Earlier this month CDW’s Black Excellence Unlimited (BeU) BRG kicked off Black History Month with a career discussion featuring Director, Configuration Services Ron Harris. During the discussion, Ron shared his career journey and insight on elevating excellence. Read on for a recap of his tips for advancing your career.
Ron has had a passion for technology since he was a young child. “I used to tear my toys apart and rebuild things and didn't know how it would turn out." That passion has been one of his greatest strengths and guides him through his career decisions and journey at CDW. He joined CDW in 1995 knowing he wanted to be in the technology industry. At that time, CDW was a new company and everyone was learning about new technologies, certifications and different positions.
To move from will-call to a technology role, Ron decided he needed to make a plan. “I created my own development plan and then I started telling people what I wanted to be.” His strategy paid off and Ron moved to a technician role. Ron encourages others to do the same and communicate their goals. He shares, “You never know who is listening. You tell them what you want to be. Trust me, they're listening. You don't know who's going to hear it and then actually have an opportunity for you.”
According to Ron, a successful plan should have a personal vision statement to guide you. It should cover what’s important to you and what you believe in. You can use the statement to focus and reset your thinking when you feel demotivated. Include your areas of interest and break it out into 1-2 years out, then 2-5 years out. Ron says “I had Director role on mine, which I've achieved. So again, subconsciously things that I did throughout my career just moved me in that direction. I didn't really know where I would end up, but that's not the point. The point is I knew I had an idea of where I wanted to be or what type of work I wanted to do and that's ultimately what happened.”
“Find somebody either currently doing it, somebody that's done it before, or someone just really good at giving you direction and guidance. That's the key. Find someone that you can connect with but don't look for somebody just like you all the time. Find someone that has the same skillset that you're looking to achieve and you will be amazed at what you have in common with individuals, even if they don't look like you.” A good mentor will give you guidance on how to reach your goals, as well as honest feedback on your current skills and brand.
For those who want to further their careers, especially in leadership roles, Ron discussed the value of receiving feedback. Ron learned to listen to the feedback, even if he didn’t agree or like where it was coming from. “I had to learn to just hear what they were saying so I could get something from it.”
Personal brand is a key factor in advancing in your career. Ron advises, “Make sure there is a positive reaction when people think of your name. If you get a negative reaction, you need to work on your brand.” This can be as simple as being nice and mindful of how you react. It’s okay to have different opinions and be yourself, but you can control the way that your reaction is perceived. He also advises to find a sponsor who can speak up for you. Someone to “wear your t-shirt” when you aren’t in the room.
Ron has served in several roles throughout his career journey and each role provided him with skills and an understanding of how to leverage them in his career success.
“I started to realize that the road to success is not straight. There's definitely a lot of twists and turns, different ways you can be successful.” As he advanced in his leadership career, Ron wanted to play on his strengths – specifically his passion for technology. Ron decided to go back to school and got his masters in IT. He was then promoted to his current role as Director, Configuration Services. “Now I was able to use all of that experience to run the configuration services team. Every two to four years you might want to think about changing careers or departments. That's how you want to look at gaining more experience that's going to make you more valuable to yourself. And CDW.”