Personal Integrity

There is, on a daily basis, a choice you must make as a geek, as someone who is involved in technology — particularly in the world of computer networking. The choice we always face, every one of us, is whether to champion a particular product or service, or to champion solving the problem at hand. Between doing what’s best for a vendor — or even harder, what’s best for our career — or doing what’s best for our customer (whoever that customer might be). In other words, what to do with our personal integrity.

I know it’s hard, when you’re working for a vendor, not to just throw yourself into a product to the point of seeing it as the hammer that solves every problem, whether a nail or not. I know it’s hard, when you work for a smaller company, or in what feels like a “side alley” of our little industry (what Ethan calls a “mud puddle”) not to try to throw yourself at being famous, or warping the direction of the company so you can learn something new. I once worked on an account where I’d been asking to come in and help them switch from EIGRP to IS-IS. Not because there were any problems, but because they were working on their CCIE’s, and wanted to learn a second protocol. Seriously.

Once you’re seen as doing things in a self-serving way, once you’re seen as being self-centered, self focused, or just plain selfish, it’s hard to shake loose of it. In fact, it’s hard not to slide down the slope of selfishness into the pit below, into a world where personal integrity is completely lost. I know it’s a battle we all fight every day — I’m not a progressive who thinks I can perfect myself (or humanity) if I just have the right motives and techniques.

But I also know it’s a battle worth fighting for, for one simple reason —

If there’s one thing it’s really hard to get back once you’ve lost it, it’s your personal integrity.

I’ve been kicked out of accounts a number of times in my career because I wouldn’t “toe the company line.” I’ve been frozen out of projects because I refused to back down on asking hard questions I thought really needed to be asked. Often it felt like, at the time, the “end of the line.” Several times I really thought it was going to end my career. But you know what? It didn’t. And, honestly, even if keeping my personal integrity intact did end my career, would my career have been worth it? Would yours?

Remember this: we live in a connected world. To go to the post that kicked off my musings in this area —

This doesn’t look like Powerpoint anymore Toto. This is especially important as people speak. Our world is connected more than ever. Both digitally and within geographies. I work in Melbourne, Australia and the IT market is connected. Socially people are cross pollinated. If you say you can do something you better deliver otherwise people will hear about it. Your technical reputation would take a hit. This also has an impact on your career. Career is an interesting point. You’re your career. Your career is far more important than any one technology or inferno