IT career paths you never dreamed of

Your cube is in finance or on the shop floor. Your title has been scrubbed of all geekiness.

Think you want to be a CIO or CTO? Think again. What you might really want is to be a chief delivery officer or chief process officer.

Software developers eager to advance should consider looking for product architect roles. Network and security administrators may want to start looking for positions as electronic privacy specialists. If business analytics is your area of expertise, your next promotion might be to the job of information architect.

And one more thing: Don't expect to be part of an IT department. As a 21st century technology professional, your future -- and most likely your desk -- will be deeply rooted in the business, and your title will likely be scrubbed of any hint of computers, databases, software development languages or data networks.

"We'll see new and made-up titles come about," predicts David McCue, CIO at Computer Sciences Corp., a global consulting, systems integration and outsourcing company. "I've already seen new cards and new titles like guru of X, advocate for Y and ombudsman of Z," he says.

"To me, that signals the beginning step in a maturity cycle. It doesn't feel right to call [a changing role] the same thing, so you make something up. Some of the titles stick, and some you get a good chuckle about after 18 months or so," McCue adds.

CSC is also changing where and how it places some of its IT professionals within companies. "The traditional IT department is beginning to morph into a series of individuals who are comfortable using technology and who know its inherent characteristics," McCue says. "They are becoming embedded into the businesses as technology mentors. These are the people on the business development team who use the tools to create a pretty or sticky Web site."

It's all about business

Jonathan Thatcher, director of business integration for the Chicago-based Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), says he has already begun to see changes in IT titles that downplay specific technologies and focus more on business attributes. "Wireless technicians, for example, are turning into mobility support staff, and tech support is called high-availability support," he notes.

Key factors driving the evolution of IT job titles and roles include the commoditization of technology, plus an ever-growing base of new workers who are technologically savvy and quite accustomed to having technology play a background role in just about everything they do.

These workers and the industries they're in have less of a need for computer programmers and help desk analysts because they either know how to program themselves or the help they need is built right into the software they're using to do their own jobs.

"IT is no longer a subset specialty. IT is integrated into whatever work you're trying to get done," says Patti Dodgen, vice president at Mosaica Partners LLC, an IT consulting company specializing in the health care industry. In that industry, for example, "there is a huge drive to fill positions with someone who has a foot in both the medical world and the technology world," Dodgen says.

No one knows exactly what to call these positions, she says, but they definitely include more than pure technical skills. "If you have been a heads-down programmer, you're at a terrible disadvantage" to secure one of these new roles, says Dodgen. "But if you've been on an application development team and worked with a business partner to facilitate their goals, you have a big leg up," she adds.

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