IT's superheroes snag new skills

More work? Bring it on! Where some see crushing workloads, these IT workers see opportunities to snag new projects and new skills.

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"Opportunities come to those who show a good work ethic, are fulfilling their responsibilities and are demonstrating the ability and willingness to help the health of the organization," she says.

There's no question that having a "go get 'em" attitude right now will pay off when better times (with bigger budgets and bigger staffs) return, according to Stoltz.

"I've yet to see anyone who truly stepped up and played as a team player and put their organization and projects in front of their agenda stay in the same role for years, unless it's their choice," she says.

Standouts in the Crowd

Mike Miller, director of information security at Media General in Richmond, Va., says he sees his IT workers taking on roles and responsibilities that they didn't have prior to the downturn. As a result, they're learning new and valuable skills; for example, some staff members were pulled in to work on the company's virtualization project.

Miller acknowledges that he hasn't been able to hand out big raises, but he hopes to provide more recognition when the economy recovers in earnest. He says he has already told one administrator who has shown management potential that he'll be in the running when a position opens up.

Joyce L. Gioia, president and CEO of The Herman Group, an Austin-based management consultancy, says managers need to take that approach and let workers know now that they're valued and that more recognition is ahead.

"If employers do not understand and reward -- or at least recognize -- the extra effort that some employees are making, they ignore them at their own peril, because they'll be the first to go," she says.

Edward A. Ruffolo, director of IT at Miron Construction in Neenah, Wis., says his staffers have shown a willingness to advance themselves as the company has pushed ahead with key initiatives.

"It's really a great opportunity -- if you want to look at it in a positive sense, and you might as well -- for those workers left behind," he says. "Now you're being forced to step out of your box."

Ruffolo says he's not taking that for granted, either. His company has tried to recognize employees who put in some extra effort, by preserving as many perks as possible, both large and small -- from bowling outings to employer-paid health insurance. He says he also likes to extend a simple "thank you" to individuals who have taken on new responsibilities.

He says that approach is paying off, because he's now able to cherry-pick top talent that's undervalued elsewhere as he starts to accept résumés from applicants interested in an open position.

"We're going to find out who took care of their people during the downturn and who [didn't]," he says, "because those who did are going to be propelled forward, and those who didn't are going to have some significant losses."

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at

Next: 5 signs your IT career is stuck in a rut

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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