Tag: IT leadership

Not a Leader? Then Be a Multiplier

Not a Leader? Then Be a Multiplier

Discussions about corporate and small business leadership abound. If you hang out in LinkedIn groups or sit in on a work-related Twitter chat, you are bound to participate in some dialogue about leadership. By all accounts, it seems to be the holy grail of professional existence.

Innovation Is More Than Just a Good Idea

Innovation Is More Than Just a Good Idea

technical recruitersStudy the corporate atmosphere for any amount of time these days, and you will hear endless dialogue about the need for “innovation.” It seems to be the great American corporate battle cry. And for good reason.

As a career pro who works with technical candidates, the cry is especially loud.

Everyone wants to be the next Apple, and they are looking to their techie crowd to make that happen for them.

So, if you are so inclined, you can sit in on countless Twitter chats, participate in numerous LinkedIn groups, and take seminar after seminar on how to become more “innovative.” Some think it rests in having an entrepreneurial spirit (big corps need to act “smaller” and be more…loose), in having better technical skills, in combining technical with business background (more techie MBAs!), in having better people skills (aka engagement), and/or in having better vision (aka a good idea).

While these are all interesting discussions and have some merit to them, I believe they somewhat miss the mark of understanding what truly drives innovation (if they didn’t, then why aren’t we more innovative? I mean, just sit it on a Twitter chat for goodness’ sakes, and Poof! Innovation abounds, right?).

Because I am a word lover, I always like to start at looking not just at the meaning of the word but also at the history behind it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsafxcFNv0I]

Innovation as a word is traced back to the 15th century, primarily to the Renaissance (meaning “rebirth”).

And a well-known prime example of that era (and of embodying the newly minted word [but by no means new concept] “innovation”) is Leonardo da Vinci (a true Renaissance man if there ever was one!).

Not surprisingly, then, given its roots in the Renaissance and in da Vinci, the concept is closely aligned with the fields of art, philosophy, and religion. In many ways, scientific thought, and thus technological advancement, grew out of these realms. Imagination, which has always been tied in with art, philosophy, and religion, then put into action the thoughts and ideas spurred on by these fields, which led to scientific observation and to many, many attempts at invention. What resulted, then, from these metaphysical fields was innovation in other areas, like technology, science, and mathematics.

In today’s market, we like to lump everything into a “global” landscape, but then we segment out ourselves and each other by “subjects.” He’s a scientist. She’s a teacher. He’s a CIO. And then we hope and pray that each is an “out of the box” thinker in his or her respective subjects. (And the less we try to make the corporate world, corporate, the more corporate it becomes!)

But the innovative ideas brought forth with the Renaissance came out of inclusive thinking, the idea that you weren’t just a sculptor or teacher or whatever. Education in fundamentals like art, philosophy, religion, language, and mathematics was highly valued. In essence, it was at the core of spurring innovation. Today, we’re more worried about having business skills and leadership skills and big picture thinking as if they can be taught in “leadership” seminars . We want the innovation to burst out of mathematical manipulation or some concrete scientific process, but we don’t understand that productive imagination stems from an understanding of what has come before and of man and nature.

In other words, we need a deep well of knowledge to pull from, all of us, no matter what the primary occupation.

We just need, well, to be educated and in more than just programming languages and engineering calculus (and in leadership development taught by HR).

Nevertheless, corporations are going to have a hard time finding this type of talent. For one thing, the marketplace has spent many years now shunning the high-minded pursuits (I mean how many parents have lamented their son or daughter becoming a “philosophy” major because they knew companies didn’t care about it) and society is so addicted to gadgets and technology.

But something will have to give sooner or later. We are already desperate for leaders and visionaries.

So we can no longer afford to miss the forest for the virtual trees, so to speak.

What made Apple so innovative was a leader who had studied man and nature, who grasped behavior, and who could adapt what was already being developed to a shiny package that is too hard for many to refuse. He was more than just a one-dimensional person who loved technology (observe his time in India in search of spiritual enlightenment), and his education was anything but specific. Commenting on his college background, he said, “If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.”

“Good ideas” and “technological innovation” don’t just happen because people are smart or presented with ideal teamwork conditions; there has to be more substance there. And too bad for us, more often than not, there’s isn’t.

IT Resume Tips: IT Candidates Need to Highlight Team Experience

IT Resume Tips: IT Candidates Need to Highlight Team Experience

By Stephen Van Vreede (@ITtechExec)

IT Team Environments

IT job search sites helpful or hurtful 3The business landscape has changed dramatically for IT over the past few years. The days of IT folks or departments operating in a vacuum are gone, never to return. Although this is a good development for business as a whole, it has required a change to the way IT works.

IT professionals must have the ability to directly engage business leaders, users, and process owners. This direct interaction is designed to eliminate the gaps in communicating needs and requirements that have plagued the business in the past.

The IT Resume

IT candidates must be able to communicate their ability to work well in collaborative team environments on the resume. Employers and recruiters today expect IT professionals to possess this skill. But simply stating that you’re a “team player” is not good enough. Everyone says that. They want the candidate to prove it in the meat of the resume.

The ITtechExec Way

To arm yourself with more tools in your technical job search arsenal, we offer a free Technical Jobs report & Online Identity Assessment to our followers. We also offer a 10% discount to our followers. Take advantage of our offer just by signing up to follow this blog or go to our website ITtechExec (be sure to indicate in the “How did you hear about us?” box that you found us through our blog).

The HR Dilemma with IT

The HR Dilemma with IT

By Stephen Van Vreede (@ITtechExec)

Defining the Role of HR

HR serves many purposes in the corporate world. In most cases, HR helps to set strategy, plan the organizational model, define roles and responsibilities, set compensation levels, manage employee relations, handle orientation (or onboarding as it’s now called), ensure employment compliance, and monitor regulatory and legislative reforms. However, to the business or operating teams, HR is really in place to help them recruit, hire, train, and retain high-quality talent. For IT organizations or departments, the function of attracting, hiring, and keeping technical talent is more specialized than most other operating areas. Thus, IT presents HR with some unique challenges in this regard.

The IT perception of HR

In most corporations, HR is viewed by the IT team as an impediment to achieving their objectives. True or not, this seems to be the prevailing attitude from IT operators about HR. It seems that HR departments, or at least the HR representatives that engage directly with the IT team, are more focused on mitigating liability than anything else. These liabilities include equal employment opportunity (EEO) lawsuits, wrongful firing cases, sexual harassment cases, and the like. Human Resources takes a firm stance that the IT group cannot fire someone without reams of documentation. They are very committed to this. Yet, when it comes time to hire people so that IT can support and enable the business, there seems to be no sense of urgency.

Truth or reality?

So what’s real and what’s perception here? Experience indicates that it’s a bit of both. The real issue stems from the Information Technology Department’s unclear understanding of everything HR must do as well as HR’s unclear picture of what IT truly needs to be effective.

Communication

Really, it all boils down to communication and goal alignment. IT executives must come to the realization that it is one of their primary responsibilities to cultivate a strong working relationship with HR. In this way, HR executives can relate to their team the importance of the manner and expediency with which they recruit and hire for IT. Furthermore, this collaboration between HR and IT must extend to the onboarding and organizational development initiatives as well as compensation. Only by a joint effort will the company be able to generate a strong base of technical talent that is compensated appropriately, well equipped, with a clear sense of purpose and a career direction within the company that impels them to stay and incents them to perform to the utmost of their abilities.

IT executive, start building this kind of relationship with your HR executive today. The fruits of your labor will be rewarding.

The ITtechExec Way

To arm yourself with more tools in your technical job search arsenal, we offer a free Technical Jobs report & Online Identity Assessment to our followers. We also offer a 10% discount to our followers. Take advantage of our offer just by signing up to follow this blog or go to our website ITtechExec (be sure to indicate in the “How did you hear about us?” box that you found us through our blog).

What Is Leadership Anyway?

What Is Leadership Anyway?

By Stephen Van Vreede (@ITtechExec)

Where have all the leaders gone?CIO resume shaky 2

What is true leadership in business? Would we recognize it if we saw it? You bet we would! There aren’t a lot of leaders, but there are a ton of people in leadership roles. What gives?

Join the discussion

Join us on Wednesday, July 25th at 3pm Eastern for the Tech Career Forum discussion on this great topic. To be a part of the action, simply follow the #TCFchat stream on Twitter and be sure to include the #TCFchat hashtag anytime you want to give someone a piece of your mind.

Driving the discussion

To “lead” the process in a structured manner, we pose questions to provide a framework for discussion.

The questions for the leadership discussion include:
  1. What does “leadership” mean to you?
  2. Who can be a leader and how does one become a leader?
  3. In the IT world, what should leaders be focused on?
  4. How do you convey leadership capabilities on a resume or online profile?
  5. Can you describe what you learned about leadership, good or bad, from those that led you?

If you’re unable to join us for the live chat, go to our Tech Career Forum LinkedIn Group page to view the recap or go to the Storify page.

Career Success: Where Have All the Lemonade Makers Gone?

Career Success: Where Have All the Lemonade Makers Gone?

By Stephen Van Vreede (@ITtechExec)

When Life Hands You Lemons…

careers in IT cartoon image 3

My whole life I thought that most people creative in that they found a unique way to make something good happen from a potentially bad situation. They saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” was something people seemed to live by. My career wasn’t any different, as I often found myself in situations that were less than ideal. Perhaps it was all the underdog movies like “Rudy,” “The Karate Kid,” “Ghostbusters,” “Trading Places,” and “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” that made society realize the path to success wasn’t always a straight line.

Early in my career, I had a boss give me a stellar performance appraisal followed by comments that I was too aggressive in my desire to get promoted. I should just be patient because promotions in our industry did not occur in the summer time. What? Are you for real? Just because it’s warmer and the days are longer, no job changes can occur? Needless to say, a promotion taking me from the D.C. area to Northern New Jersey happened, you guessed it, that very summer.

What Happened?

I’m not sure exactly when this outlook changed, but it most definitely has. Today, the prevailing attitude is to whine, complain, and give up when faced with a challenging career situation. This attitude has carried over into everything people do. Think about customer service for a moment. Can you remember the last time you had a problem with a service and the person with whom you addressed the problem cared enough to figure out a way, any way, to resolve the issue for you? If it happened for you recently, that’s great! In my personal experience, it doesn’t happen very often.

Are You a Lemonade Maker?

Take a close look at yourself. Can you honestly say that in most situations you’re a lemonade maker? Or are you a Kool-Aid drinker? Some people are lemonade makers at their job but not their career. Some are with their friends but not their family. You get the point. Identify your areas of weakness and look to strengthen them.

Lemonade Maker as a Brand

As you progress in your career and look to position yourself for the future, consider situations in which you were handed lemons. How did you respond? What did you do that was unique and innovative? Maybe you took things a step further, adding ingredients to make a new drink altogether. Believe me, in today’s market, having this attribute can set you apart from the crowd. Be sure to document these things as successes in dealing with life as it comes at you. Let’s face it, life is almost never ideal. In fact, it’s usually quite messy and certainly not linear. It’s how you respond and perform in the midst of these lemons that demonstrates your character.

The ITtechExec Way

To arm yourself with more tools in your technical job search arsenal, we offer a free Technical Jobs report & Online Identity Assessment to our followers. We also offer a 10% discount to our followers. Take advantage of our offer just by signing up to follow this blog or go to our website ITtechExec (be sure to indicate in the “How did you hear about us?” box that you found us through our blog).

Why IT Needs a New PR Campaign

Why IT Needs a New PR Campaign

By Stephen Van Vreede (@ITtechExec)

IT as a Road Block to Business SuccessIT Brand Perception

Let’s face it, IT departments have been notorious over the years for squashing the dreams and aspirations of folks in the rest of the organization. So much so that many operations people think they hear the response “No” from IT almost as much as they hear it from the legal department. If you’re a techie or an IT manager, and you’re thinking “No, you’re wrong!” well, there you go again.

The BYOD Phenomenon

Consider it from the perspective of other people in the organization. Why do you think the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) issue is so huge today? Simply put, people have tools and applications that work and that they are comfortable with already available on personal laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.

Now I am not necessarily advocating for or against a BYOD policy. I’m just using it to demonstrate the fact that if IT were delivering all the technologies, tools, and services in a format that worked well for the business, people would not feel the need to bring their own technologies to work to get things accomplished.

Should IT Always Say Yes?

No. I’m reasonable… relatively. I know that people will make the strangest, most absurd requests. I would never recommend trying to fulfill those just to improve the perception of the IT department. It would be a huge waste of time and resources. What’s clearly lacking in most organizations is a clear strategy. For IT, it’s difficult to develop a plan if you don’t understand the role of the IT organization within the company as a whole. Setting a clear direction that everyone, in IT and across the company, can fully understand has to come first.

Building the IT Brand

Now IT can go about developing their brand message and communicating it across the company. This includes communicating it to the IT resources. In fact, the focus on this brand, or the value IT provides the business, should be ingrained as part of the IT culture, new hire training, team member development, performance management, and all similar areas. With this approach, you go beyond simply talking about a theoretical value and begin demonstrating your commitment to it by practicing what you preach and holding everyone in IT accountable for ensuring it gets fulfilled.

Over time, the rest of the organization will buy in to this model. IT may not be able to say “yes” to every pipe dream, but people will know that reasonable requests will be fairly evaluated by IT. This is especially true if IT responds to the requests by firmly stating what can be done, in what time frame, with what number of resources, at what cost, and at what level of involvement from the business unit.

The concept is fairly simple, but fostering this kind of change in a legacy IT environment is no small feat. But you must start somewhere. By putting the right talent with the proper mindset and effective leadership in place, you’ll make a great start.

Personal Brand Impact

Of course, for IT pros, you can use similar concepts to develop or enhance your personal brand statement. Think about it. If most organizations don’t do this well, it provides you with the opportunity to differentiate yourself by developing such a culture within your IT department or specialty area. When hiring managers read about it on your resume or in your online profile, they will understand how difficult this culture is to achieve and will be impressed with what you’ve accomplished.

The ITtechExec Way

To arm yourself with more tools in your technical job search arsenal, we offer a free Technical Jobs report & Online Identity Assessment to our followers. We also offer a 10% discount to our followers. Take advantage of our offer just by signing up to follow this blog or go to our website ITtechExec (be sure to indicate in the “How did you hear about us?” box that you found us through our blog).