Staying current in the technology and IT certifications is just the start.
By Debra Donston-Miller
A career in Information Technology requires skills previous generations of IT executives ignored or scorned. (People skills? What are those?) The modern IT executive must be a master of the technology he manages plus the business lines it supports. What follows are the eight essential skills, provided by tech pros themselves, that executives must demonstrate to advance in an IT career.
- Technical savvy There's no getting around the fact that IT stands for "information technology." Your experience must show a proven track record of leveraging technology to increase performance, productivity and competitive edge. But technical savvy is nothing without ...
- Business acumen Hiring managers are looking for people who can integrate knowledge of technology with knowledge of business. Technology no longer just supports business – it drives it. The decisions made around technology, and the ability to identify new products and services that will take an organization to the next level, are among the most important made at almost all organizations.
- Communications skills Have you ever seen the "Saturday Night Live" skit where Jimmy Fallon plays Nick Burns, an IT help desk employee who revels in making end-users feel like idiots? It's satire, of course, but there's always a kernel of truth to satire. It can't hurt to ensure that you are in no way falling into the "IT guy" stereotype, especially as you are looking to move up in the industry. Ask trusted colleagues among your organization for feedback on your communications skills, and take their constructive criticism to heart.
- The ability to speak multiple languages Along the same lines as No. 3, it's important to be fluent in the languages (and different dialects) of technology, business, your organization's industry and end-user concerns.
- Project management skills Hiring managers want to see that you have been successful at project management. It's not enough to know your stuff; you have to know about everyone else's stuff and be able to manage the various technologies, business applications, skills and personalities involved in a project.
- Certifications While certifications are not high on the lists of the experts who spoke with TheLadders, if you do list your certifications, you have to also be able to articulate how you have applied them. "I’m not a fan of certifications by themselves," said Robert Rosen, CIO of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. "We sometimes use them as a filter, but we put lots more weight on experience. I've seen too many certificate holders that couldn’t apply that knowledge."
- A curious mind Hiring managers are looking for people who are always looking at how things work and how to make them better. "I found some of the greatest people have the attribute of frequently saying, 'I wonder why it did that?' and then finding out why," Rosen said.
- Flexibility and foresight The rate of technological change is staggering, and employers require IT pros who are able to not only adapt to that change but to be out in front of it.
Debra Donston-Miller covers work-life issues and difficult job-search situations for TheLadders.