Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Peirce Leadership Series: The Skills Needed for Today’s Information Technology Leaders

This post is part 2 in our Leadership Series examining what it takes to be a leader in today’s quickly evolving workforce.

The IT management field has changed dramatically over the past decade. Information travels faster than ever, the workforce is connected, and everyone from marketers to CEOs are now involved in the technology decision making process. As new apps and technologies are being deployed across organizations, IT leaders must coordinate with employees, executives, and vendors to deliver a seamless experience for all users.

While this transformation requires IT leaders to stay on the cutting edge of the latest technologies, it also means they’ll spend just as much time in the meeting room as the server room. In order to succeed they’ll need a strong combination of both technical and leadership skills.

Let’s begin by examining some of the top technical skills in demand before discussing the leadership skills necessary for IT professionals.

Technical Skills

Programming/Application Development
Programming and application developers are one of the highest in demand in the technology field. According to the Bureau of Labor and statistics, they have only a 1.8% unemployment rate compared to the national average of 6.2%. The types of industries they work in can vary greatly. For example, the financial firm BNY Melon has several hundred posted jobs with about 40% of those being in development.

IT leaders in this field must work closely with a variety of stakeholders across the organization to understand their challenges and design technical solutions. Technical skills for professionals in the field include the ability to design, code, test, implement, and support software that meets the business’ needs. In addition, strong project management skills are required to ensure that solutions are delivered by a specific deadline and within a set budget.

Network Administration
It goes without saying that computers and the networks they depend on are crucial to any organization. This makes network administrators highly sought after as they are a required part of any large company. In addition to computer networks, the demand for wireless connectivity has created plenty of new opportunities for leaders in the field. Similarly, as remote working continues to rise, network administrators are needed to manage a variety of telecommunications networks that allow employees to work while away from the office.  Today, keeping an organization’s information secure from unauthorized access while keeping it available to those who count on it is more important than ever. 

A key skill needed for these leaders is the ability to work under pressure. Companies need their network in order to operate. So when problems arise, administrators must be able to correctly identify and resolve any issues very quickly.

IT Leadership Skills

Active listening
Never before has it been so important for an IT leader to learn the ins and outs of the entire business in order to recommend and deploy the technologies that will most effectively help the organization reach its goals. In many cases, this means having ongoing conversations with employees, sitting in on high-level meetings, and gaining a true understanding of the challenges that the company and its stakeholders face. Since the people you’ll encounter will have varying degrees of technical knowledge, actively listening to determine their concerns and challenges, especially those that the person may not even know exist, will be a critical skill for IT leaders.

Effective Communication
Once an IT leader grasps these challenges, they need to be able to effectively communicate their vision and recommended solutions to upper management, the IT employees they supervise, and to employees at all levels of the organization. This communication may take place in the form of one-on-one discussions, internal meetings, or company-wide presentations. Knowing how to communicate effectively in a variety of different situations is a key part of successful IT leadership.

Clearly IT leaders are required to have more skills than ever before but as a result they have more opportunities. If you’re interested in learning more about starting or advancing a career towards IT leadership, feel free to explore our Information Technology and Technology Management programs.