Network executives share their success factors.
1. Arm yourself with salary statistics when you meet for your annual review. Patti Henderson, IT director at Boise, Idaho, law firm Givens Pursley, got an above-average 8 percent raise this year by using statistics to show her superiors just how comparatively inferior her salary was. The statistics came from IT sources, such as the 2006 Network World Salary Survey, as well as from the American Legal Association. "I've been following salary surveys for the last three years . . . and I requested a substantial raise on the idea that here are all these surveys [showing that I'm underpaid for the work I do]," she says.
2. Increase your chances of getting budget approvals by knowing when the company's financials look strong. IT Manager Pam Davey says this tactic has worked well for her at Buyers Products, a Cleveland, Ohio, company that makes products for the mobile-equipment industry. While not required to submit a formal budget, Davey does keep the company controller regularly up-to-date on her long-term spending requirements. But she also tracks the bottom line so "I know when the time is right to ask for more money," she says.
3. If your company has an education benefit, take advantage of it. Going back to school, whether for a bachelor's, a master's or a doctorate, not only benefits you but also sets a great example for peers and direct reports, says Jonathan Campbell, director of network services at FirstHealth of the Carolinas, an expansive healthcare network based in Pinehurst, N.C. Campbell is taking advantage of FirstHealth's education benefit as he works on his master's, he says.
4. Grab every opportunity to cross-train that you can reasonably handle. Even as the top-level network executive, FirstHealth's Campbell knows there's always more to learn about networking. With that in mind, he says he's excited by talk of a new Cisco certification program for network architects. "There a lot of [Cisco Certified Internetworking Experts], and I'm one of them, who spend a lot of configuration time but don't really understand the architecture piece that everything relates to a whole as far as the unified system itself -- voice, data and integrating mobile devices, and doing the traffic engineering. With this new certification, we'll finally be able to address that," Campbell says.
David Lampert, network operations manager at Physio-Control, a Redmond, Wash., business unit of medical device maker Medtronic, agrees. The best network executives are those who take a multidisciplinary approach, he says. After all, he adds, "the No. 1 rule of networking is to know your applications." For example, Lampert calls networking his strong suit, but says he can hold his own in systems, applications and other IT disciplines.
5. If you dream of promotions and big salaries, identify a long-term career goal and stick to it. That doesn't mean you can't make adjustments, but don't get derailed by getting too steeped in one type of technology or pulled too deeply into the business side -- you need a good mix of technology and business, Physio-Control's Lampert says. As you take each step down your career path, you've got to stop yourself and ask, "Am I fundamentally on my way to achieving that goal?" he says.