Career Watch: New grads are happy in IT

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader: Edward Martin

The deputy CIO at George Washington University answers questions about pay equity, indispensable skills and how to become a CIO.

My company has fallen well behind the average compensation in our area for several IT positions. I've lost many people in my group, and this trend seems to be accelerating. But when I've talked to management about bringing our pay in line with local norms, I've been told that we just don't have the budget for increases. How can I argue my point more persuasively? Many IT leaders face this challenge. The answer depends upon the IT area with which you are struggling to keep up with the market. For areas that are becoming more commoditized, such as data networking, data center, help desk, imaging and deskside support, present alternatives that may need to include outsourcing or external help. Frame options with an attention to service levels and impact. For areas that are more critical to your business and processes, such as business analysis, project management, systems design, process management or contract management, frame requests in terms that management will understand. Propose a plan to bring pay in those areas up to market rates. Managers generally embrace plans that either emphasize shareholder value or minimize risk. Most important, base your proposal or recommendation on facts, not emotions or opinions. Your HR department can provide data about salary levels.

If you were required to cut your staff by 20%, which skills or traits would you most want to hold on to? I would want the skills and traits that are aligned with a deep understanding of the business and that position the staff and teams to do more with less. For skills, I would want to retain business analysts, systems designers, project managers and process managers. For traits, I would retain multiskilled personnel who demonstrate strong critical thinking and good innovation skills. For management and leadership traits, I would want to retain people who are not only accountable and able to exhibit good managerial courage, but also selfless -- and show it through actions and words. An often undervalued attribute whose value increases dramatically in a downsized IT organization is communication. People who can comprehend and explain technical concepts and also translate business terms for and from senior management are invaluable.

I'm a vice president of information services who has always prided myself on my willingness, and my ability, to get into the trenches with my team. I'm up to date on technology. I've always thought this was a great quality in a leader, so I was shocked when I was informed that I wouldn't be our next CIO because I needed to improve my leadership skills. I've had to rethink my approach, and I'd like a second opinion about my current approach. First, develop people to fill your current role. Delegate tasks to them, and hold them accountable for plans, objectives, growth and deadlines. Second, focus on gaining a strong understanding of the business and aligning plans with it. Partner with non-IT leaders to make arrangements for shared governance and to set plans and priorities. Third, ask for an anonymous 360 review. If you are really focused on preparing yourself for the next level, you need to gain an understanding of the many perceptions of your strengths and weaknesses. The report may include things you don't want to hear, but you need to hear them. Be open-minded about your own skills as well. Management saw something in the person they chose to be CIO that they didn't see in you. Ask your new boss for advice. He or she will need to count on you. Complement the new boss and shine.

If you have a question for one of our Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to askaleader@computerworld.com, and watch for this column each month.

Shiny Happy Grads

Recent college graduates who have jobs in IT are happy with their work experiences, according to a survey by TargetJobs, a U.K.-based website that aims to help graduating college students find jobs. The survey sample was small (129 recent grads), but the share of respondents who said that they were content with their work lives (87%) was large enough to suggest that most recent graduates are indeed pleased that they chose jobs in IT. In addition, 67% of the respondents said that they expect to stay in IT for the long term, with 37% anticipating that they will remain with their current employers for more than five years.

Read more about management and careers in Computerworld's Management and Careers Topic Center.

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