Training's fine, but practice makes perfect

When prepping yourself for an IT management job you need to apply what you learn. And while the experts I spoke to this week all agreed courses are useful, they point out that networking and mentoring can also help.

Usually you need to put things you've learned in a classroom situation into practice in the workplace before you appreciate the value of the lesson.

I remember learning about chemistry at school, but it wasn't until one of my classmates created a stink bomb and let it off during our English class that the true power of chemistry dawned on me and many of my classmates.

It's the same when prepping yourself for an IT management job - you need to apply what you learn. And while the two IT managers and one recruiter I spoke to this week all agreed courses are useful, they point out that things like networking and mentoring can also help you learn and add to your skill-set.

Lion Nathan IT director Darryl Warren says some things just can't be learned through courses.

"You learn through being mentored by somebody; or having someone assist you with it; or through working on competencies as part of personal improvement."

He says courses are a bit like coming out of university with a computing degree.

"You then have to get into an organisation and understand the commercial implications of what you're doing. You come out with the theory, but there are a lot of people with management theory who aren't good managers."

IT recruitment firm IT@Manpower's Lincoln Crawley agrees that courses are useful, but adds that without a mentor, you will be doing yourself an injustice.

"That mentor could be a senior IT manager or director, or even some sort of senior commercial manager or director, because - it's an overused statement - but aligning IT strategies with business strategies has become a fundamental."

Crawley says recruiters will be impressed if you have gained new skills. And don't just put down formal courses on your CV - explain if you've used a mentor or networking.

"Rather than mentoring being a black art, it is accepted as a normal part of doing business - and an essential part."

So, regardless of how you get new skills, what things should you be learning if you want an IT management job? Well, business skills are a must for an IT manager.

Warren says IT people nowadays have to have an understanding of their business and business in general.

"The days of the IT manager being a propeller head are well gone. Expect to be a business partner."

Capital Coast Health CIO Warwick Wright recommends taking a financial course - like finance for non-accountants - which is useful if you have no experience in dealing with budgets.

Presentation skills are also important, according to Wright.

"If you're talking to a manager outside the IT function, you need to be able to present your ideas and debate them."

He says negotiation skills are also important for IT managers for things like negotiating contracts with hardware and software suppliers.

A time management course could also prove valuable, says Wright.

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

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