IT leadership roles are evolving. It’s changing from a behind-the-scenes role to a business-critical aspect of every company. As IT becomes more integral and visible in businesses, some leaders are finding their business savvy a bit behind the curve.
To get a better understanding of the types of business soft skills IT leaders need to improve upon, Wisegate surveyed hundreds of seasoned IT and infosec professionals to discover the business literacy skills they have and the skills they perceive they need to be successful in their careers. We found a gap between the two and wanted to share three key insights pulled from this research that can help you further your IT career:
1. Determine what skills you need to develop – Business “soft skills” is such a broad term, so it can be difficult to pin down exactly what tangible skills you need to improve. Instead of trying to attain an all-encompassing goal of becoming more “business savvy,” hone in on specific, definite skills. In our survey, we found that senior IT practitioners ranked more general skills, such as “being business savvy” or “building relationships” higher than specific skills, such as “negotiating,” “verbal communication,” or “writing” as skills on which they need to improve. While this shows a desire for higher-level leadership coaching, it’s also important to develop those tangible skills, such as creating and giving presentations, project management, negotiating and influencing others. Take an honest look at what tangible skills you need to work on, and start there.2. Find a mentor – Where you work will determine how you should find a mentor who can help advance your career. If you’re at a flat organization, you will be less likely to have processes and personnel in place that prioritize helping you advance your career and knowledge. If this is the case for you, you may try looking outside your organizational structure and hire an executive coach or confide in a peer outside your company. If your company operates on a more hierarchical structure, you are more likely to have a manager that helps you develop your career, but you’re less likely to have learning opportunities from peers or other executives outside your group. If you’re looking to continue your current career trajectory, trusting a manager for career development works great. If you plan on excelling in business – not just in IT – you may want to consider looking outside your traditional organizational structure for executive development.
3. Locate a career/executive coach – To become a valuable member of your business, it’s important to develop skills beyond traditional IT-specific tasks and begin working on business-relevant skills. Executive coaches are in the business of assessing and instructing professionals who have high competence in one area but are looking to develop more skills in another. Look around for executive coaches and consider partnering with like-minded peers to hire a professional for coaching sessions.
Take some time to create an inventory of the skills and resources you need to develop your career. Time invested in advancing your career only improves your chances of moving up the ladder.
By Sara Gates, Founder and CEO, Wisegate
Sara is the entrepreneur, philosopher, and budding paleontologist responsible for creating Wisegate. Her passion for moving beyond the Paleolithic era and bringing transparency to the IT industry has led her through a successful career at companies ranging from Wall Street to high tech, spanning startups and big companies, including Deloitte, Transpoint (funded by Microsoft and acquired by CheckFree), Waveset Technologies (acquired by by Sun Microsystems). This experience has also inspired her “Listening to it” blog, which shares provocative insights on navigating life and careers, with an aim to inspire the IT professionals who bet their careers daily on NOT becoming IT fossils.