The Importance of Curiosity as an IT Skill

Be on the lookout for IT job candidates who truly enjoy the work and are hyper-curious about how specific technologies function at a granular level. Don’t just focus on ticking off boxes.

Andrew Froehlich, President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

June 8, 2022

3 Min Read
Multiethnic group of young IT employees looking at computer monitor and discussing something while sitting in modern open space.
Dmytro Sidelnikov via Alamy Stock

Too often, recruiters and IT managers focus on new hire candidates that tick specific boxes such as formal education, certifications, and work history. While these are all important factors to a degree, solely targeting these traits will not get you the best candidates in my experience. Instead, what I’ve found is that the best employees are those who truly enjoy the work and are hyper-curious about how specific technologies function at a granular level.

Curiosity: Why Is It the 'X Factor'?

Anyone who has ever spent time in the world of IT engineering or support knows the importance of research. Too often, IT staff will run up against vendor, consultant, or colleague statements like “this tool can’t do that,” or “that’s not an option.” However, there are those who go the extra mile when it comes to researching a digital tool or service to understand precisely what can or cannot be accomplished. To these people, they see it as a challenge and will seek out-of-the-box ideas when it comes to figuring out a solution to a specific business problem that can be solved with technology.

Even if a solution cannot be found (which is often the case, given the limitations of technologies), that extra bit of curiosity that drove this person to put in extra research will have a deeper understanding of the technology platform or service and can leverage that in the future. Additionally, it shows that these are the types of employees that are adaptable to change and are willing to work on technical tasks that may be outside of their comfort zone. Thus, when problems arise, it’s more likely that these are the staff you’ll be able to lean on to find a solution.

I’ve personally spent countless hours going down various technology rabbit holes in pursuit of technical solutions that are either not well-documented or even considered by the technology creator. While on the surface many of these ventures seemingly were fruitless, looking back, I feel that this type of curiosity sharpened my ability to think through complex problems. This finely tuned skill can then be applied to other aspects of IT that will be relevant to the business, including troubleshooting and IT architecture.

Promoting Curiosity on Your Resume

While it’s unlikely that recruiters will stop keying in on specific technical skills and certifications as their main method of identifying qualified candidates, job seekers should work to find ways to include mentions that suggest they are passionate and curious about technology. One way that I’ve found works well is to include a couple of examples of an enterprise technology I’ve worked on and how a problem was solved in a unique way. This may be a situation where I combined multiple technologies together, the use of a brand-new feature that was not well-documented or another unique implementation method.

The goal is to let it be known that I was interested enough to go beyond what others may have done to find a solution. The hope is that those reading these "curiosity use cases" will become curious themselves -- and that curiosity would be strong enough for my resume to bubble to the top.

IT Roles Where Curiosity Is Paramount

While curiosity is a trait that is desirable across all IT disciplines, the role of engineer or architect is where it shines the most. In a perfect world, architects would use best-practice implementations that are outlined by the technology developer. However, considering how vastly different one IT infrastructure is from another based on business goals, best practices cannot always be followed. Thus, creative ways of integrating new technology solutions are often required. It’s in this space where curious minds work best -- and business leaders would be wise to seek those that excel at it.

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About the Author(s)

Andrew Froehlich

President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

Andrew has well over a decade of enterprise networking under his belt through his consulting practice, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and datacenter build-outs and prior experience at organizations such as State Farm Insurance, United Airlines and the University of Chicago Medical Center. Having lived and worked in South East Asia for nearly three years, Andrew possesses a unique international business and technology perspective. When he's not consulting, Andrew enjoys writing technical blogs and is the author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex.

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