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Career advice that will change your life

By Mary Brandel, Network World
February 12, 2013 02:56 PM ET

Network World - These days, free advice can be found everywhere, from your various social networks to your favorite advice column. But truly valuable advice typically comes from your peers or people who've made it to a career or life position that you'd like to get to someday.

So, we asked IT professionals to share career advice that changed the way they work. Here's what they said:

Roland Cloutier, VP, chief security officer, ADP

Advice: "Eight slides or less, and the last four don't count."

Roland Cloutier
Roland Cloutier

"When I was a young director and preparing to present a security issue to the board for the first time, the CIO opened the conversation with the very specific instruction, 'Eight slides or less, and the last four don't count.' He taught me the first slide always says what has happened and what it means to the business. The second shows options and supporting arguments. The third page shows the financials. And the fourth shows a root cause remediation, course correction and next steps. Anything else is fluff.

"He went on to teach me the fine art of being direct with facts and articulating them in a way that a layperson would understand, through graphics, concepts and business data.

"The advice was eye-opening and transformational. My engagement at that level went from pained to engaged. Knowing the story, telling the story, and selling the story are very different components to a security executive's ability to communicate. All, however, are very important to master in order to have that ability to make changes.

"Up to that point, I had written hundreds of audits, reports and presentations and never realized that I was not communicating what actually needed to be communicated, and decisions fell off the edge, all the time.

"Today, I seek and welcome input into how I am communicating from those around me at all levels. I have others check my style, delivery and content, and I still keep it to four slides. Being self aware and aware of who you are communicating to -- and getting the most critical message onto the table -- enables you to dispense with the hours of interpretation and get on with delivering on the business of security, risk and privacy.

"I have used that concept ever since and continue to teach my teams that the art of simplicity and articulation is key to understanding, acceptance and momentum. Eight slides, and the last four don't count.''

[ MORE: IT pros reveal their best career advice ]

Joe Konstan, associate department head, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota

Advice: "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly."

Joe Konstan
Joe Konstan

"A large part of my career has consisted of community and volunteer activities, dating back to when I was a new assistant professor. I was involved in a lot of research projects that I really didn't have the expertise to do. I didn't think I was the right person, but the people recruiting me were willing to work with someone who would work hard and do their best.

"Twenty years ago, I was involved in very early work analyzing online discourse. I went to a conference on the topic, and I started talking to people to see if I could get more involved. The person running it offered me a role I had no idea how to do, which was running the exhibits. They offered to help me, and since then, I've risen through the ranks to where I chaired the CHI 2012 conference on human-computer interaction.

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