Recently, someone posted a message to the CertTutor.net Live! discussion forums about a colleague who claimed to have finished an exam in 10 minutes, passing easily. My first thought was that this person must have used brain-dump sites to cheat his way through the exam. But the more I thought about the claim, the more I realized that it accurately represents the attitudes of some IT professionals. Attitude, of course, directly affects the kind of professional you are.

Someone who brags about finishing an exam in 10 minutes probably did cheat. Microsoft exam questions especially require a lot of reading. Unless you're a true speed-reader, you simply can't get through the exam that fast—unless you've seen the questions before. Is an exam a speed-performance test? Of course not. If you're more concerned about racing through a project than about ensuring that you got it right, what does that say about your attitude? Your attitude says something about how you'll perform on the job, and it's exactly the kind of thing I look for when I interview candidates for a position. You're expected to complete tasks within a reasonable amount of time, but you're also expected to exhibit a degree of attention to detail. Arrogance clouds your ability to clearly think through even easy tasks and invites mistakes; it can also prevent you from seeking help when you need it, which can quickly escalate any problem.

The IT industry is a service industry. As a customer service representative within your organization, you must set aside your personal agenda and ego and focus on the company's needs. If you're arrogant, you're concerned about making yourself look good at the expense of others, which serves no useful purpose. Stereotypically, IT professionals lack social skills and personality, but as businesses increasingly rely on IT, relating well and working well with others is especially important. The ability to do so will separate you from those who can't or who choose not to.

Helping your colleagues gives you the opportunity to mentor people who don't know what you know. I often hear about junior administrators and entry-level IT professionals who can't get more-experienced IT personnel to teach them anything or show them what they're doing on a particular project. Superiors might give you the cold shoulder for several reasons, including "protecting their turf" (falsely thinking that doing so will make them indispensable to the company) and trying to give the impression that they know more than they do. Even if you're the only person who knows a particular process or task, your employer won't let you hold the company hostage over it. I've seen people who thought they were immune lose their jobs. In fact, I know of one company that abandoned a particular server product to go with something more "industry standard" because of the costs associated with having so much tied up in proprietary knowledge.

A successful IT professional understands that there's always more to learn and that inflating one's ego at the expense of others is a dead-end street. As you progress through your career, concentrate on doing things right and serving others before yourself. That strategy is what will make you indispensable.