Career Watch

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader: Scott Newman

The chairman of IT at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technologyanswers questions on dealing with a bad boss, the top tech skills for the future, and entering the IT field.

My boss has a fiery temper that seems to me and my peers completely inappropriate for a professional manager. He's a good pal of his boss, who doesn't seem inclined to address this problem. What can we do? Unfortunately, there generally isn't much a person in your situation can do -- beyond reporting this as the reason for your departure during your exit interview. Your best option will probably be to update your résumé, fine-tune your skills (if necessary) and find another position under a manager you enjoy working with. If you stay in IT long enough, you'll most likely have an opportunity to lead others yourself someday. The silver lining of your current situation is the perspective you've gained on the kind of manager you don't want to be.

What are the top two or three technical skills that would help someone remain employed in the IT profession over the next few years? Obviously, the response to this question will vary depending upon the employers and workforce sectors unique to a particular area. Nevertheless, generally speaking, information assurance/digital forensics skills (e.g., system auditing and incident response) are and will be among the most in-demand for the foreseeable future.

There is no question that mobile technology will play a major role in our industry's future -- and there are relatively few individuals with the skills necessary to meet current and emerging demands. Therefore, expertise in working with the tools and technologies relevant to the mobile environment could prove invaluable to someone with an interest in software development.

The knowledge and skills necessary to design, implement and manage data centers vary from those required by more traditional infrastructure roles and are therefore in short supply. Just about every organization has at least one data center, and a number of major IT players have been moving into the market over the past several years, so opportunities for employment will almost assuredly continue to increase.

After years of working low-end jobs, I have just graduated with a bachelor's degree in computer science. I have very little experience in the field. Where should I go to have the best chance at an entry-level IT job? An increasing number of academic programs in computing have implemented internship or co-op experiences to provide students with opportunities to gain practical experience and improve their chances of being gainfully employed by the time they complete their degrees. You may want to speak with your alma mater to see if such an opportunity might exist for you even though you've graduated. You may also want to consider volunteering to assist a nonprofit organization with real-world projects. The nonprofit will be delighted to benefit from your skills, and the experience will result in an additional line or two on your résumé and fodder for your portfolio.


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

Keeping the Best Workers

The overall economy still isn't creating jobs, but a new survey indicates that many companies are perhaps taking the first step in that direction by reversing pay cuts and salary freezes. This finding seems to reflect a growing concern among employers that they need to do more to retain their best performers.

Not all of the survey's findings were positive, though. For example, of the respondents that had increased the amount employees pay for health care premiums, 66% said they don't expect to reverse that decision. Also, 40% of companies plan to increase the percentage of health care premiums that employees pay. Another 41% said they will increase the deductibles, co-pays or out-of-pocket maximums for their 2010 health care plans. And as for retention, it might not be a real problem. The survey found that 83% of the respondents expect to see a rise in the number of employees who continue to work past the age at which they would have preferred to retire.

Within the next six months... June 2009August 2009
My company plans to unfreeze frozen salaries17%33%
My company plans to roll back salary cuts30%44%
My company plans to reverse reductions to 401(k) matching contributions5%24%
Source: Watson Wyatt bimonthly survey of 175 large employers, August 2009

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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