Grow By Shedding Your Old IT Skin

SAN MATEO (01/31/2000) - Even in today's red-hot job market -- where most IT professionals daydream of dot-com dollars -- many may well find that the job of their dreams is either the one they already have or is located just down the hall.

Take for example KPMG's Steven Hill in New York, who reinvented his high-level position within the company and now heads up KPMG's alliance with Cisco Systems Inc. Hill says he visualized his personal career future by looking ahead to his company's future, one closely tied to the Internet.

As most companies like KPMG move toward more Internet-centric modes of operation, opportunities abound. And one may not have to leave behind healthy 401k plans, employee stock plans, or even familiar colleagues to make a change.

But reshaping a current position is about more than just clamoring for a job closer to the Internet or e-commerce. Before marching into the manager's office and making demands, it's important for an employee to know exactly what he or she is looking for in that new opportunity.

It also helps employees scouting for a change to fully realize what problems, if any, have drawn them to the door of their manager or human resources executive.

For Hill, it was not a particular set of problems, but more a nagging feeling that he'd reached many of the goals he had set for himself in his current job.

"I was not at all in a flat, deadbeat organization," Hill says. "But I realized that a lot of stuff within my industry group that I had started seemed to be self-sustaining."

Hill was formerly a managing partner in Consumer and Industrial Markets at KPMG, and he now holds the same title in Network Integration and Engineering, which puts him squarely in charge of most of KPMG's work with Cisco.

While Hill made a switch within his organization to boost his level of responsibility and move closer to the Internet, experts cite three general reasons employees contemplate leaving their job.

Why leave?

"One of the reasons is that the work is not compelling enough, so they leave it. For technical people that is a critical factor," says Buck Linder, manager of human resources at Autodesk Inc., a software company based in San Rafael, Calif.

Secondly, many dissatisfied workers are unhappy with their direct managers -- a factor which often leads employees to sour on an entire organization.

Finally, but to a lesser degree, some seek more money and feel as if they need look no further than the nearest Internet start-up.

But Linder and others put reasons No. 1 and No. 2 far above the quest for more cash. They argue that managers and employees alike ought to look for solutions to their job crises within their own companies.

"When we forged our recent alliance with Cisco, we found ourselves in need of hiring a staff of 4,000. We looked first internally," says Sean Huurman, KPMG's director of consulting recruiting.

"If a person is a strong performer, they are often able to pick up on the aspects of their job that will be more critical in the future," Huurman says .

"For an employee looking for a change, the most appropriate thing to do -- at least as it relates to KPMG -- is to talk to your performance manager about the things that are motivating you and what may be happening to demotivate you," Huurman says.

If a worker possesses sought-after technical skills and presents his or her case properly, that person is likely to get a favorable reception from management. For KPMG's Hill, that's what happened when he told a company co-chairman of his idea to head up the alliance with Cisco.

At Autodesk, a company in the midst of changing directions because of the Internet, employees are encouraged to maintain open lines of communication with managers.

"One of the worst things for me is to have an employee come in, see them close the door behind them and say, 'I've got some news for you. I've got this new opportunity,' " says Pat Pesetti, Autodesk's Software Development Director.

"When faced with this situation, I try to get an understanding of what is driving them away," Pesetti says. "Are they running away from a job or are they running to an opportunity?"

If it is the former, Pesetti tries to find a "win-win" that keeps that employee at Autodesk. In some cases that involves training programs or a complete shift in the kinds of technology the employee works in.

"There is a lot of opportunity and choices for our employees that are internal to Autodesk. And as much as I hate to see a top developer leave my organization, I would rather see that person go to some other division than leave Autodesk altogether," Pesetti says.

This sentiment is echoed by Autodesk's HR director, Jan Becker. "Like every high-tech company right now, AutoDesk obsesses about retention. Culturally, we have a real understanding that people have a lot of options," she says.

Becker says that managers and HR representatives at Autodesk also try to work with employees who express feelings of discontent to determine whether the dissatisfaction is only temporary.

These managers routinely try to help employees, particularly software developers, who often go through natural lows after they have completed a mammoth project.

"For people who have just finished a big project, there is a gray zone where they don't know what they are going to do next," Becker says.

It is often at this point that employees begin to ponder bigger issues, such as balance between their personal and professional lives. Autodesk, therefore, urges employees who feel trapped in that gray zone to sign up for a new corporate program titled "Renewal: Balance Your Life," which was developed by Hudson Institute, a public policy research organization in Santa Barbara, Calif. The program presents information on transitions and suggests some steps they can take to make the most out of their jobs, says Becker.

Ultimately, however, it is up to individual employees to monitor their own happiness and plot their own success.

"The message I would send to people is look around, and don't get myopic," says KPMG's Hill. "Look around your organization and figure out if your firm is positioned to be a valued player in this new world." Then, he says, figure out your role in getting it there.

Send comments on this section to the editor at johan_rindegard@infoworld.com.

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