Although learning computer science is definitely a leg up in and of itself, there is another level of specialized expertise that gives certain individuals the ability to move well beyond their peers in the industry. Here are 7 of the must have skills for IT managers, especially those who are looking to advance quickly in their careers.
1. Adapt into a multifunctional or a specialization role
Specialization may get you in the door in some firms. You will likely have to hit the ground running working in a single department with an industry standard program. However, this is not the way to advance your career. In order to build your value inside of a company, you will need to be adaptable. This cross-functional experience will allow you to shift your expertise to fit the situation, making you virtually indispensable to the company that you work for.
If you want to be a true leader in your company, you need to speak the language of the people to whom you are speaking. If you need something from the sales team, then you need to talk revenues. If you are in front of the tech team, then you need to talk program coding. This type of expansion may be a leap of faith for many people who came into their careers as specialists, but there is no downside to an expansion of this sort.
2. Become a risk arbiter
You may have the technical skills to implement a strategy once it has been formed. However, do you have the skill to assess the strategy choices themselves? Before you start the huge resource drain of coding without a strategy, being able to assess and suggest a direction for the whole project will help you to be respected as a manager. People will feel as though their skills are being used for something important rather than simply throwing their time against the wall like spaghetti and seeing if it sticks.
3. A manager must have strong working relationships
Do you have the ability to come out of the IT shell and talk to suppliers, your coworkers and the customers of your company? You may believe that being liked is more important than respect, and there is something to be said for being liked. The problem with most IT managers is that they prioritize being liked over being respected outside of their department.
There is a simple way to create this good working relationship with all three of the above groups – listen as much as you possibly can. Ask the questions that will allow your potential partners to speak their mind on issues that concern them. You will seem to be in tune with everyone if you take their opinions into consideration in this manner.
4. Become precise with your analytics
You should be able to look at your supply chain data and know what operational metrics means. Data dashboards of all sorts will be very important to you as you try to translate your strategic objectives to the leaders across departments. This is especially important when you are trying to relay a relatively complex, tech oriented change to a person or persons who are not technically oriented. You will gain a great deal of alignment potential by learning the statistics that are important to other departments.
5. Take on enterprise architecture as a discipline to learn
Business and IT strategy combine to form enterprise architecture, an umbrella term that means getting all of the different pieces of information technology to work together smoothly. You will be able to understand the dependencies of others, and you will be able to communicate a disparate typecast of concerns to the people who are oriented with business.
This is not a skill that many companies have the time to cultivate, but it is definitely one that they appreciate. Although your company may actually expect you to come in with this skill, you have time to develop it. Take the time to do it.
6. Individual project management must eventually turn into program management
A project manager is where an IT manager starts. A program manager is where he should end up. The program manager is the more strategic role, and you will use all of the skills that you have created in yourself above. With this skill in tow, you will be invited into top-level meetings that you normally would have to tiptoe around. You will begin to get involved with the inner workings of all departments within your company instead of just your starting department.
7. Learn to communicate
Each of the skills above has something to do with communication. If there is one way to develop and build your career, then this is it. Learn to talk to the customers and business people in the same breath and there is virtually no limit to what your career can become no matter where you start.
The must have skills for IT managers will likely change over time, but the above skills will definitely create a great deal of opportunities for whoever has them. If you can find an IT manager with all seven of the above skills, make sure that you hire that person immediately!