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Want to get ahead in IT? Make yourself uncomfortable

Tim Greene | March 22, 2011
Acquiring CIO skills means pushing yourself to do what may not come naturally, author says

The three big skills most IT professionals need work on are communications, focusing on other people and marketing. Communications, he says, is surprisingly reliant on listening well and asking good questions, not dominating a conversation. That realization alone can help remove some of the difficulty some people have mastering the skill, he says.

Helping others to improve their skills will not only improve the team they belong to but also are a mark of a good leader, Bonfante says. Leadership is about involving others in making good decisions and executing on plans.

"Marketing" may be a foreign word to IT workers, but it's all about making sure executives and staff in business units are aware of what IT does. That doesn't mean bragging, he says. But sending an email to people outside the department letting them know that a project is completed and what it will mean to improving the business bottom line is good marketing. It fills people in on new capabilities they can use and gets the word out that IT is doing a good job. "Some people think, 'If I do a good job, it should be obvious to people,'" he says. "Well, no. It's not."

Practice of new skills can be formal or informal. For example, they can try out management skills informally by joining groups at work -- perhaps a charitable fundraiser the company is backing -- and helping to run them. In his own case, Bonfante got a master's degree in organizational leadership.

Beyond personal skills, those seeking IT management positions should pull their heads out of their technical job and see the larger business goals of the company they work for. Seeing how IT fits into the big picture can help people to develop the perspective CIOs need when they deal with other C-level executives sitting on corporate boards.

Bonfante is a freelance executive coach, giving one-on-one advice to IT pros on their way up the corporate ladder, including several CIOs, who he works with on day-to-day tactical problems they face. "Anyone can improve," he says.

 

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