CIOs need teams that can carry the organization through the rough spots, whether it’s migrating to a new server or surviving under tight budgets. But building a team with the necessary skills and flexibility to maintain high service levels through adversity is not easy.

We spoke to two experts and several TechRepublic members to get their thoughts on what skills CIOs should look for in potential employees or cultivate in current ones.

Intellect, brainpower in demand
Adam Kolawa, CEO of ParaSoft, a provider of error prevention and error detection software solutions, believes some of the best skills to have on staff are often overlooked because they seem so obvious.

Kolawa seeks employees that boast solid problem-solving skills and strong intellects—and that carries from executive management down to the mailroom.

Yet overall sharp mental skills are sometimes bypassed in lieu of more specific technical skills, such as knowledge of COBOL or XML.

Since things change so often in and around technology, the CEO believes that good employees are ones that can think proactively—even if they don’t know the latest computing language.

“The problem [with IT skills] is that they are constantly changing,” explains Kolawa. “The most important skill I am looking for is a good brain. The second skill I am looking for is the ability to learn.”

An employee’s desire to learn, and evolve his or her skill set, bodes well for business, says Kolawa. Tech professionals eager to learn are not thwarted by challenge and, surprisingly, are less susceptible to burnout, he adds.

“What I’ve found is that a lot of IT people, [for example] a lot of programmers, are kind of getting stagnated in the skills they have learned,” he says. “You don’t want to get bogged down in one skill set or in one language.”

Vital technical skills
Along with a vibrant mind, flexible nature, and enthusiasm to solve issues, CIOs still need team members with specific technical expertise.

One skill set in demand right now is server-side application experience and deeper certifications in that area, according to one IT management consultancy.

“There is a growing need for certified networking professionals and more server-side expertise,” explains Terryn Barill, CEO and president of Terryn Barill, Inc. “If you have a high-level certification in any of those enterprisewide applications, you’ve got yourself a job.”

Another top demand on CIOs’ skill wish lists today is experience with XML, says Barill.

“[XML] is getting into anything and everything. But XML…is going to end up being as hot as Java was a few years ago.”

In addition, any experience with data centers is also becoming a desired skill.

“[There’s a move to] standardize operations more across the board, and that really kind of tightens up the IT structure so that it supports the business. One of the ways you do that is to harness the power of the large data centers and the servers and the extensive networks that a lot of these companies have,” Barill explains.

As data centers increasingly become the focus of large organizational initiatives, such as ERP and CRM, the demand for qualified professionals is increasing.

Top tech team skills

The following skills are assets to any CIO’s team:

  • XML
  • Java
  • Network engineering
  • Data center management
  • Enterprise applications (ERP, CRM)

Other skills on tech leaders’ wish lists
In researching what tech proficiencies and team needs are most in demand these days, TechRepublic called on members to share their insight. Here are some of their comments:

  • “Certainly the latest [are] .NET and Web services,” says K. Umapathy.
  • “…planning and using resources such as personnel is becoming a bigger challenge that it has ever been, so getting the right people for a job that is undefined and [not] quantified is pretty tough,” writes TechRepublic member Joe Blogs.
  • “It will be good news if companies are again looking for the qualities of flexibility and intelligence in IT employees,” adds Keith Tarrant. “Clearly, the critical, hard-to-obtain qualities are things like: flexibility, trainability, results orientation, ingenuity, cooperation, negotiation, time management, human communications, scope control.”
  • “XML is from IBM. Java is also a ‘mainstream’ type of language. You should concentrate on learning much more ‘mainstream’ type technologies and languages,” says member David Langlois.
  • “Knowing which skills are in demand now and which skills will become hot may help you get a jump on the rest of the IT pros…however, when selecting candidates, the variety of knowledge and experience is a big factor,” adds Caginay Yilmaz.

Clearly, there are a plethora of hot skills that CIOs want to bring on board when creating today’s tech teams. And while it’s tempting to focus on tech expertise, CIOs are well advised to keep CEO Kolawa’s advice in mind. After all, as someone once said, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

What skills are most valuable to you?

Do you generally hire new employees to bring in cutting-edge technical skills, or do you concentrate on training your present staff on the technologies you know you’ll need in the future? Or does your staffing strategy involve a bit of both? Let us know what works best in your organization. Drop us a line today.