Career Watch: IT workers are upbeat about the future

Ask a premier 100 IT leader: David Steinour

The CIO at George Washington University answers questions about the traits he seeks in new hires, the value of mentors and more.

What qualities have you sought in recent hires? Recently, we have been hiring motivated, self-aware individuals who are dedicated to the mission and goals of the organization. Our recent hires are motivated by what is best for their teams, the division of IT and the university as a whole, rather than making decisions solely based on their personal interests. Finally, we have been focusing on hiring individuals who are willing to pay their dues in the organization, rather than expecting to immediately rise to the top.

Is there real value in having a mentor? How do you go about finding one? There is real value in having mentors. They inspire us, discuss career paths and help us find ways to take our careers in the direction we choose. A goal-oriented person always has a mentor in some form or another. Several mentors have helped me get to where I am today, and the key was choosing trustworthy individuals with whom I could have open, real conversations. The most important message a mentor taught me was that one day I would need to choose between management and technology and eventually sacrifice one or the other, because one cannot succeed in both simultaneously.

How can a lowly sysadmin get his ideas heard? I'm not looking for praise, and I don't want to navigate the politics of the organization. I just think there are things we could be doing better. This is a problem felt by organizations everywhere, regardless of industry. At GWU, the division of IT works to confront it head-on by cultivating a culture of open communication. I have an open-door policy and actively invite feedback for every initiative. Additionally, we hold quarterly "Coffee and Conversation" gatherings with the CIO and deputy CIO, where employees can ask unedited questions and drive the agenda of the meeting. Managers are not present, giving staff members opportunities to freely articulate their ideas and engage in dialogue with higher levels of the organization. A real team effort is required to tap into all of an organization's skills, and these conversations have proved beneficial to everyone in the division of IT.

If you have a question for one of our Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to, and watch for this column each month.

You Can't Spell 'Positive' Without 'IT'

IT employees are more upbeat about the future than those in many other sectors of the economy, according to a survey by staffing firm Randstad. Responding to questions about the future, IT professionals tended to be positive about things like job security (82% said they feel secure) and their level of loyalty and commitment to their employers (66% of IT professionals said they feel more loyal and committed now than they did when they started -- that's a higher percentage than any of the other four sectors highlighted in the survey). IT's optimism stands out in these sets of responses:

"Our company/organization has a great future."

• All sectors: 75%

• IT: 87%

• Engineering: 82%

• Healthcare: 81%

• Finance and accounting: 78%

• Pharma/life sciences: 77%

"Our senior management is making the right staffing decisions today to get us where we need to be in the future."

• All sectors: 59%

• IT: 74%

• Engineering: 67%

• Finance and accounting: 64%

• Healthcare: 60%

• Pharma/life sciences: 50%

Source: June 2011 survey of 3,436 adults in the U.S., including 152 IT professionals

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