CXO

Are you more I or T?

At some point in your management career, you have or will come across a personality test/inventory known as the Myers-Briggs. It is usually associated with career/management training/counseling as a tool to better understand yourself and your tendencies. Without going into a great amount of detail, the test breaks your personality down into four dichotomies: Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, and Judging/Perceiving. So after taking the test, you might be ranked as an ISTJ or an ENTP. There are 16 combinations that are possible.

I have been doing some reading that suggests, for people in the IT field, that it may be more beneficial to think in terms of whether you are more I or more T when it comes to career counseling.

The I and T obviously come from Information Technology (IT), and we have coupled the two words for many years. In fact, if asked their profession, many programmers, network engineers, etc. might reflexively say "IT."

However, new thinking among IT professionals points to a future when there will be a split between I and T — and people will need to choose between the two career categories.

Previously, the accepted thinking in the industry has been that the best IT professionals are the perfect blend of the two components: understanding the needs and goals of the business side (I), while still having a good handle on the nitty-gritty of technology (T). And to a limited extent, you can have this.

However, as you grow in your career and take on more management responsibility, it is not unusual to start losing some T while growing stronger in the I. There is a perfectly good explanation for this: increasing management responsibilities take you away from the hands-on aspect of technology and force you to maintain your T through reading, not doing.

Yet, as many of you point out in your blog comments, you don’t want to be I at all. You entered the field because of your interest in technology, and you want to remain technically competent. This is very similar to the concept of Applied Science vs. Pure Science.

I gather from my readings (look up versatilists for more info or see: http://www.gartner.com/press_releases/asset_139314_11.html) that in the near future, IT professionals will need to choose the area of expertise that best suits them, and they will be choosing between I and T. According to my research, if you choose T, you had better be EXTREMELY competent because much of that kind of work is being off-shored or given to employees with H1B Visas who will work for less. After all, "The World is Flat", and we live in a global economy.

Conversely, it is predicted that those that focus on the I (information design and management, process design and management, and relationship management) have much rosier futures.

I am condensing a great deal of literature in the statement above and it is probably a gross simplification; however, I think it gets the gist across.

The question then is, do you buy into these predictions and if so, to what degree? There is no doubt we have seen a movement towards making technology, infrastructure, and support — as well as application development — into more of a commodity that can be bought or outsourced. Are we really headed down a road where all T-people will work for a handful of vendors and everyone that is not more I will be out of a job? Is this really where we want to go, and even if it isn’t, is there anything that can be done about it? Or will there be a point where there is pushback and companies change their tune about outsourcing and bring expertise back in house? We have seen some of this, as well, in the Fortune 500.

Personally, I’m not sure about our industry track record when it comes to predicting the future. Having said that, it's never too late to begin assessing your skill set and deciding where you want to be in the next three, five, and 10 years. If you clearly want to focus on technology, make sure you stay current and can show your worth over your competition both here and abroad. If you want to focus on information, then make sure you have the communication and management skills to be a player in that arena. Because of my background, I find it hard to think about doing I without ever having gotten my hands dirty in the T — but I’m sure it is possible. What do you think? Will you have to make this career choice and if so, which will you choose? Is this a reality we want or can it be avoided? Let me know what you think!

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