7 skills every IT manager needs to survive the 2010s

Pure technology is out, communication and business insight are in

As companies emerge from the recession, IT managers need to rethink their careers, especially as businesses recast IT's role more as growing the business than running the operations. The old approaches to career growth won't work. Instead, IT managers -- and those who aspire to be managers -- should focus on seven key skills for the new era.

Although no single set of skills can bulletproof your career in this decade and beyond, the foremost of these seven is the ability to continuously learn and possess a broad range of valuable tech and leadership capabilities, according to IT experts interviewed by InfoWorld.com.

[ Keep your IT and business skills sharp: Read Bob Lewis' IT management advice in InfoWorld's Advice Line newsletter. | Discover the 30 skills every IT person should have and which tech jobs are recession-proof. ]

"The survival skill for an IT manager is the ability to think about where you develop your career," contends Kathryn Ullrich, an executive IT recruiter and author of "Getting to the Top" (Silicon Valley Press, 2010). "How do you stay on the cutting edge of tech so you're continuing to develop your skill set? And career resilience? If you're developing into a manager, director, or VP, it is about adding leadership skills."

Although IT managers can't be proficient in everything, they are expected to have fluency in major business and technology issues. "Unless they want to be order-takers, [IT managers] should have a point of view on the business -- its strategy, its operations, and how it can be improved," says Hank Leingang, an IT strategy consultant and former CIO at Bechtel and Viacom.

Many IT managers focus solely on mastering new tech skills to increase their value to their employers -- a strategy that makes perfect sense, but only up to a point. Once you reach that point, you can damage your career by becoming viewed as only technically proficient and being perceived as unskilled in business planning and learning how to communicate and collaborate well with customers, coworkers, and service providers. But if you have a balance of these "hard" technology skills and "soft" business and people skills, you can go a long way toward insulating your career from recessionary woes.

Here are the seven essential survival skills for IT managers seeking to reinforce their position or springboard to greater responsibility:

This article, "7 skills every IT manager needs to survive the 2010s," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in tech career issues at InfoWorld.com.

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