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6 Things IT Professionals Can Learn from the Film “Groundhog Day”

Feb. 01, 2018
Guest Authors

Ever feel like you’ve lived this day before?

We get it. You show up to the same job every day. Do the same work every day. Repeat the same conversations. Every. Day.

It can be hard to break the repetition. Change isn’t easy. Just ask Phil Connors, the time-warping character played by Bill Murray in the iconic 1993 film “Groundhog Day.”

Phil, a narcissistic and cold-hearted weatherman, is doomed to relive Feb. 2 over and over again until he gets it right. If you’ve never seen the movie before, GO WATCH IT RIGHT NOW.

Aside from plenty of laughs, “Groundhog Day” actually delivers powerful messages about change, love and the too-often-overlooked importance of being courteous to others. Phil is unable to break the time loop until he totally changes who he is. Unless you’re as selfish and heartless as Phil, you probably don’t require this type of transformation to break the repetition. But everyone could stand to make a few smaller changes to get the most out of life and your profession.

We singled out six lessons that IT professionals — and really any professional — can learn from “Groundhog Day.” OK campers, rise and shine…

1. Don’t be a prima donna

We’re not going out on a limb when we say few people willingly want to work with a prima donna. Whether you’re in the early stages of your career or a seasoned veteran, here are five tips to avoid becoming a prima donna like our buddy Phil Connors:

  • “Rita thinks it’d be a great idea...”

    • When Rita, the new producer, is assigned to Phil, he doesn’t want to give her an opportunity to help. He just continues to do things as he always has.

    • Lesson: Don’t brush off the people in place to help you. Be open to other people’s ideas. Especially when they’re in place to help you be better. If you don’t agree with their suggestions, have a constructive discussion about why.

  • “They’re hicks, Rita.”

    • As Phil walks through the crowds waiting to see Punxsutawney Phil, he clearly doesn’t want to be there and looks down upon everyone. He thinks he is better than everyone there.

    • Lesson: Don’t mock or dismiss what others are excited about or interested in. You might not have the same interests as others, but that doesn’t mean what they care about is any less important.

  • “For your information, hairdo...”

    • Starting a statement with “For your information” isn’t going to do you any favors. It has a higher chance of conveying arrogance and putting the other person on the defensive by making them feel inferior. It’s fine when using it as an informational reason—in that case just say “FYI” (without any attitude or sarcasm).

  • “…a major network is interested in me.”

    • Phil keeps talking about how he’s going to leave his current job because a major network wants him.

    • Lesson: Don’t brag about your next job while simultaneously belittling your current job or coworkers. You make yourself easier to fire. There is nothing wrong with looking to take the next step in your career, but keep it to yourself and continue to deliver results for your peers.

  • “This is impossible.”

    • It takes a special kind of ego to believe you can 100% forecast the weather—and Phil does just that. He repeatedly says that a large blizzard will miss his viewing audience, but he ends up being incredibly wrong. In fact, the blizzard traps him in Punxsutawney, commencing his reliving-every-day purgatory.

      • Lesson: It’s not “if”, it’s “when” you’ll be wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being confident, but when that day comes (and people will be secretly rooting for it) you’ll find little sympathy. People are less likely to forgive when you’re arrogant.

  • Oh yeah, one more thing: never, ever refer to yourself as “the talent.”


2. Surround yourself with right people

Phil learned that hanging out with the wrong people takes you down a bad path. When he realizes he is essentially invincible he winds up hanging out with two drunks that bring him down.

  • Phil: “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing you did mattered?”

  • Ralph (a drunk): “That about sums it up for me.”

Ralph sees no value in what he does and is a depressing influence. They shape what Phil does next: drinking heavily, driving a car on train tracks, mouthing off to police officers and eventually, winding up in jail. Once he starts surrounding himself with other people in positive environments he brings change and breaks free of his turmoil.

Lesson: If you want more than flapjacks in life, maximize your limited time by surrounding yourself with people that will help achieve your goals, ambitions and make you want to be better. It wasn’t quotes in the movie, but the famous Jim Rohn quote, “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with,” rings true.


3. Help a stranger … or a co-worker

Phil relives many of the same experiences each day, fewer more annoying than continually stepping in a pothole filled with icy water.

“Watch out for that first step. It’s a doozy!”

Not only does Phil keep suffering through the same day over and over, but now he has to do it in wet socks. Not fun.

It’s unclear how many times Phil steps in that same pothole before he remembers to avoid it. But as soon as he does, another unsuspecting gentleman steps directly into it. If only someone had been there to warn him of that pitfall.

Help a coworker out
For IT professionals, that icy pothole represents many of the unexpected challenges they encounter every day. A VPN stops working. A deployment is delayed. Or worse, your company is hit by a cyberattack. In all cases, some notice would have been helpful!

Whether you’re troubleshooting a network or trying to secure your organization against a DoS attack, you probably need some help. And if you have the means to provide assistance, help out a co-worker!

There’s no reason to hoard expertise—helping co-workers will make you feel better about yourself and will help your organization. Competition can be healthy in work environments, but don’t let it put your organization at risk. If you have a particular skill, share it with your colleagues. Be a team player. And, experience the “Helper’s High.”

When Phil starts helping the strangers in Punxsutawney (fixing a flat tire, giving a choking man the Heimlich maneuver, gifting WrestleMania tickets to young newlyweds) his selfless acts make him happier and make the people of the town fall in love with him. All of these “minor” acts build up, over just one day, and strangers become friends and admirers. They respect him. And he feels better about himself and actually, for the first time, finds enjoyment in his endless journey of Feb. 2.

Ignoring problems won’t make them go away
It may seem easier to ignore problems, especially when they keep popping up, but they don’t go away. Data breaches are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a strong cybersecurity approach to stopping them.

Phil can do some good by fixing a stranger’s flat tire, but that same tire is going to go flat tomorrow too. His hard work may seem without reward. But when he approaches the time loop in a more positive and selfless way, he knows that these little acts of kindness are making a difference.

Who knows how many times Phil saw that kid fall out of a tree before he decided to help. But when he realized it was the right thing to do, he made sure he was under that tree every day at the same time, possibly saving that kid from injury without ever getting a “thank you.”

And that’s another thing—don’t provide help just for the “thank you.” Do it for the right reason. If you have the ability to assist a co-workers, or a stranger, lend a hand to help. Who knows, some day you may need help troubleshooting a network … or avoiding an icy pothole.


4. Don’t relive the same day, over and over

In Phil Connors’ case, easier said than done!

Rita: “Do you ever have déjà vu?”
Phil: “Didn’t you just ask me that?”

Sometimes work life feels like a vicious circle, with each day blending into the next.

But nothing is going to change until you make a move.

We never fully understand how Phil finally breaks the loop, waking up next to Rita on the morning of Feb. 3. But it’s surely no coincidence that it happens after Phil changes his mindset and how he treats others. He’s no longer selfish. He’s no longer a prima donna. He routinely expresses and demonstrates his love for Rita and the townsfolk of Punxsutawney, aka the “hicks.”

Make changes because you want to
Initially, Phil made changes for selfish reasons. However, over time he chose to develop skills that benefitted others as well as himself. He actually changed. He learned to play the piano because he wanted to, not because it would impress Rita. He started offering assistance to strangers who needed it but would never ask.

At some point, Phil decided to make a change. And ultimately, it paid off.

“Go big or go home” isn’t always best
For IT professionals, maybe that change is an IT certification. Maybe it’s a different job role. Or maybe it’s a different employer entirely. Either way, you’re unlikely to break the loop unless you actively commit to something.

It can start by learning a new skill. Phil didn’t swing for the fences right away—he started by doing little things for the people of the town (like fixing a flat tire). When he finally devoted himself to a cause—helping the people of Punxsutawney—he achieved the result he desired the most (waking up on Feb. 3 instead of Feb. 2). If you’re not ready to make a major leap, like a job change, start with something smaller. Either way, whatever decision you make, do it with confidence and purpose. It should pay off for you in the end.


5. Break the monotony with new skills

Who wants their daily job and overarching career to be a battle of attrition? That’s no way to live. There will be times when it’s necessary, but like we’ve already said, if you’re tired of reliving the same day over and over again, something has to change—and it’s up to you.

Phil does just that—he learns to speak and read French, ice sculpt, play the piano, and it’s sad to say that in 2018 we’re highlighting the ability to change a flat tire as a differentiator.

Resistant to the idea of broadening your talents?
When a job requires technical expertise, it’s logical to think you need to master only the technical component. But how do you discuss the technical requirements or desired outcomes of a new initiative to a non-technical audience like upper management? It requires more than a technical prowess—it requires soft skills. To become a force to be reckoned with, develop your T-shaped skills.

T-shaped skills for the IT pro
T-Shaped skills revolve around a person’s technical, interpersonal and process capabilities. In a Harvard Extension School article titled “10 Soft Skills Every IT Professional Should Develop,” they highlight a Harris Poll that finds 77% of hiring managers value non-technical skills as much as technical skills. And in our “IT Certifications: 5 New Realities” article, we state, “it’s no longer good enough for IT professionals to just ‘know computers.’”

“The people who will thrive are the strong technologists who are capable of translating their expertise into terms that nontechnical people can understand.” – Ben Gaucherin, Campus Services CIO, Harvard University

Successful IT pros that want to change and open new career opportunities realize they need to look like, and become, the complete package, aka a “Renaissance IT Pro.” (You heard that term here first, folks!)

Phil becomes skilled in key things that help him create a well-rounded total skills profile. And you can too.

If you’re looking for guidance in formulating and setting some goals, read our “New Year. New You. An IT Professional’s Guide to Goal Setting and Taking Control of Your Career” post.


6. “Today is tomorrow”

You wouldn’t necessarily expect such a profound statement to come out of a comedy, but Phil utters this phrase when he finally wakes up on February third and realizes that the time loops has ended. The “old” Phil likely wouldn’t have been so philosophical, but this is a changed man.

Phil was a character who only thought about himself. Who knows how many iterations of February second he lived through—it doesn’t matter. He realized he needed to change his routine and how he treats others. He is finally rewarded when he wakes up “tomorrow” and has the opportunity to live a profound life.

You don’t have to relive the same day for years (or even decades) to alter your future. But don’t forget: What you do today will affect your tomorrow.

When Phil makes his initial changes, it’s with the sole intention of winning over Rita. But after multiple rejections, he reevaluates his approach.

When he decides to take piano lessons, he does so with no agenda. He just wants to better himself by learning a new skill. The result: he becomes a jazz pianist who brings the town together with his play. And in the end, it helps him to win Rita’s affection.

Figure out what you’re trying to accomplish and then invest in yourself. You don’t have to go it alone. Your peers are here to help, and we’re here to help. Check out Global Knowledge’s free resource library to stay up to date on our latest articles, white papers, webinars and special reports.

If you’re looking to take the guesswork out of training and start down a distinctive path, get to know our IT certification roadmaps:

Apply what you learn today to your job tomorrow. Making small changes to your everyday work will keep you interested and invested going forward. And that’s the best way to break the time loop.

Zane Schweer, Sarah Williams and Ryan Day contributed to this post.