NASA Proves Aiming High Pays Off - Page 2

Learning to Achieve

The space race spawned a wave of education reform, particularly in the teaching of science in the nations schools. For the IT executive thinking about his or her future in an era of outsourcing, rapid technology change and little tolerance for failure, it is time to consider whether education can enhance the skill set you bring to the table.

I received good advice recently on what your portfolio of competency should include during a lunch with Jack Wilson, interim president of the University of Massachusetts system, and David Gray, president of UMass Online, the online companion to the UMass system. While running a state university system in a state as politically and educationally sensitive as Massachusetts may rival the NASA Spirit project in complexity, Wilsons blend of business, technical and educational background puts him in a particularly strong position to offer advice to the tech exec thinking about his or her career.

"You have to understand your companys business needs," including the marketing and financial aspects of your company, said Wilson. Leadership, ethics and marketing skills are as important to develop as expertise in technology areas, he said.

The ability to develop those skills via online education is coming into its own era at this time, said Gray.

Their advice makes sense in the current climate of professional uncertainty due to corporate restructuring and outsourcing. While technical skills can often be transferred elsewhere, the employee who understands how technology meshes with business strategy can recognize new opportunities and capitalize on them. That insight cannot be outsourced.

In projects and in skill development, the bottom line: Aim high.

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