A Review of Mark McClure’s IT Career Engineer

Estimated reading time: 7 mins

What if I told you that you could exchange 3 hours of your time and just over 40 bucks for all the IT career guidance you’ll need to move from pure techie to IT Leader? You’d think I was nuts, right? Well I wish I had known about Mark McClure’s IT Career Engineer 12 years ago when I was doing just that.

Mark McClure is a personal coach for ‘mid-career’ technical professionals. Mark was born in Northern Ireland and now lives in Japan. Mark is a frequent commentator on this site so I thought I would look at his product The IT Career Engineer and review it. Mark runs his blog www.markmccluretoday.com where he frequently talks about the opportunities and issues we technology professionals face in our career. It’s Mark’s experience and insights into the IT industry that has led him to capture his knowledge in his report The IT Career Engineer , which comes to us at $42USD on CD. Mark and I first began talking because of our common interest in the development of the technology professional, i.e. You, and I became interested in his course as our relationship developed. He has even written a Guest Article on this site: Five Self-Marketing Tips for Information Technology Employees .

The report is intended for technology professionals who aspire to build a successful career in the Information Technology industry. As Mark says, having great technology skills is not enough, so Mark’s report is a course designed to teach technology professionals to build new all-round skills to forward their career.

The course is delivered as video presentations from the CD which load into your browser. It’s broken up into eleven modules with a few seconds under 3 hours of content . Because it’s modular, you can break up the course to view it over several sessions at your convenience and you won’t lose the thread as you do. The course material isn’t accompanied with audio/mp3 versions for listening on your iPod, but as you’re a technology professional then I am sure you could find a way to do that. I tested the course by taking one module each day which I could slot into my daily schedule.

Each video is presented using a tool called MindGenius , which is a mindmapping tool. Mark talks you through the content of each module whilst navigating the way through the content on-screen. As Mark is talking he highlights the relevant content which he pre-prepared. MindGenius is an effective way of presenting educational material as it shows the linkage and decomposition of topics.

The videos are:

Introduction (10:27)

Your coach: Mark McClure (07:35)

01a – You! (18:14)
01b – You! (10:02)
01c – You! (06:00)

02 – ‘Luck’ (11:15)
03 – Baselining (07:43)

04a – Selling Yourself (10:17)
04b – Selling Yourself (Technical Skills) (09:02)
04c – Selling Yourself (Business Skills) (10:16)
04d – Selling Yourself (People Skills) (11:09)

05 – Project Management (05:14)
06 – Time Management (08:54)
07 – Managers (13:25)
08 – Training (10:29)
09 – Biz-Trips (13:03)
10 – (Performance) Reviews (07:52)
11 – Personal Vision (08:30)

Note that the first module is about You . Mark starts right with the person who is watching and discusses the challenges of the modern technology professional, the need for survival skills , the desire to transition into leaders and how technology professionals are motivated. Mark talks frankly about the reality of the IT industry and the kind of people who are successful within it. His frankness is refreshing as he shares with us the truth about the mindset and people in IT departments.

Subsequent modules take us through a career journey e.g. how to seek employment, assess new employers and it’s organization, building profiles inside these organizations, and so on. In module 2 Mark tells us about how to land technology jobs with recruiters and how to prepare for interviews, which is a great confidence booster. I particularly like the discussion on great questions to put to an interview panel as you don’t often get this kind of advice from other sources. Module 3 talks about ‘baselining’ which is Mark’s word for assessing the lay-of-the-land in a new job. Based on his own experience he describes a process of building awareness about a new employer and it’s culture, particularly on ‘how things get done’, reported and requested. This module is one of the best as it’s a lesson in finding the groove which isn’t something many books and courses discuss.

I especially liked module 4 – Selling Yourself – as this is a critical activity when you’ve joined an organization where few really know your personality, capabilities and potential. Mark adds specific focus on selling technical skills, business skills and people skills , giving us pointers on how to build these skills. When watching this module I was often reminded about the tough challenges I faced earlier in my career where I struggled to find help or solutions for. If I had Mark’s report back then, I could have saved so much time and bitten nails!

Modules 5, 6 and 7 give us the essential ‘101’ for Project Management, Time Management and Managers respectively. These are not master-classes, but do cover the important aspects of each subject. If you’ve only experienced a cursory glance of these things then Mark’s discussion will give you sufficient depth to understand the subjects and then point you to further learning off your own bat. The brevity of these modules are what makes them most powerful – we don’t have to sift through pages of management text books and translate management speak into something we can understand.

Now module 8 talks about Training . This is where Mark’s insight into technology professionals really shines through. His experience in using training tells us that it is useless unless the skills learned are actually used and put to test. This module gives us pointers on how to take learning back into the workplace and put it into practice. If you’ve been on courses before and forgotten what you heard after a while (like I have) then you’ll understand why this is a valuable lesson!

Module 9 adds an unusual subject of Business Trips (I was curious why this was in the course at first) but it became clear as I watched. Mark offers some excellent advice on how to prepare for and manage business trips, such as collecting the necessary resources, considering information security (e.g. risk of data loss from flash-drives), travel itself, local holidays, access to offices, etc. If you hit the road in your job then this module will be your favorite. I LOVE THIS MODULE. So much wisdom in 13 minutes!

The last two modules cover Performance Reviews and Personal Vision . Both offer sagely insight into career planning, reviewing and career goals. The two go hand in hand as they talk about how we should look ahead to what we want from our IT careers and the way organizations nurture employees. Reviews are stock-checks along the way so Mark informs us what to look out for and why they happen.

Japanese Start Button You might be put off by Mark’s choice of the Japanese version of Windows XP, but this intrudes only on the Start Button at the bottom of the screen and doesn’t affect the course content at all. Also Mark speaks in a humble style and there are the odd few gaffes in what’s said, although it does nothing but endear me towards Mark’s character.

One thing Mark doesn’t do is to show his face on the video. You’re not as ugly-as-sin Mark (if you think so, then tell him!). I’d have liked to see Mark show his mug on screen, at least to open, to prove he is a human being. A quick mug-shot would have eased me into the content instead of the initial presentation of MindGenius.

Despite these quirks, Mark’s report is a wonderful introduction to the many factors of career building. It hits the spot in terms of it’s appropriateness to the target audience. It doesn’t go into too much detail, but enough to give us enough coverage of each subject. It really is a series of thirteen 101s, and I haven’t seen anything like it in one place. Sure, I can find this material in books I have on my shelf as there isn’t anything new, but that’s not the point. The path Mark takes us through is well put together as each module flows into the next. It’s a one-stop-shop for IT career development, suitable for any career-minded technology professional.

The report can be purchased from Mark’s site ITCareerEngineer.com for $42 plus shipping and handling which is about the same price as a introductory text-book. It offers great value!

You will need a PC with a CD-Rom Drive, Windows XP, Internet Explorer or FireFox, and speakers, in order to watch this CD course.

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