Three IT Lessons from Metal Gear Solid

by Bill Heller

I might not have as much time now as I did a few years back, but gaming is still one of my passions. Yes, that is correct. I am not just drinking coffee and studying all day. I also try to spend some time playing a good game. One of my favorite series to this day is Metal Gear. Out of the games in the series, I spent countless hours playing Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation. It’s still a top 5 game in my book. However, now years later I can look at Metal Gear Solid through a different perspective, an IT perspective. I will be presenting the three lessons Metal Gear Solid can teach IT Professionals.

1. Every Boss is Different

The characters of Metal Gear Solid played a huge role in the game. Some of these characters were the bosses you would face throughout the game. They were all different, some more difficult than others, and usually had a pattern you could figure out in order to defeat them. Metal Gear Solid gave you interesting boss battles like the “mind-reading” Psycho Mantis, outdoor hide and seek with Sniper Wolf and even an explosive tank battle. No, I am not saying your manager is an enemy you should try to defeat! Each of the managers or bosses you work for and run across in your IT career are all different. They have different expectations, even if your position is the same. It is important to find out what those expectations are if you want to have success. The hope is that you can have conversations with your manager on what you can do not only to improve yourself, but the organization. Even if you both have different opinions on solutions or implementations, there should be some common ground. Having conversations and asking questions is what will often push you forward. Using the same strategy with different bosses will probably lead to some frustration and some losses.

2. A Stealthy Career?

Metal Gear Solid gave you a little freedom to play the game the way you wanted to. If you wanted to spend some time sneaking and hiding from guards, you could. You could go through much of the game sneaking around those guards. You could also run-and-gun your way through the game. My preference when it comes to IT and careers is the latter. Sneaking around, stealthily completing your day works, but does it get you noticed? Not really. Making noise and being seen in the game could lead to bad things, but in life it can lead to good things. So, what does “make noise” even mean? Doing more. It’s that simple. Go and study for a certification. Learn something new and see if you apply what you’ve learned to practice at work. Ask to be part of a project that might seem to be difficult. Heck, try to lead that project if they let you. Sneaking around in a box will help you in the game, but not in the real world.

3. Know Your Arsenal

The character you play as in the game, Solid Snake, was a badass. He was capable of defeating these giant bosses, crazy villains, and was able to get the mission completed, no matter how difficult it looked. However, in order for all of that to occur Snake still needed to use the right weapons at the right time. You as the player needed to figure out what weapon to use and how to use it. In IT, your weapons are the tools and devices you use. This might be monitoring software, a program or even just the CLI of a device. Know how to use the tools you have. If proper training is needed, go to leadership and see what they can do. We can make an org and our jobs better by knowing how to get the best out of what we’ve purchased. Often, we purchase tools and use a third of its capabilities. Then we buy more tools and before you know it, we are buried in programs no one really uses or knows how to use.

Simply writing about Metal Gear Solid brings back some great gaming memories. It was a fun game, especially when you knew what you were doing. Careers in IT are the same. You can spend time sitting in a chair stealthily going about your day or you can make some noise and get noticed. Have those conversations with leadership, learn your tools and environments. Ask for more. Be a little bit more like Metal Gear Solid’s Solid Snake.

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