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Career advice: Kicking your career off with no experience

Premier 100 IT Leader Catherine Maras also answers questions on the qualities she looks for when promoting into management and the value of writing skills

By Catherine Maras
May 5, 2014 05:35 PM ET
Catherine Maras
Catherine Maras, Bexar County CIO

Computerworld -
Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader
Catherine Maras
Title:
CIO
Employer: Bexar County, Texas

Maras is this month's Premier 100 IT Leader. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to askaleader@computerworld.com.

As a single mom going to school while working full time to support myself and my daughter, I've had one dead-end job after another. Now I'm about to get my degree in computer science, but I was never able to get even the lowliest job in IT to gain experience. Do you think I'll be able to break into IT now? I'm 25 and suddenly very worried about this. First, congratulations on your accomplishment. Based on your journey to secure your degree in computer science, you possess many valuable qualities that will overcome your lack of IT experience. You have deep experience in life through your juggling of multiple responsibilities. I recommend that you scour the job sites of both government and for-profit entities. You possess both the analytical and soft skills that will benefit any organization.

When considering who to promote into a management position, what qualities do you most want to see? The qualities I look for when promoting into a management position are deep knowledge of the subject matter combined with the soft skills of working with people. And the soft skills become more and more important as you move up the management ladder due to the need to achieve business goals through teams. It is a given that an IT professional possesses the subject matter expertise; however, the ability to lead people and meet the organization's long-term strategy blends both skills sets.

In the course of my career, I have written many analyses, case studies and white papers. Are my writing skills of value as I try to move into a larger leadership role? I was very fortunate to have had a dedicated high school English teacher who stressed critical thinking and writing. Possessing these skills will separate you from the rest of the management candidates. The ability to articulate and convey an idea in a concise written form is highly valued, especially when you are able to demonstrate your knowledge of the organization's strategy by writing case studies and white papers that show your thinking to be aligned with the organization's goals.

Read more about IT Careers in Computerworld's IT Careers Topic Center.



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