In the previous “IT Diversity” articles I discussed Information Technology’s two main career paths – IT Systems and IT Application Development. While you can spend a lifetime working on the basics in either of these sectors, people often desire to advance their careers and move up the ladder into Information Technology management positions. In this article I will cover some important considerations to keep in mind while pursuing this path, and briefly explain some useful educational programs to help you prepare for the journey.
Information Technology management jobs exist at many levels within an organization. In a large organization, you could serve as an IT manager in just one portion of an IT department (network, help desk, or application development manager, etc); you could be the director of the entire IT department, or a senior executive such as a Chief X Officer (CXO) – where X = I for information, S for security, C for compliance, T for technology, K for knowledge, etc. In a smaller organization, you might find yourself as the only IT manager and be tasked with overseeing all aspects of the Information Technology environment.
Experience required for the various levels of IT Management generally include but are not limited to:
– For any level IT managerial position you will be expected to have in-depth experience in at least one specialized area (i.e., systems, networking, security, application development, etc.)
– For higher level positions, the more cross-functional IT experience you have – the better
– The higher level you seek, the more in-tune and knowledgeable you need to be with the enterprise’s mission, vision, and business processes.
As an IT Manager, several skills and competencies are critical to your success:
– People management: People problems can become an overwhelming concern.
– You likely will not have or maintain the level of expertise needed for all the people you are responsible for, so you need to hire staff who have the right staff expertise.
– Information Technology is critical to the success of most enterprises, so you will often be under-the-gun to keep things working and get new projects completed on time. If you don’t manage your staff properly, treating them with respect, professional courtesy, and making sure that they get continuing education, they will burn out quickly and/or not enjoy their work, and look for employment elsewhere.
– You will need to remove or fire unnecessary or problematic employees. A disgruntled worker can destroy the teamwork required for a successful Information Technology project.
– Collaboration and facilitation abilities: Most Information Technology areas require interaction between the IT staff and the business sector. From experience I can tell you that both of these groups often have very little understanding of each other’s situation.
– The IT staff generally does not understand the reasons or priorities of business processes.
– The business staff rarely understands the capabilities of what Information Technology can or cannot do for them.
– Effective program management abilities will help immensely. Many IT projects are very complex, involving multiple functional areas across different business practices.
– Strategic Planning: Information Technology managers at all levels must be able to identify IT lifecycle needs based on current capabilities, while planning for future IT requirements and upgrades.
– IT Managers must also be capable of convincing their colleagues that the Information Technology department’s needs are essential to the enterprises bottom-line, to ensure proper prioritization of limited resources.
– Maintain IT Currency: Managers must keep abreast of IT developments to keep the enterprise and its technology relevant in both current and future environments. Failing to do so could cause the company to lose its competitive edge.
Once again, this is just a broad brush of what you need to keep in mind if you are considering stepping into an Information Technology Management position. This is a reasonable path for many senior service members that have been in one or more of the many IT career tracks, or for veterans who have served in the IT trenches in either military or civilian environments. In many cases you may have attended senior leadership schools or been in a managerial IT role in the military which helped you develop some of these skills. However, when leaving the military in search of a career in Information Technology Management, you will likely be short of civilian-world business skills.