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Tech careers: 3 ways to catch the wave

April 8, 2013 06:00 AM ET

Refresh your skills -- again and again

Tech pros who want to take advantage of the IT upcycle need to identify any gaps in their skills and, if necessary, invest their own time and money in training to fill those gaps.

Fandl stays on top of hot IT issues and technologies by attending conferences and networking events. Jason Mathews, an IS manager at property management firm Keystone Management, attends online webinars and participates in online communities when he's off the clock. He sees learning as a continuous process. "This is one of those careers where the learning never stops or you'll be left behind," Mathews says.

Even if they aren't planning to jump ship, IT workers should look for opportunities to develop new skills within their own organizations, says Don Knepper, a veteran of more than 25 years at toy maker Tomy International. Knepper has held a host of back-end and front-end database administration roles at Tomy, and since 1997 he has been manager of information analysis -- an evolving role that allows him to pick up new skills all the time.

"We have a philosophy here of joint application development. The user community sees IT as a partner," Knepper explains. "Rather than telling us, 'This is what I need, go do the work,' they see us as providers of information and experts in how business processes work. I don't know if [a little extra money] in my paycheck would make me work any harder than getting a pat on the back from a co-worker in the business saying 'Thanks for helping me on that problem.'"

Bring passion to the project

Joseph Moreau has been vice chancellor and CTO for the Foothill-De Anza Community College District in California since last June. He wasn't looking for a new opportunity before he took the job, but he says the change has proved rewarding nonetheless.

Moreau, who spent five years as CTO of the State University of New York at Oswego, says he became open to the overture from Foothill-De Anza after realizing that his leadership style and overall sensibilities were most closely aligned with the mission of a community college.

In his new post, Moreau says he plans to play a leadership role in making higher education more affordable and valuable for students, leveraging technologies like virtualization and mobile and developing new online learning capabilities and new modes of student-teacher collaboration. He says the district's location in the heart of Silicon Valley gives him access to CIOs from many industries and provides him with the opportunity to establish partnerships with nearby high-tech giants like Apple and Cisco.

Having a passion for your employer's mission is the root of job satisfaction, Moreau maintains. "The satisfaction I derive from work is about the opportunity for creativity and experimentation and working in a climate that is very receptive to that," he says. "That, more than anything else, will help you navigate the rough spots in the IT world."

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Stackpole, a frequent Computerworld contributor, has reported on business and technology for more than 20 years.

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