Career Watch

Ask an IT Leader

Mark O'Gara

The vice president of infrastructure management at Highmark Inc. discusses dealing with the boss and users, and the best sectors in this economy.

I've been in a new job for about five months. When I arrived, I mentioned some things to my boss's boss that I had noticed could be done better, making us more efficient or saving us money. He was thrilled. Since then, though, I've had the feeling that my boss is freezing me out, giving me routine and boring assignments. I think he figures I made him look bad. I realize now I should have handled things differently, but that doesn't help me now. How can I make amends and set things right? Transitioning into a new organization is never easy. What appear to be quick and easy fixes to long-standing problems are usually much more difficult to resolve than you realize. Sit down with your boss and have a frank discussion on your comments to his boss. Chances are that the problems you mentioned to your boss's boss are known within the organization. Next, I would clarify your roles and responsibilities to ensure you have alignment with your boss. Remember: Your job is to make your boss look good!

I'm always reading in the trade press how important it is for IT pros to understand users and their needs. I'd like to get ahead, so I've tried this, but I just get frustrated over how clueless most users are. I can't seem to react to them with anything but irritation. OK, it's not a great attitude, I can see that. Can I change, or should I give up my hopes of advancing and just hide out in my cubicle slamming out code? If I were to rephrase your question, I might ask it like this: Do I need to interact with my customers to understand their needs and so advance my career in IT?

To me, advancing your career means that you do your job well and help solve problems. For the IT organization to be successful, everyone needs to play their position and support the business needs of the company. If you are a programmer, you do not need to interact directly with end users to advance your career. However, there needs to be a function within IT that has a direct interface to the customer, depending on the size and maturity of the organization. You can advance your career by helping your peers do new things, volunteering to help solve problems, learning new technologies, or simply by excelling at writing great code that minimizes demands on network and computing resources.

Which sectors are most likely to be a safe harbor as we ride out the financial crisis? Health care, government and energy are well positioned. We are all affected by the economy, and the only variables we can really control are our performance and our outlook when we show up to work every day. We are all charged with managing our careers, and that requires connecting with people. Read the book Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi, and build a network that you can leverage throughout your career.


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

Doing Less With Less

Are you being asked to do more in the wake of layoffs of co-workers? If so, are you actually doing more? Probably not, according to a survey conducted in December by Leadership IQ. When the research and training firm polled 4,172 workers at 318 companies that had recently laid off employees, 74% of the respondents said their own productivity has declined. Other findings:

87% of surviving workers said they are less likely to recommend their organizations as good places to work.

64% of surviving workers said the productivity of their colleagues has also declined.

81% of surviving workers said the quality of service that customers receive has declined.

77% of surviving workers said they see more errors and mistakes being made.

61% of surviving workers said they believe their companies' future prospects are worse.

Page compiled by Jamie Eckle.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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