Promotions take hard work

Want a promotion to an IT management position? Well an aspiring IT manager should try to get lots of project management experience.

Heard the one about the boss who called one of his employees into the office?

"Bob," he says, "you've been with the company for a year. You started off on the helpdesk, one week later you were promoted to an analyst/programmer position, and one month after that you were promoted to IT manager.

"Just four short months later, you were promoted to CIO. Now, it's time for me to retire, and I want you to take over the company. What do you say to that?"

"Thanks," says the employee.

"Thanks?" the boss replies. "Is that all you can say?"

"I suppose not," the employee says. "Thanks, Dad."

Well, that's not the only way to work your way up the ranks, but making sure you're considered for promotion can take some hard work.

First, an aspiring IT manager should try to get lots of project management experience. Senior HR consultant with John Robertson and Associates, Heather King says: "Demonstrate some ability to manage and lead people. It will help get you noticed and show that you've got some of the other skills that you're going to need.

"Not only are you going to have to be analytical, and strategic and see things from a company point of view, you're also going to have to manage staff and a budget."

Tip-Top Ice-Cream's John Payne, who has had a number of IT roles over the years, says such projects show you're capable of taking on the role and adding value.

Second, let your superiors know you are interested in moving up. Payne says you should make sure you're clear on what opportunities there are for you within your organisation. Found out what the succession plan is and where you sit on it.

If necessary look for a mentor or a coach to provide you with the opportunities and introductions that you will need. Organisations are political, says King, and although promotions are meant to be transparent, quite often it's who you know that counts.

Which brings us on to networking within your organisation. King says you should become involved in projects across different parts of the organisation, so you get to meet people throughout the company, and spread your network outside of IT. This will ensure you build a good name and reputation for yourself.

Payne says it's vital to have networks outside of IT, so you can understand things like the sales financial and operations processes in your organisation.

"That's where a lot of people fail in their aspirations."

In doing this, you'll also develop a good understanding of your organisation's business requirements.

"Try and be an important businessperson and not just an IT person," says Statistics New Zealand group manager of information and technology services Dallas Welch.

"Get out there and talk with people in your organisation about what they want and need and tell them about what IT's doing and what IT can do for them. Don't just be the techo in the corner."

Next, be a problem solver. As Payne says, don't be a bearer of bad news - be a bearer of "opportunities".

If there are problems, says Welch, come up with a process to get to a solution.

"Think about what the steps are along the way, identify the barriers and even the problem people - the obstructions - and how you resolve that. In devising the solution show that you understood the processes and constraints along the way."

Don't forget about presentation. Payne says it doesn't mean that you have to wear a suit and tie.

"But ensure that you present well, not just in terms of personal grooming but also that you're organised .[and can] espouse ideas clearly and show good line of thought and powers of persuasion.

"If you are moving into an IT management role, people need to know that you're going to add value to what they do and help them solve their business problems."

Welch agrees you should look professional and sound professional, but adds that you should not sound hollow. Make sure you've done your homework so what you're saying makes sense.

Of course all your good work will go nowhere if your superiors don't know what you've been up to. Welch cautions against blowing your own trumpet when you've got nothing to brag about, but King says performance reviews should allow you to talk about what you've achieved and where you're heading.

Payne says you should regularly be measured against strong accountabilities.

"Once a year isn't good enough."

Send email to Kirstin Mills. Letters for publication should be sent to Computerworld letters.

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