezet, I'm the Chief Technology Officer of ACI Learning and co-founder of ITProTV.

Don Pezet: When I was younger, I actually wanted to be an attorney. I watched a lot of law shows, really enjoyed that, and, and I had this, this vision, this dream of going to law school. So computers didn't really come onto my radar until much later in life.

Don Pezet: When I was in high school, I started picking up computers as a hobby, just kind of messing around. I ended up building my own computer, experimenting with parts, and when I went to college, I, I was doing pre-law, political science, and I didn't have a lot of scholarships and so I started buying and selling computer parts and started to build and sell computers as just kind of a, a, a side thing to generate some money and pay for college, and it was doing that, that really helped me to develop a love of computers and before I was done I ended up switching my major over to CIS and it's been computers ever since.

Don Pezet: There was so much opportunity, even in the world of politics, like you look at it today and the internet and politics go hand in hand. Back then, it wasn't there yet, but you could see the future that was coming. So I embraced it. Networking technologies, being involved on the internet, that was really foundational for me because it gave me exposure to technology that today hasn't given. We just expect that technology is going to be there. I had a chance to work on it very early.

Don Pezet: My first real IT job was supporting a very small MAC network for a law office and from there, I transitioned over to doing warranty repair and a break/fix shop. But I started to get involved in servers and networking a lot more and, and with Cisco equipment, routers and switches, uh, they didn't have firewalls at the time and I started traveling and I learned so much. But I stayed incredibly busy for a period of about two years, and it wasn't long after that that I said, "all right, I've learned a lot, I wanna stop traveling, I wanna settle down a little bit." So I made the transition from actually going out in the field and doing work to doing teaching. I started teaching technology courses and I, I would still do contract work on the side, so I kept my skills sharp and active, but teaching really became a, a bit of a passion for me.

Don Pezet: I actually spend a good bit of my time in my chief technology officer role, we have customers all over the world, so there's a lot of regulatory compliance that applies to what we do and as any responsible organization we have to keep our customers data safe. So I spend time on that front making sure that our organization is implementing security best practices, that we are protecting the data that we've been, uh, tasked with protecting. We have to teach people what they need to know for the, the skills today, but we also have to prepare them for what's coming down the line and make sure that they're prepared for that next step in their career. And so that's what I spend a good bit of time doing. The rest of the time I spend, still teaching.

Don Pezet: My leadership style is actually built kind of off of my teaching style when, when you're teaching somebody how to do something, you don't just want to tell them, here, do this, do step A, step B, step C, and call it a day. You need to give them some guidance, but you need to let them figure things out themselves, go through the exercise and do it and my leadership style is very much like that. I like to give people a direction to move in, but not tell them how to get there and that helps them to develop their skills and, and hopefully prepare them to move upward in their career. But it also usually leads to some creative solutions. If you don't give people the freedom to figure out solutions on their own, you, you give up that opportunity to discover new things and in technology, so many people have so many different points of view that you'd really be losing out on a great resource. It's, it's really important to task people in a way that they can go out and discover all the crazy different ways to solve a problem.

Don Pezet: When it comes to problems, challenges of any sort, there's a few different tactics you can take, right? You hear about people that are, uh, that will delay hoping a problem goes away, or they'll try and transfer the problem to somebody else. Just kind of push it outta there. Some people will just hem and haw and, and I'm not like that, I'm a bit of a confronter. I wanna address it right away. And what I've always said, we always need to be moving forward. We need to be taking action. If we just sit still and don't do anything, then it's not really solving the problem. In fact, taking no action, is an action in and of itself, just choosing not to do anything. I would rather make a wrong decision right away and have time to fix it than to delay until later and potentially make a wrong decision when we don't have time to fix it. So if there's an issue, I like to address it head on.

Don Pezet: The biggest accomplishment of my, my entire career really has been ITProTV. So Tim Broom and I created ITProTV and our goal was to basically create the training that we wished we had when we got started and so we created something that was fun and engaging, and we have a global reach now. We are, are working with governments and enterprises around the world. It's really opened my eyes up to how it's not just individual people who need training, like what we make, we've really been able to reach out and help a lot of people and that's what I want people to remember is to say, look, training doesn't have to be boring. It doesn't have to be a lecture, somebody just talking at me. I can go and I can watch a couple of people have a passionate conversation about technology and enjoy it, and it's a lot of fun, and Don helped to make that, that's what I hope people remember.

Don Pezet: The best piece of advice I can give you is be careful not to specialize right away. IT is a very complex career field. There's a lot of different avenues for your career to take and if you try and specialize right out of the gate, you might be missing out on other avenues in IT that you may enjoy even more. A lot of times when I hear from somebody who says they're burned out, well, they don't actually need to get out of IT. They need to look at the other things they could be doing and find one that they enjoy more. I don't wanna call it a specialization or focus or anything like that, just a general set of skills like a jack of all trades while you learn the career field and what you want to do, and know that that first job you get is probably not going to be the job you want to have your whole life, but it's a stepping stone that leads to where you want to get.