By Deborah Rothberg  |  Posted 2006-08-14 Print this article Print

An ability to mix with the masses is considered more than a requirement today; rather, its a ticket to get ahead. "Beyond a technical base, communications skills go across positions, career levels, across companies," said Kate Kaiser, professor of IT at Milwaukee-based Marquette University and head researcher at the Society of Information Management, or SIM, an organization of IT managers in Chicago.

Your mission: Meet nontech co-workers.

... Isnt addicted to acronyms

Long seen as a fail-safe method to improve job security and employment opportunities in the post dot-com bust era, large numbers of IT professionals stocked up on the letters after their names after the market crashed. Years later, the value of certifications in the absence of requisite skills and experience is held in question, as some consider them more of a crutch than a catch.

Yet, it doesnt mean that certified skills have lost all value, as many CIOs see them as a bonus when the job candidate is already qualified. "Certifications are like the whipped cream and the cherry. Its something nice to have but not a must-have. What they have done in the past and how theyve done it is more than the certification. But as a quantifier, it helps because it says, Im passionate enough to invest my time in getting certified," said James Ingle, CIO of Revere Group, a Chicago-based global business and IT solutions consulting company.

The IT Architect Cerification program is gaining ground. Click here to read more. Indeed, many CIOs use certifications as a passion gauge. "Im always looking for people who are willing to learn. The fact that you went through the rigor of learning something new will impress me. If youre using it as a shield, it wont help, but as a tool in your tool kit, it will," said Stephen Pickett, CIO of Penske, in Reading, Pa., and president of SIM.

The rub with certifications, however, is that they can be viewed as a crutch if you have too many. "If I see someone who has a lot of certifications, Im not sure that theyre proficient in all of them. Im more interested in the work history, and Im going to pick the guy with four years experience over the guy with two years experience and a Cisco [Systems] certification," said Aflacs Shields.

Your mission: Balance your certifications. You need them to keep current with new technology but realize theyre not what Ingle describes as the "x-factor," the intangible that "you always know when you see it."

... Thinks global

Youd be hard-pressed to find a low-level or midlevel technology professional who has good things to say about offshore outsourcing. Yet to truly succeed in a market where global relationships are gaining momentum, you have to adopt a new mantra: Globalization can be good for me.

Its a tough pill to swallow, but many CIOs view offshore outsourcing as a key way for the United States to remain viable. "For the U.S. to be competitive, they have to tap into global resources, and the technology available today allows us to do this. You need to be able to understand whats available and how you go about crafting an efficient use of it," said Novak.

In other words, repeat the mantra: Globalization can be good for me. "Its more than offshoring. Are these positions that were once in the U.S. now overseas? Yes. But, its creating new positions in the U.S. for individuals who can develop their skills [at] managing these types of environments," said Novak.

Click here to read more about the emerging global marketplace. According to Novak, the best opportunities await those folks who want to be project managers, project coordinators and resource managers. The game: Position yourself as the liaison in outsourced relationships. "The best way to outsource-proof yourself is to know how to manage an outsource relationship, giving yourself a skill that cannot be outsourced. You have to have a good grasp of financial principles, sourcing strategies and contracts," said Pickett.

Numerous CIOs agree that the IT professional who views himself or herself as a potential liaison in the outsourced relationship will find no shortage of career opportunities. "The more commoditized skills sets are more easily outsourced or offshored, but the technology still needs to be applied to the people and the organization. Whether the technology is done in or outside the organization, the liaison role is critical," said Ingle.

CIOs also encouraged IT pros to recognize which skills companies valued too much to outsource.

Next Page: Maximize internal knowledge.


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