05 Apr Is IT leadership a position or an attitude?
It seems like there’s always one person in a crowd who is proud to announce their compulsive habit of reading the obituaries. Not me. I’m compulsive about reading the job classifieds.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t spend hours trying to fathom the difference between the ubiquitous “excellent communication skills” and the ever popular “outstanding communication skills.” I just give them a quick scan every day, even if it happens to be my first day on a new job.
I’ve found that over time the job classifieds tell fascinating stories both large and small. I remember when our local paper began a classification just for IT jobs, separate from the “professional” section. I admit being both proud that we’d evolved to our own section and a bit worried that we somehow weren’t professional anymore. Could one have gotten a clearer foreshadowing of outsourcing? That change happened years before the “O” word descended like a biblical plague on the cube farm.
Then there’s the local company that’s been recruiting QA folks for as long as I can remember with the catchy tag “Do you like catching other people’s mistakes?” Oh yeah, they’ll go missing from the classifieds for a while, but then that same ad is back. “Pssst. Pssst. Hey buddy. Over here. In the shadows. Com ‘ere. Do you like catching other people’s mistakes?”
The ad must be successful because they keep using it, but what are they doing with all of these recruits? I wonder if the attitude implied in the tag line gets the new hires run out of town by the other employees, or is Charleton Heston on his knees outside the subsidized cafeteria, shouting at the sky with clutched fists, “Soylent Green is QA staff!” Probably not, but I’m not sending any of my QA buddies over there anytime soon.
But I do go on about my particular hobby. The point is that you can pick up interesting trends in the economy, various industries, and even individual companies by paying attention to the content of job classifieds over time.
Recently, that source has begun to fairly shriek the arrival of a new breed of mutant IT leader. I’m talking about the person who has hands-on expertise in several specific technologies, broad general business leadership skills, and a working knowledge of the specific industry such as biotech, financial services, or general rocketry. He (or she) probably also has a couple of great kids, a well trained dog, perfect teeth, a full head of hair, and a house on the lake in the North Woods somewhere.
I don’t know this guy, but I hate him already.
Of course, nobody like that really exists. There’s not enough time in one career to acquire all that experience. Doesn’t mean the expectation isn’t there, however.
Somewhere on the journey out of the back-office and the glass house, information technologist went from a profession to a job classification to just another skill set, at least in some company’s job postings. For all those goofy ads, I just don’t meet many IT leaders like that. The few exceptions are good guys who have put in many years with their company learning the technology, the business, and the industry, and they got promoted into their job, not hired from the outside.
The really good IT leaders I know are great translators and great partners. They’re really great at translating business needs into technology responses and equally good at translating technology capabilities and constraints into meaningful business opportunities. They’re really great at capitalizing on the intelligence and experience of their business leader peers and technologist staff, bringing them all together to realize innovation and efficiency that none them could have achieved alone.
The really good IT leaders never pretend to know everything about everything. They know when to get other people involved, where to find the folks with the right expertise, and how to blend it all together into technology with real business value.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.