I grew up in a family that is mad about sport. Cricket, rugby league, soccer, table tennis – you name it. Anyone who knows me knows that my favourite sport is cricket. I first picked up a bat at the age of 2, joined the local cricket club at the age of 6, and have played club cricket every year since then. I am now 33 years old.
I believe that there are lots of transferrable skills that you can take from team sports into any career. In this blog, I will share the things that I learnt from years of playing cricket and how it has helped in my career in IT.
A major part of a successful IT project is communication. Letting the team know about any risks, issues and progress updates is crucial for making sure things run smoothly. Communication needs to be early and to the point for it to have the biggest impact.
I see a direct comparison in how communication plays out in the game of cricket. Take batting for example. The three calls of “Yes”, “No” and “Wait” are very simple, but very effective. “Yes” means that there is a run available, while “No” means that there isn’t. “Wait” means that you are assessing the situation and is followed by a call of “Yes” or “No”. These are very loud, early, and decisive calls and there is no room for ambiguity.
With great communication comes trust. Again, early and straightforward communication shows that you are on top of things, which then means that your teammates can trust you.
In cricket, the person who hits the ball (the striker) makes the three calls listed above. The other batsman (the non-striker) listens out for the calls and is ready to run when the batsman calls “Yes”. He trusts that the batsman is making the right call and that there is no ambiguity which might put either of them in danger of being out.
When you watch team sport on TV, you see first-hand how much winning means to the players. They raise their arms in the air, embrace their fellow teammates, and get together to sing their team song back in the sheds. They understand that celebrating wins is important, after all the hard work that goes on in training.
Winning in the IT world is about delivering a top-quality solution to the client that helps them improve in their day to day operations. With the busy nature of what we do, it’s easy to implement a solution, go live, and then move onto the next project. Don’t forget to celebrate the overall win of completing a successful implementation and don’t ignore the little wins along the way.
Losing is Winning
Cricket has taught me how to be comfortable with losing. No one likes to lose, but it’s what you take out of the loss that helps you turn it into a win. I would spend hours thinking about what I could do differently next time to ensure we got the win.
The same applies to how I approach my projects. If something didn’t go well, I think about how I can prevent something similar from happening on future projects. I try not to be too hard on myself, otherwise similar issues will always be seen as a failure.
Other than spending time thinking about how to be better, I would also train once a week for two hours. In my younger days, I would play cricket almost every day. I never saw it as training. The whole idea behind this constant practice isn’t to be perfect. It’s to be better than I was at the last training, or at the last game. It’s to take those things that I’ve identified as my flaws and work on them, little bits at a time.
One of our values is excellence through mastery. I have committed to spending 15 mins a day to read some articles related to the technologies we use and then share my learnings with our internal team. Again, it’s not about knowing absolutely everything. It’s about knowing a little bit more than I did yesterday so I can constantly build my knowledge base.
Before I wrap up, I leave you with this video to illustrate excellent team work. Formula 1 can be seen as an individual sport with one driver, but people often forget the importance of the pit crew. They must have great communication and trust to ensure that all tasks get completed as quick as possible. They go through countless hours of practice to refine the process and understand that every tiny slip up is an opportunity to get better next time. They know that each task is as important as the next and also understand their place in the bigger picture – winning the race.
If you are in IT and have played team sports, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on what team sports have taught you. Leave a comment and let us know.