Advance your tech career with these three out-of-the-box methods

While technology pros remain in high demand, it's still important to stand out among peers to be noticed if you want to be promoted.

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Image: iStock/ismagilov

People who work in technology are often relegated to the far reaches/basement of the office building and emerge only on an as-needed basis, and the elusive perception has been amplified in the year of primarily virtual work. Employees need to be "visible," a known quantity and quality by their team leaders if they want to reach career goals, said Mike DePrisco, chief operating officer PMI.

DePrisco discussed three "out-of-the-box" ways employees can stand out and catch the attention of company leaders.

Embrace citizen development. Your instinct to get on a competitive basis with more senior colleagues may lead you to decide to learn to code, but DePrisco said:  "You don't need to know how to code in order to create custom applications that will deliver results to your team more efficiently and effectively. Without any training or tech expertise, anyone can build solutions leveraging no-code and low-code platforms—and doing so will allow you to proactively drive change, transformation efforts, and turn ideas into reality." 

PMI's new Citizen Developer resources include "vendor-agnostic methodology, frameworks, learning programs and certifications for citizen development." For some, success is a matter of understanding how to best operate in the company system in which you work.

SEE: One-third of employees would take a pay cut for better work-life balance (TechRepublic)

Demonstrate leadership and people skills. Sometimes you may be laser-focused on business and technology skills, especially for more recent graduates who are looking to apply what they learned in school—many may believe they have the most up-to-date solutions and are anxious to demonstrate that knowledge to company leaders.

 A PMI report on leadership suggested: "Though important, business and technology skills will only get you so far in your career. In today's remote work landscape, it is the skills like collaborative leadership, emotional intelligence, and empathy that will drive things forward, and what will make you stand out within your organization."

PMI identifies five essential leadership skills 

  1. Build vision 
  2. Nurture collaboration
  3. Promote performance
  4. Cultivate learning
  5. Ensure results

Bolster your skills with online educational courses. As everyone is well aware, technology changes so rapidly that to keep competitive, you need to either self-educate and learn new skills or you take advantage of the many free courses currently available online. Courses are available in so many areas, and it's smart to focus on the most in-demand skills for positions in DevOps or machine learning, for example. 

DePrisco noted that companies are well aware of the challenges working-at-home holds for parents of young and school-aged children. "With many working from home with young children, going back to school may simply be out of the question," he said of the numerous available degree, certificate, and seminar programs you can take for your career advancement. 

"Online education courses and micro-credentials are becoming more sought-after for these folks as a short-term option to bolster a resume or to prove expertise in a specific skill," DePrisco said. 

SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Recent research Tomorrow's Teams Today showed soft skills are "becoming more essential as we continue to navigate the digital era, with collaborative leadership being voted by project managers as the most essential team skill." 

Citing technology's "endless potential," DePrisco said that "IT departments across the world have been flooded with requests by teams and leaders looking to not just rapidly implement new technology, but to customize it to solve more niche problems and automate specific tasks. Embracing the citizen development movement and leveraging no- and low-code platforms can help deliver project results more efficiently and effectively by enabling project teams to create and customize technology for the specific projects they are working on."

Applying the suggested tips

While many are still working from home, it's an ideal time to start looking and researching into what area you want to move into, a leadership role, or a shift to a different area of tech. Once you've decided your direction, start looking for appropriate courses, seminars, and certificate programs. Take time to note how long the program lasts, how many hours will be required of your matriculation, and ensure it will not overlap with your current workload.

"As we have seen over the past year, COVID-19 hasn't just forced companies and professionals to be 'agile,'  the impact is much greater," DePrisco said. "Being nimble isn't enough anymore; knowing the frameworks for ways of working isn't enough either. What we have seen recently is that technology has greatly impacted how we learn, what we should learn, and what we can do by learning."

The aforementioned "out-of-the-box" methods are not just tech career specific. "Regardless of the business landscape, professionals are always looking to learn new skills and advance their careers, and businesses should prioritize investing in their people," DePrisco added. "From an individual perspective, online educational courses are perfect for those not looking to commit to going back to school. From a business perspective, online courses provide a tool to upskill workers with the necessary skills to ensure the business as a whole is future-proof. Our recent research found that business leaders rated teamwork and collaboration (49%) as the biggest reason for success in navigating the business challenges of COVID-19."

As people upskill, tech continues to evolve, "so much so that some IT departments are understandably having trouble keeping up," DePrisco said. Because of this, "no- and low-code platforms are rising in the form of the citizen-development movement."

Skilled tech pros will continue to be in demand. Organizations will "continue to grapple with the IT skills gap, citizen development is emerging as a practice to empower employees to create custom applications that meet their project needs, regardless of skill or coding background. But to be as effective and efficient as possible" and to mitigate IT risk, "professionals need to develop a strong foundation to understand how citizen development can be deployed across an entire company."

This story was updated on March 1, 2021 to explain PMI's Citizen Developer resources.

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