Tech & Work

Talking Shop: Career options for frustrated IT managers

Offers a few creative ideas for locating a more interesting IT professional job

By Brooke Willis

Wanted: Five hundred thousand IT employees.

Job description: It’s up to you to fill in the blank.

That's how Sid Valluri sees the job market for IT managers. Valluri works with Futurestep , an executive recruiting firm and a subsidiary of Korn/Ferry International.

"Anybody who's halfway qualified in any technology today should not have a problem finding a new job," Valluri said.

While finding a new job isn’t difficult, some veteran IT managers will tell you that finding a better job can be tricky. What alternatives exist for experienced IT managers looking for a change? We asked executive recruiting firms this question, and we checked out ideas from CT-based business technology advisor Gartner.

Take this test
Gartner uses this list of questions to help determine if an organization is serious about offering advancement opportunities to experienced IT pros. Answering these questions will help you gauge your chances of promotion at your current job or with a prospective employer.
  1. Does the enterprise's technology portfolio include at least 30 percent of newer technologies?
  2. Do career paths embrace business assignments, multiple roles, rotations, and cross-functional projects?
  3. Does the enterprise have well-defined IT career paths that offer multiple options for advancement (i.e., a technical track and a traditional management track)?
  4. Does the organization focus only on technical skills, or on business, behavioral, and technical competencies? The former is narrow; the latter is broader and leans toward multiple career paths.
  5. Does the company have a skills planning process? If so, how far out can it forecast? This will confirm whether the company knows where it is going.
  6. What does the organization focus on? Does it try to do everything for everyone or has it learned to be selective?
  7. How does the enterprise approach alternative sourcing? Are IT professionals expected to do everything or do they manage the people who do? Is the organization creative about staffing (e.g., creating new jobs, flexible job arrangements, and re-skilling programs)?
  8. What non-technical changes have had, or will have, the biggest impact on the organization—and has anyone analyzed these changes?
  9. Does the organization promote from within or does it bring in outsiders for top positions?
  10. Does the enterprise support IT professionals with a well-thought-out training and education program, and does it encourage individuals to use the program?

Create your own promotion
Just because there’s already someone sitting behind the desk in the CIO’s office doesn’t mean you can’t find a promotion within your current company. A recent research note from Gartner encouraged IT professionals to go after a position that may not exist yet.

Look for roles that are not being met within your organization and make an argument for your own promotion. Your proposal should show how the enterprise's performance would be improved if this new job is created.

Increasingly, business managers are moving into jobs that have traditionally been IT positions. So IT managers who have a healthy mix of technical and business skills should consider high-profile positions within the business unit. For example, an IT manager may have the edge when competing for a newly created job title such as "manager of e-commerce."

Developers wanted
Microsoft research indicates that this year there will be 760,000 more openings for software developers than there will be applicants. When you include Sun, Linux, HP/UX, AS/400, and other platforms in the mix, the number of positions could be well over 4 million by 2003.

Managers with , a specialty staffing firm, are seeing the need for Internet developers who are versed in Java, XML, DHTML, or HTML. Kforce's Steve Friedman suggests trading the role of IT manager for a Web-based development job because it offers flexible hours.

"A lot of developers work out of their homes. If they can't sleep at three in the morning and want to go into the family room and get on the computer and create another page or two for a client—they can," said Friedman.

The salary for developers ranges from $60,000 to $70,000 and up. Some Web developers are billing $150 to $200 an hour.

"You can make even more money if you create your own niche group ... create your own clientele,” said Friedman.

Consider contract work
Is salary the factor that motivates you more than any other? Consider contract work.

"If all you want is a big paycheck and you say, 'Boy, I'd like to take home $150,000 a year,' that's the way to do it," said Valluri. is a Web site that is set up as a clearinghouse or marketplace for people who are looking for contract work. It's also a place for people who are looking for contract workers.

A battle plan
Like selecting your preferred veggies from the salad bar, you can pick the qualities you want from an IT job. In fact, you're not really standing at a salad bar of hot IT jobs—you're at a smorgasbord. Here are some tips from our experts to move toward a new career path.
  • Get back to the basics. Many IT managers have forgotten how to program. They've strayed away from the technology and haven't kept up with the newest languages.
  • Take a computer-based training program or enroll in online education. You can log on at home to complete your class work.
  • Talk to your IT colleagues who've changed jobs. Find out how they did it.
  • Get involved with user groups and associations. For information on what various professional associations have to offer, check out our recent download, “Boost your career: Join an IT organization .”
What warning sign is the best indication that you should start looking for a new job? Post a comment below or send us some mail.

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