Element of fortune in work life: Ghost chief

Passion and paranoia are necessary fuel to give a job all you've got, says Olivier Duhamel, R&D director for the Symantec Ghost development team.

Passion and paranoia are necessary fuel to give a job all you've got, says Olivier Duhamel, R&D director for the Symantec Ghost development team.

The Auckland-based former Frenchman says it is only through "sheer hard work” he got where he is today. Education is highly important and any youngster wanting to work in IT should stay at school as long as possible and work hard on their maths. Duhamel says tertiary-qualified people are more likely to be adaptable to new technology, have a higher perspective on things, are more articulate, can develop solutions, have a more strategic vision, and have a stronger work ethic and discipline. However, for the record, Duhamel left university after a year, to seek fame and fortune in the Sahara desert selling cars.

Duhamel says we like control over our working life, but often careers can progress on an accident of fortune. “Let your life guide your career and not the other way round. If you want to kayak the best rivers in your world, choose a contracting career which can give you the time to disappear for two months every year. If it is security and continuity that you need, choose a larger company where the opportunities are more numerous. If you want to become a millionaire, start your own business. You never get rich working for a boss."

One problem with dealing with bosses, he believes, is they have access to things you don’t have - the "bigger picture". Your performance as a manager also largely reflects the people below you, he says.

When first in management, Duhamel says he found it hard to delegate, believing he could do the job better and faster than anybody else. But he has since learnt it is essential to set the general direction then give people room to make decisions and show initiative. "This approach generates job satisfaction, a sense of pride and ownership which ultimately contributes to greater productivity,” he says.

Office politics is a necessary evil, he says, with any organisation having people jockeying for position and influence. It can be fun to watch and play, but should be done with strong ethical values. "Office politics is about building positive relationships, developing a network of business associates that you know and trust. Immoral tactics, ‘back stabbing’ can take you forward in the short term, but people around you will remember how you got there and you will lose a lot of trust and credibility,” he says.

Duhamel advises people listen and respect their enemy, honour requests for confidentiality, avoid emotional outbursts and avoid short-circuiting the hierarchy. A sense of humour helps, always, he says.

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