Corporate IT Management is fairly unique focus within the technology world, when compared to the programming and engineering jobs that dominate the tech sector. The challenges that IT Management pros encounter on a daily basis are all about ensuring that the business and the internal users have the tools and services they need to do their job and move the needle for the overall business. This is true whether you are on the front lines support team, managing networking infrastructure, or ensuring new IT projects are delivered on time.
Technology is one of the key industries that is driving the global economy, and was one of the bright spots after the recession of 2009. Job growth in technology fields is continuing to climb, but competition for these jobs is becoming more and more intense. This is especially true in areas like Silicon Valley, where the area is flush with prime talent and low tech unemployment. If you want to make it in IT Management make sure you possess the following skills.
1. Customer Service
Ultimately IT is about solving problems for the people in within your company to help make them more productive and efficient. This means that everyone in IT from those on the front lines to the engineers behind the scenes supporting the network and applications should be customer service focused first.
Customer service has two parts, setting (and meeting) proper expectations and a bringing a good bedside manner to the table when helping a user out with a request or issue. The good bedside manner is the tricky part, unlike technical skills this is something that often cannot be taught on the job.
As a hiring manager, I will take someone with strong customer service skills and a good technical foundation over someone that is deeply technical, but lacks a good bedside manner. The assumption is that, at some point, this person will be in front of our internal customers helping them, so they need to be able to communicate and put them at ease.
2. Ability to Understand what the Business Needs
The ability to understand what the business needs from IT is important for IT Pros, no more than ever. This is true regardless of where you are at on the IT food chain. IT needs to be able to have a good sense of what the business needs from its corporate technology, and be able to deploy it at least one step ahead of when it is actually needed. If this does not happen, you will start accruing technical and process debt, which will require more effort and manpower to clean up later.
Additionally, this will prevent two things. The first is a negative view of IT and what they deliver – you will have fewer people going out on their own to bring in unmanaged tools and services. Second, it will help mitigate the unfortunate perception that IT is just a cost center, and will help build the perception that IT provides value to the business by enabling it.
Effective verbal and writing communication skills were once not a mandatory skill for all IT professionals, and were often considered something only IT Management needed. With the rise of cloud computing and a clearer division of labor between Corporate IT, production facing Ops, and Engineering, the people working in Corporate IT are generally more on the front lines talking to internal users and executives. This means IT folks need to be able to effectively articulate the impact of issues, provide direction, and put people at ease.
4. Problem Solving
Second to Customer Service, independent problem solving is a must have skill for IT Pros. This is also one of those skills that is difficult to teach or instill. Being able to be handed a problem and use your resources to track down a resolution for an issue is critical. I have hired and managed IT folks previously that were incredibly smart, but they utterly lacked the ability to solve problems for themselves. They would approach an issue, try some of the obvious surface-level things, and when those did not work, they would come back to the team for help, versus digging in and using their resources to find a solution to the problem at hand.