Career Watch

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader

Sherry A. Aaholm

Senior vice president, express and freight solutions

Company: FedEx Services, Memphis

Sherry A. Aaholm of FedEx Services
Sherry A. Aaholm of FedEx Services

Aaholm is this month's guest Premier 100 IT Leader, answering questions about landing a job in IT and making the right career move. If you have a question for one of our Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to and watch for this column each month.

What options does an unemployed mainframe programmer/analyst with 30 years' experience have to regain employment, when outsourcing for mainframe, midrange and client/server is at an all-time high? You have two areas to explore. First, there are several large companies that do significant amounts of development work within their own IT organizations and utilize offshore partners to help supplement development, and there are large companies that do all of their development work in-house. Only in the past few years have companies once again started hiring IT resources instead of holding head count static. Researching those companies that pursue this strategy might offer employment options.

The second and potentially more advantageous way to approach this is to take your 30 years of experience and outline how you could use it to assist those companies that use offshore partners. One of the challenges companies face when using offshore partners is having solid processes in place to manage the relationship and make it a win for both the company and the partner. So leveraging your 30 years to support this is an avenue to consider.

I have 10 years of experience in IT, with a master's degree in computer science, an executive MBA from a top school and certifications such as PMP, CISA and CISM. I am currently working as a project manager. Can you offer a suggestion regarding a next step in my career where I can leverage all of the above? Focus on how you can apply these skills to business analysis. Make the link between business and IT, help put technology in layman's terms and define how it can help drive business goals. Focus on how to leverage what you have learned in the past 10 years and how that applies to the industry you are targeting. Use that to your advantage to create a laser focus on the job you want. People who have the skills to bridge technology and business aren't necessarily common, and they add significant value to a company.

Hanging On to Your Company's 'Deep Smarts'

Does your company have the deep smarts to be competitive? In their new book, Deep Smarts: How to Cultivate and Transfer Enduring Business Wisdom (Harvard Business School Press, 2005), Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap argue that the most successful corporations rely on people who possess a knowledge that is drawn from "firsthand life experiences" and "shaped by beliefs and social forces" based primarily on know-how and "know-who." As the book's title suggests, the authors' main concern is helping organizations find ways to cultivate and transfer deep smarts so that knowledge can continue to benefit the organization after its original possessor has moved on.

Leonard and Swap say that deep smarts can be transferred from one management generation to another, but only with a concerted effort. Organizations must select employees with deep smarts and then let them devote a great deal of their time to coaching proteges. They use a learning process that the authors call "guided experience," which includes practice, observation, problem solving and experimentation.


Barriers in the Workforce

In a first-quarter survey of 168 human resource executives and users of "enterprise talent management" systems, Boston-based Aberdeen Group Inc. identified the following as the top concerns and challenges that companies face in creating a high-performing workforce:
Internal workforce career development, succession planning and mobility
Insufficient talent in market
Inability to predict or plan future workforce
Inconsistency in hiring practices
Inefficiencies in the hiring process
Inability to compete for top talent


Good News, Bad News About CIOs

In a survey of 496 senior executives around the world that asked which of various "emerging" C-level titles will be the most powerful this year, CIO came in second, behind chief marketing officer. What's most intriguing about this may be the fact that CIO and CTO were included on the list of emerging titles. Maybe in another 10 years or so . . .
Chief marketing officer 38%
Chief information officer 28%
Chief technology officer 26%
Chief knowledge officer 25%
Chief restructuring officer 24%
Chief talent officer 23%
Chief creative officer 12%
Other 8%

Source: Association of Executive Search Consultants, January/February 2005

Take Part in Our Annual Salary Survey

Each year, Computerworld's salary survey is unparalleled in providing detailed information on IT pay and benefits for workers at all levels. Your participation is welcome and helps ensure that our numbers will be as complete as possible. Just go to; the survey takes less than 15 minutes to complete. And then watch for the results in the Oct. 24 issue of Computerworld.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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