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Rugby’s hard hits teach lessons for IT

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The score was all tied up at 24-24. France was excited just for the chance to head into extra time against the Australians, the favorite at the 1987 Rugby World Cup. Just before time expired, however, and deep in their own half, the French rallied, passing the ball through the hands of 11 different players before it found fullback Serge Blanco, who ran it in for the winning score.

This magical semi-final ranks as one of the most exciting moments in rugby history, but it’s also a clear illustration of the importance of teamwork—which is applicable for fans and non-fans alike. Watching this clip also got me reminiscing about my own time on the pitch back in my 20s and mid-30s, as well as some of the parallels to our work creating IT solutions (beyond just the obvious double meaning of “scrum”).

Rugby really taught me three important life lessons—lessons I use every day in IT that I also pass on to our employees and our clients:

1. Just because something is not understood doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Despite more than 6 million rugby players around the world and nearly 175 years of history, rugby still lacks popularity in the U.S. It’s rarely on TV and most people know little or nothing about the sport. But I can attest from my own experience: Rugby players don’t need mass media validation to enjoy playing and feel like they’re part of something special.

I see IT in much the same way: Just like rugby, there’s a whole list of jargon, the average person doesn’t really understand the rules, and it just kind of happens without a lot of hoopla. Yet, the technological advances brought about by IT professionals form the backbone of the systems and processes that run nearly every business around the world. This “behind the scenes” work may never be seen by the end user, but these experts know they’re building solutions that move business – and society – forward. And that’s all the validation they need.

2. Going the extra step makes all the difference.

I knew many players who were content with reaching the try zone (similar to the endzone in football) to collect the five points. But the best players are thinking about the bigger strategy and do what they can to also move the ball as close as possible to the middle for an opportunity to score even more.

When your company needs an IT solution, you need a provider that doesn’t just stop at fixing that one surface symptom. You need a firm that empowers its people to see that bigger picture – the overall business strategy for your company – and to go beyond the surface issues and the noise to find the cure for the root problems. You need someone willing to dig in and discover the broader issues holding you back.

3. The harder the hits, the more satisfying the victory.

Playing college rugby was a lot of fun, and winning was even better. But the most gratifying victories were often the games that were the toughest to win. I’m proud to say I delivered plenty of hard hits (and was on the receiving end of several bell-ringing collisions myself), but knowing we persevered through the bruises and battering and still came out on top made the celebration that much sweeter in the end.

Whether we’re building IT infrastructure, a quality assurance team, or a new blockchain innovation, IT solutions often come with their fair share of obstacles and hiccups. But those challenges – those trials that come from forging a new path – make the end result that much more satisfying. When we’ve solved a business problem for a client using an innovative technology solution, it makes all the hard work feel so worthwhile.

Avoid the ‘ruck’ and find the best IT solution

In rugby, a “maul” is when the player holding the ball is wrapped up. But instead of being tackled to the ground, both sides try to envelop and push the player to physically move the ball their direction. Sometimes, IT solutions feel a little like that: A team of professionals are pushing together to move the project over the finish line, while a host of issues and obstacles push back.

That’s when I like to envision that French team, fighting against a formidable foe, just trying to stand their ground against overwhelming odds. That’s when we pass the ball, and pass it again, and again and again, until together we find a way to score.

That’s the kind of team I want on my side.

Angela Hurt is founder and CEO of Veracity Consulting, a tech consulting team of problem-solvers and truth-tellers who deliver customized IT solutions for commercial and government clients across the U.S. Learn more at veracityit.com, and share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter @engageveracity.