Career watch

Ask a Premier 100 IT leader

Roland A. Garcia

Title: Senior vice president and CIO

Company: Baptist Health of Northeast Florida , Jacksonville, Fla.

Garcia is this month's guest Premier 100 IT Leader, answering readers' questions about education choices. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of our Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to askaleader@computerworld.com, and watch for this column each month.

I am a neonatal intensive-care unit nurse with 15 years of experience. I am one-third of the way through an online IT degree in Web application development. How can I incorporate the two careers into one that would be desirable for employers? I am an excellent employee and student but have no previous IT experience. The health care industry is under-going significant changes, with large investments being made for the deployment of electronic medical records (EMR). When organizations are faced with such projects, which are intended to change the fundamental proc- esses of an organization, subject-matter experts are required to facilitate the necessary workflow changes. Your knowledge of hands-on care in this setting can be of significant value, either to your organization or to others.

Start with your current employer and look around for opportunities in the areas of health care informatics, clinical informatics or even the information systems organization. If the organization is engaged in an EMR project, it might be actively seeking someone with your credentials. If your present employer isn't the right fit for you, it won't be hard to find others in the health care industry that are pursuing these types of projects. At Baptist Health, for example, we opened the first all-digital community hospital and are now in the process of extending this same model to all the hospitals in our system.

I am a software developer with five years of experience. I would like to work on much more strategic IT tasks, so I am considering a master of science in information systems management, a master of science in computer science or an MBA. Which would you recommend, and why? My advice would be to pursue an MBA. You already have a technical background and likely can maintain your technical knowledge by keeping involved in projects at work or by reading current literature in the field. An MBA would provide you with a different perspective about business decision-making, give you some tools that you can carry across industries and help you view strategies and decision-making from a financial perspective.

I'm a CIO at a small to medium-size financial firm. I would like to obtain a doctorate but am concerned that it may be perceived as too much education for the position and end up being a detriment to my career. Your thoughts? One of the bad raps that Ph.D.s get is that they take "too academic" an approach to problem-solving. Though some individuals might be overly academic, this generalization is not fair. Many people who have pursued doctoral degrees for their personal satisfaction are able to function very well within the dynamic business world. It boils down to who the person is, how he approaches his job, and his leadership style within the business setting. I wouldn't be too concerned about perceptions and recommend pursuing what interests you. There are many organizations that value and recognize the effort and initiative that acquiring an advanced degree represents.

A campaign that begins after you win

Moving from co-worker to boss is one of the more delicate transitions in corporate life, according to Jack and Suzy Welch. The best-selling authors of Winning (Collins, 2005) now answer workplace queries in a column of that name in The New York Times. Their advice about what to do once you've been anointed as the manager of the team you once belonged to: Start campaigning. "You need to go out and get elected by your former peers," they write. According to the onetime celebrity CEO of General Electric Co. and the former Harvard Business Review editor, after such a promotion is announced, your former peers "are in a holding pattern... checking you out. And that's where you should be, too. In a holding pattern, checking them out. In fact, checking everything out."

Where the money is greener

Top five highest-paying metropolitan areas for IT professionals (by average salary):

-- Silicon Valley: US$85,600

-- Boston: $78,700

-- New York: $76,700

-- Baltimore/Washington: $76,100

-- Atlanta: $75,000

Source: Dice Inc., April 2006

Cybersleuths getting top dollar

Graduates of computer forensics programs have always been in demand with law enforcement, but demand is booming now that private companies have begun recruiting cyberinvestigators. According to Marcus K. Rogers, an associate professor who heads the computer forensics program at Purdue University 's College of Technology, demand has gotten so great that graduates in the field are some of the most sought-after in the country this year.

Meanwhile, a law under consideration in Georgia that would require private investigators to be licensed is so broadly written that it could be interpreted to include most computer forensics and incident-response experts, says columnist Mark Rasch in SecurityFocus magazine. It is possible under the proposed law that computer security experts would need a PI license to testify in court, or face felony charges. The law has been approved by the state legislature and awaits the signature of Gov. Sonny Perdue.

$100k

Top of range for starting salaries for computer forensics graduates.

Source: Marcus K. Rogers, associate professor, Purdue University

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