The Impact Mindset Has On Your Intelligence Level And Career Success by Marwan Al-ShawiI noticed that many people today are focused on the major changes and evolution in the IT industry. People are contemplating what impact software-defined networking, automation, Internet of Things, cloud and other significant trends will have not just in the industry, but within their careers and professional development.


The majority of people are concerned because these trends indicate that the market will require significant changes and transformation in the required skillset for both current and future jobs within the IT industry and particularly within the networking field.


People may have a mixture of feelings toward the aforementioned changes, such as:

  • Will I be accepted or rejected in the changing market?
  • Will I continue, as I am today, to be highly sought after and regarded as a talented resource?
  • Will I be able to continue to succeed, or I will fail to differentiate myself as a result of these changes?


Let’s see what could be the root of these thoughts and the relation to the way you see things ‘the mindset’.


If you believe that your personal qualities such as your level of intelligence and ability to pay attention to certain things are carved in stone, then this will typically generate a necessity to always prove yourself. You will consistently be driven to prove that you have a solid level of intelligence and are true to your personality as well as purpose.


Many of us might be trained or educated based on this concept, for example you can learn new things, however you can’t really change how intelligent or what kind of person you are!


What might support this belief is the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test, according to Wikipedia “IQ scores are used for educational placement, assessment of cognitive abilities, and evaluating job applicants under certain circumstances. Even when students improve their scores on standardized tests, they do not always improve their cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention and speed”


Based on this, the IQ is essentially meant to evaluate students or job applicants for an unchangeable level of intelligence.


Well, this is not fully accurate, Alfred Binet the inventor of the IQ test, initially designed this test to identify children who were not succeeding or profiting in school in order to build an educational program to get them on track again. Binet stated in one of his key books “Modern Ideas About Children”, “A few modern philosophers assert that an individual's intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism... With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgment and literally to become more intelligent than we were before.”


Furthermore, Dr. Carol Dweck classifies people's minds into two primary categories; the fixed mindset (highlighted above) and the growth mindset. According to her, “the growth mindset is based on the belief that your basics are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people differ in every which way (in their initial talent, aptitude, interests, etc.) everyone can change and grow through application and experience”


Therefore, in my opinion, it is key to identify your limiting mindset according to these classifications in order for you to overcome any self-imposed boundaries that might be unconsciously preventing you from moving forward. You may be wondering, how a belief can help someone to move forward and develop.



Well, let’s look at a simple example and analyze it from these two mindsets’ or ‘perspectives’.


Let’s imagine you go to work and your boss tells you that the solution you recommended to the customer last week was not accepted. After you heard this news you decided to go out for a break and noticed your car tire went flat, then you tried to order an Uber taxi and your request from the mobile App didn’t go through (apparently your credit card was expired that day).


A person with a fixed mindset will most likely start defending the design or solution provided to the customer, in terms of being the best fit for their needs. Also, in such situations, this person may typically feel rejected and be confronted with some feeling of failure or depression.


On the other hand, someone with growth mindset will look at this situation differently. First of all, it is not the end of the world, if the car tire is flat, it is something that frequently happens and although inconvenient, quite simple to fix. In the situation of the Uber, if the credit card expired, one can take a normal taxi instead. Most importantly, someone with this mindset will typically ask why the customer did not accept the solution, to find out if there is anything that was missed or whether it simply needed to be communicated to the customer better.


Without going deeper into the analysis, it is obvious that your mindset can take you down completely different paths in every single situation in your life whether at work or within your personal life.


So how can the proper mindset help us to achieve career success?


At the beginning of this blog, I mentioned some of the possible feelings/thoughts a person may have in regard to the changes in the IT industry and skillset requirements.


Let’s see how someone with a growth mindset may think about these changes:

  • What are the learning opportunities these changes will create for me?
  • What are the areas or topics I need to focus on in my learning and development to ensure my skillset stays current with market demand and what I most enjoy?
  • Will there be any new opportunities/areas of specialization that may help me to progress further or more quickly in my career path?




In my humble opinion, don’t waste ‘a lot’ of your valuable time considering opinions or suggestions that may only result in discouraging you from moving forward. Escape the fixed mindset.


There are many articles, which I do respect and agree with to an extent, discussing the impact of new technologies and trends and how they are shaping the future of network engineering. Many believe automation and software programming will take over the network engineering role, while others believe this will have slight impact and the network engineer with CLI knowledge will remain a key role.


In the above example, both opinions are valid to a certain extent, however, solely beveling in any of the opinions will not take you anywhere, could cause unneeded concern and result in execution paralysis.


Why don’t we transform our mindset to the growth one and look at these changes from a different angle, rather than trying to prove whether this will impact us or not.


As a result, instead of seeing these changes as a threat, concern, loss, etc. we will see them as new opportunities and skill sets to learn and improve. This could ultimately open new career paths and opportunities for success in the future ‘the era of digitization’.


To sum it up, when you look inside the mindset you open a new vision to yourself to see how you currently see things and how you can improve this vision to see the same things from different perspective.


When you look at the world of the mindset, here is a breakdown of how the two different domains typically manifest.

  1. The fixed attributes domain - Success is more about proving the talent and smartness and validating these traits. As a result of trying to keep proving this competence, a person could unconsciously drag themselves into a self-induced competition with partners/coworkers etc. in terms of who is better, smarter, more talented, etc.
  2. The growth success domain - On the other hand, this domain is always about learning new things and improving.  Keep in mind, that your attributes and such unique qualities like your intelligence are not fixed.  and can always be improved upon.  This focus on learning, improvement, determination and execution will help you to be more intelligent and talented.


Last but not least, this is not a magical recipe that can create an instant change for you, however, remember that where are you at today is based on what you have done in the past, and where you will be in the future will be determined based on what you are doing today.


Try to do a self-evaluation of a situation that made you feel rejected or unsuccessful such as a bad interview or an unsuccessful CCIE or CCDE exam attempt and review it from the growth mindset. What did you miss and what were the key learning lessons? Do you see any opportunities for improvement?


About the Author

pic Marwan-Al-shawi.jpg


Marwan Al-Shawi, CCDE No. 20130066, is a Systems Engineer with Cisco Systems, Inc. and Cisco Press author whose titles include the top Cisco certification design books CCDE Study Guide and Designing for Cisco Network Service Architectures (ARCH) Foundation Learning Guide, Fourth Edition. Marwan holds a Master of Science degree in internetworking from the University of Technology, Sydney. He enjoys helping and assessing network designs and architectures; therefore, he was selected as a Subject Matter Expert – Design, by the Cisco Learning Network, Cisco Designated VIP by the Cisco Support Community (CSC) (official Cisco Systems forums) in 2012 and by the Solutions and Architectures sub-community in 2014. In addition, also, Marwan was selected as a member of the Cisco Champions program in 2015 and 2016.


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