Career advice: Learn from your mistakes

Premier 100 IT Leader Doris Peek also answers questions on the value of education and of learning about the business

Doris Peek, CIO at Broward Health Ask a Premier 100 IT LeaderDoris Peek Title: Senior vice president of IT and CIOCompany: Broward Health

Peek is this month's Premier 100 IT Leader. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to askaleader@computerworld.com.

I was removed from leading a software project that had fallen well behind schedule. I am very organized and don't think I was at fault. The problem was really endlessly whining users and a project sponsor whose only interest seemed to be setting impossible deadlines. How can I restore my reputation now? All successful professionals will experience failure in their careers. The first step is to own the failure. The second step is to learn from the failure. Delve into the root cause of the failure -- and assume you were directly or indirectly the cause of the mistakes, misjudgments or miscommunications that led to the project going off the rails. Have the courage and respect to ask the users and the sponsor how you can prevent a similar situation in the future. Growing from an opportunity like this is what is important. Apologize for missing the timeline and ensure them that your replacement will lead them to the finish line. At the end of the project, no one will remember that you were removed. And neither should you. Just remember what not to do again on your next assignment.

My immediate manager has told me that too much education is a disadvantage in IT. He's all for training in specific technologies, which is great, but I actually like diving in deep the way you can with a degree program. I also want to set myself up for a career in management (maybe even CIO) myself. Which approach is really better? Wow! This guy is really in IT management? Perhaps not for long -- the next new sheriff will likely change that. While certifications represent the ability to learn specific details about specific topics or technologies, a professional should never miss an opportunity to learn theory, concepts and frameworks and to read scholarly, peer-reviewed articles. A CIO in today's digital C-suite must be able to understand the technology (the specifics) at a very high level and be able to translate the benefits or impact of the technology to the business. Translation and change management of people and process are the key attributes required for leadership. Communication at an executive level requires conceptual and framework dialog -- not dialog about bits and bytes.

As a brand-new business analyst with a background in IT, what should I concentrate on to ensure success? First and foremost, learn the business. Walk in the shoes of your customers. Listen. Be a sponge. Then begin to analyze the data and the process to remove roadblocks for your customers. Use your technical background to solve the business problems you observed. Empower the customers to solve their problems through the power of technology.

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

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