Five keys to unlock a successful IT career

Margaret Smith, chief executive of networking group CIO Connect looks at five ways to make a success out of your IT career

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Margaret Smith, chief executive of networking group CIO Connect looks at five ways to make a success out of your IT career




Get a sponsor

To be successful at any level in the organisation, you need a sponsor or two. It also helps if that sponsor is prepared to mentor and coach you. A sponsor is someone who is influential in the organisation and is prepared to be active in supporting your career.

When any of my sponsors left the company I have always found someone else to be my sponsor and I have made this a priority.

A good sponsor will tell you your faults as well as what you are good at.

Interestingly, I have also learned as much from managers who I believed were not very good as those who were excellent. It taught me what not to do.

Network both within and outside the company

Networking is not the same as socialising, it is an important way of learning how you can do the job better.

This is true whether you are a technician or a manager.

Remember though to give to your network as much, if not more, than you get - for instance , by doing presentations and offering your knowledge to others - so that when you need a favour it is readily returned.

In other words, work to maintain your network.

Don't waste your spare time

Working in IT can mean being intensely busy one minute and not busy the next. I have always used the "downtime" to read, learn and develop my skills. I have never waited to have training arranged for me or waited to be told what training I needed.

Similarly, do not get lazy and rely on the skills you acquired years ago, even though they are extremely valuable and currently in demand.

Technicians are as valuable and valued as managers

Never become a manager because it feels like that is the next career move you should make.

I have known some excellent technicians who became managers - and not only failed, but were deeply unhappy.

Good technicians are harder to find and retain than managers - it is worth bearing in mind.

If your job is not fun, start looking elsewhere

A large part of my day is spent working, and if I find I am consistently not having fun, it has an impact on my home life.

I have found that if you enjoy what you do and have job satisfaction, you perform better professionally and life seems better.

It is easy, though, to convince yourself to stay where you are despite knowing it is time to find a new challenge.

Margaret Smith, is chief executive of networking group CIO Connect and was formerly CIO at Legal & General

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