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With 2017 in full swing, it's time to take a fresh look at our professional lives to assess where we are in our careers and where we want to be.
For tech workers, the unemployment rate is low: about 2%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Tech talent is in demand, but as employers search for strong candidates they face shortages. Government reports show that 500,000 to 1 million IT jobs go unfilled every year.
With the field thriving, professionals can configure their IT career advancement in various ways. As businesses increasingly embrace technology to create strategic advantage, drive productivity and stay competitive, there is a growing need in the IT management role.
IT professionals who have demonstrated ability to bridge the gap between the technology side and the business side of the house are highly valued, and often promoted to leadership roles. But for many IT professionals, advancing up the ladder poses unique challenges. While they excel in technical and the entry IT management role, it's not so easy to make the transition to leading larger groups across diverse functions and reach the highest levels in the organization.
To be a leader who drives growth and innovation in today's complex, rapidly-evolving global businesses, IT experts must go beyond their traditional strengths of technical acumen, analytical thinking and love for diving deeply into details.
What skills do tech professionals need to step into leadership and the IT management role? Here are some tips to move forward with your IT career advancement:
Think strategically. Technical leaders need to get out of their silos and think big picture. Effective leaders have the vision to inspire high-performance teams focused on business goals, not just on technology-related or functional goals. They manage a project portfolio that responds to and even anticipates organizational needs and customer trends. Effective IT leaders help to build competitive advantage through the company's IT infrastructure and revenue-generating products.
Hone soft skills. Navigating the human dynamic is vital for a leader. This means understanding the culture, motivation and agenda of others; managing conflict; and giving feedback that advances progress toward shared goals. Leaders with strong people skills communicate effectively, influence diverse stakeholders and successfully compete for resources within and across organizations.
Tune up decision-making. Stepping away from a position where you actually do the work, or at least understand it, into one where you empower others is a familiar challenge for technical professionals. Leaders learn to make effective decisions without first-hand knowledge and often with incomplete or conflicting information. They integrate information from multiple sources to arrive at the best decisions in a timely manner. Superb leaders also consider how power dynamics and their own biases impact decision-making.
Take a global perspective. Despite changing geopolitical forces, technology is bringing countries, competitors and markets closer together. Today's most effective leaders think globally. They adapt to changing technology markets and increased global competition. They lead diverse teams and cast a wide net to source ideas and innovation, and ultimately develop transformative technologies with global value.
As scientific and technological innovation reshapes the global economy, the future is bright for industry professionals who move beyond their traditional technical or engineering training. Technical professionals who transcend their silos and expand their perspective will accelerate their careers, broaden their impact and propel their businesses forward in 2017 and beyond.
More on IT career advancement:
Modern IT leaders tasked with more than technical concerns
Transferring database admin skills into leadership roles
IT management role: Becoming a relationship-driven CIO