Should you stay put or move?

Choices made early in your career can influence how far up the ladder you will progress and what potential employers think you...

Choices made early in your career can influence how far up the ladder you will progress and what potential employers think you have to offer. Research has shown that there are four types who succeed in IT management.

IT directors who move between organisations are more likely to find themselves on the board of a company than those who work their way up through one company.

This is a preliminary finding from research carried out by Computer Weekly and senior IT development organisation the Impact Programme.

The report on the research details in-depth interviews with 23 IT directors from The Times top 50 companies list, and is part of Impact's three-year quest to define excellence in IT.

"These are the movers and shakers in the IT industry - those with the biggest jobs, controlling the biggest budgets," says Brinley Platts, business development director at Impact.

Early analysis of the findings has led Platts to identify four distinct types of IT director from the sample he interviewed:
  • The mobile IT professional

  • The immobile IT professional

  • The general manager

  • The consultant.

"We found that 65% of senior IT professionals who have proactively managed their careers by moving between different organisations now find themselves sitting on the board. Of the six who have stayed within one company all their working life none has a place on the committee," says Platts.

He defines the general manager as a senior official within an organisation who has had a variety of jobs and who has ended up as head of IT. The consultant is a senior IT person who has moved around companies but has stayed within the same industry and has developed a very broad knowledge within one sector.

The types may also have value as an aid to the recruitment process. Candidates could be sorted according to type and only those that fit the profile required need be called for interview.

The four types of professional filling the top IT jobs

IT professional: immobile
Environment

  • Totally committed to the company; both exciting and frustrating

  • Has won the respect of peers, understands the culture and industry

  • Sees the transformational capability of IT as central but may be isolated and resigned to it not happening here

  • Wants to play with top team, works hard on own team ready for the call."

Role and mission
  • Needs to be part of the team

  • But is his own man; enjoys the personal freedom and security, a bit of a loner really

  • Not a "yes man"; prepared to take stands and not prepared to be "the whipping boy."

Values and passions
  • Has invested heavily in the company (time and energy); needs to feel things are improving

  • Values the relative independence

  • Believes the company cannot manage without him or her

  • Highly motivated by spotting and developing talent."

Personal performance measures
  • Company metrics

  • Meeting goals

  • Progress against plan

  • Practical tests

  • Says: "The company cares about its people and I've got the best team in the industry"

  • "It is good here but not brilliant."

IT professional: mobile - hired gun
Environment

  • Primed for change and thinking outside the box

  • Already committed to the need for radically better IT

  • Parachuted in, strongly sponsored by chief executive and executive caucus

  • Plenty to fix before the real work begins."

Role and mission
  • Business-savvy with an IT specialism; customer focused and hard to fool

  • Sees self not as a risk-taker but as a leader, developing people and leading change.

  • Experienced and not precious about the role; flexible and good networker, won't duck the hard stuff

  • Strong conceptual thinker and good with detail

Values and passions
  • Is an achiever, a winner; succeeding and delivering reinforces self-worth

  • Strong personal drivers to give value, prove worth, get the team to perform

  • Needs to be part of a team with shared vision and shared goals."

Personal performance measures
  • Delivery of major change projects

  • Personal acceptance radar

  • IT at the heart of things

  • Says: "Changing the organisation enables you to reinvent yourself";
    " I am a rottweiler, labradors don't last long around here"

General manager: organisation man and boy
Environment

  • IT too important to leave to an IT manager

  • Urgent need to change the way IT is done, needs to deliver more

  • Talented IT team but needs more professional management."

Role and mission
  • First and last a company man with the core industry skills

  • Has been critical of IT and knows what needs to be fixed

  • Is a key member of the corporate change team; has nowhere to get to, nothing to prove."

Values and passions
  • Total personal integrity and loyalty to the company

  • Huge reward when it works, company competitiveness will be transformed

  • Enjoys career learning and finds IT as tough as anything he has ever done."

Personal performance measures
  • Corporate metrics

  • How peers and boss relate to input

  • Mood and morale of IT group

  • Says: "I always do my best or I would be cheating myself and the company"

Executive consultant: sector expert
Environment
  • Company needs to change and has concluded IT is a key lever but doesn't know how to do it

  • Few burning issues but licence to change and strong support from the top

  • Has won fans through quick wins but real job hardly begun

Role and mission
  • Primarily a businessman and sector expert but very comfortable with technology and broad industry experience. Is more rounded than other IT executives

  • Good communication with both technology and non-technology staff; has strategic insight and strong delivery ethos

  • More of a leader than a manager; is building balanced teams to compensate for lack of feeling for company

Values and passion
  • Needs to hit the ground running and deliver value

  • Needs to be part of the top team; is prepared to prove worth to get there

  • Prepared to lead assaults on the company's sacred cows (only with top level support)

  • Realises that no matter how good he or she is they need the team around them to win

Personal performance measures
  • Place at top table, being included in broader discussions

  • Buy-in for significant investment, new kind of talk

  • People value his or her opinion on business issues

  • Says: "I couldn't be doing the same thing day after day"

  • "Success will be seeing me and my team making a positive difference and being recognised for it."
This was last published in April 2002

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