How to stay relevant

I received an email from a colleague in one of the acquired companies, he asked among other things

What is the most effective way to influence or implement positive change at large companies

Rather than dump my entire email reply here, I thought I’d break it up into a few shorter posts.

Easy to say, not so easy to do. You have to demonstrate sustained track record of delivering on important projects. You have to make yourself relevant. How do you stay relevant? Start with tracking what is important to your boss, then meet deadlines; volunteer for hard projects; mentor; measure and report results; always be positive, the glass is always half full; work hard; volunteer more. Make yourself indispensable. When you think you’ve done that for your boss, move on, track what his/her boss thinks is important, lather, rinse, repeat.

Recently someone told me they couldn’t make progress because corporate “branding” was telling him that he had to deliver what was important to them. I asked who “they” was, he was evasive. This was useful as it showed he’d been beaten down by the system. There is no such person as Corporate Branding, it’s a team of people, managers and executives. They have a job and they have objectives. Getting beaten down by them just shows that he hadn’t thought it through and taken his case to the right people. Everything, yes, everything is fixable in a large company, you just have to decide its worth fixing and knowing that you can only do this in a positive forward looking way. Anything else requires people to admit they were wrong, who does that?

Some things are not worth fixing.

2 Responses to “How to stay relevant”


  1. 1 James davison July 16, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Have an opinion, if your good and persistent, it will be the right one.

  2. 2 Mark Cathcart July 17, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Thanks James, yes, its important to have a point of view. The trick is knowing when to continue to voice it, and when to be quiet. We’ve all worked with someone who refuses to recognize when it’s time for the latter, and they become a broken record.


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About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.


I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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