Career Watch

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader

Vidya S. Byanna

The executive director of global infrastructure at Accenture LLC answers questions about career longevity, moving into project management and finding a mentor.

I've been a programmer for 12 years, and I'm beginning to feel that it's an occupation headed for extinction in the U.S. How can I best ensure a long and happy career in my chosen field? While there is a significant trend to leverage resources from outside of the U.S. for IT skills, you can ensure a long and happy career by developing deep specialization in a specific technology area. For example, there is likely to be demand for people with deep skills in ERP platforms such as SAP and Oracle or in programming languages like .Net, J2EE or C++.

Everyone says project management is a key skill in IT. If I have no project management experience, how do I begin to pick up some basic skills? (I don't want to ask for formal training until I have a foot in the PM door.) I don't know your specific situation or role, but I have a couple of suggestions. First, if you are able to participate in project status meetings at your company, that is a good way to learn more about projects and how they are managed with respect to resources, budget, timelines and potential problems. I also recommend that you visit the Web site of the Project Management Institute. There is a section of the Web site dedicated to resources that includes a virtual library of information, research and publications.

My company doesn't have a formal mentoring program. How do I go about finding the right person to help guide me as I build my career in IT? The best thing to look for is someone you respect and whom you would like to emulate. Ideally, he or she will have a broad range of experience and good listening skills and, most important, will help you better understand your goals and aspirations. Don't limit your search to someone at your company. A friend or someone from the industry is equally good. Finally, don't be shy about asking people. In my experience, most IT managers and leaders are happy to help others in the industry develop their careers. Good luck!

From Your Lips to the Boss's Ear

89% Percentage of senior executives and managers in a recent survey who said verbal communications from their subordinates are effective. In fact, 31% of the 192 respondents said such communications are "extremely effective." And it's working in both directions: 78% of the executives said verbal communications from their superiors are effective. Source: NFI Research, Madbury, N.H., April 2008

Info Security = Job Security

We've all heard the stories about how desperate companies are to hire competent information security professionals. A survey sponsored by the Computing Technology Industry Association in late 2007 confirms that anecdotal evidence. Of the more than 3,500 IT managers worldwide who participated, the majority said that security is the technology skill that's most important to their organizations. But they also said there is a significant shortfall of available skills. Among IT managers in nine countries with established IT industries (a group that includes the U.S.), 73% cited security, firewalls and data privacy as the IT skills most important to their organizations today. But only 57% said their IT employees are proficient in those skills.

What are they doing about the skills gap?

  • 59% plan to have their tech workers pursue additional professional training.
  • 43% are encouraging their workers to obtain professional industry certifications.
  • 42% intend to implement career planning or mentoring programs to enhance skills.
  • 41% will reward employees who boost their skills on their own with incentives and recognition.

They also plan to boost security spending.

In a 2007 CompTIA survey of more than 1,000 organizations, nearly one-half of the respondents said they planned to increase spending on security-related technologies, and another one-third said they expected to increase spending on security training.

Page compiled by Jamie Eckle.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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