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Unqualified IT managers

By wordworker ·
Recently I was in a meeting with a vendor, a company who licenses software to one of my healthcare clients, and I couldn't believe my ears. The Chief Technology Officer of this high company (with >$500 million annual sales) didn't know what VMware was, and had never heard of Citrix.

Is it just me, or is there a really bad trend in corporate America to promote "business" people to high-level management positions within IT? I mean, how can any self-respecting person function in a CTO position with so little knowledge of the IT world?

No wonder there aren't any career paths for REAL technology professionals -- airheads are being promoted instead of gearheads.

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I Have Seen the Enemy and They Are Us...

by rsanchez In reply to Unqualified IT managers

Although I agree in part that nepotism plays a role but lets face it we technicians are also to blame, let's fact it, the Y2K scare is long over, outsourcing is quickly becoming corporate SOP however too many "techies" have yet to realize that your technical abilities will only get you in the door but they won't get you into the Board room. Too many of us lack any business acumen plus we tend to perpetiate the stereotype of having poor people skills. It's "US" that have to get with the program - its a very different game that is being played and far too often technies are relegated to the status of designated hitter - once they're done with us it's back to the bench.

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It's not black and white

by cou-cou In reply to I Have Seen the Enemy and ...


As a non-technical person working in technology-related industry/business for over 20 years, I found it's a common "emotional" problem for technical professionals feel "upset" for a non-technical professional is their boss.

As many posts have already correctly pointed out, the underlying question is - what is the job all about? Or simply stated, is the guy going to set up and operate a machine gun, or is he/she going to formulate the entire war plan and ensure the success?

With that said, a CIO still has to try acquire as much as technical-related knowledge with all possible means, especially for those emerging new technologies which might change how a business would operate and/or it's competitiveness.

The background of the person is not important, actually, as long as he/she has the cross-functional knowledge and skills as a high-level managers.

It's equally upset to talk to a CIO whose focus is how to set up and configure a server or router or what programming languages they choose over others and so on during an executive meeting to those who do know what is wireless network.

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But the real question is

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to I Have Seen the Enemy and ...

Just how many "techies" want management positions?

When they take the step from hands on to management they very rarely get what they want and have a very fine balancing act to pull off. On the one hand they know what is needed to do a job and on the other hand they know just how much money will be available to pay for the desired results.

Many years ago when I worked for a Boss a Salesman was promoted over me and felt threatened by myself, he seemed to think that I somehow desired his job and thought that I should have been given it.

When he approached me about an incident that happened he then brought this up {I think he was feeling insecure in his new position and he was making some massive mistakes} My reply was that the company lacked sufficient funds to make me even consider his job and that I would rather attend a Dentist and have all my teeth filled and then removed without anesthetic rather than be in his position.

The simple fact is that most of us just do not want to be removed from the position of getting our hands dirty with real work and be relegated to pushing paper around all day.

I have to disagree with the assumption that the "Techies" are not people, people as it is us who generally deals with the customer and in many cases are responsible for selling new equipment. There have been many cases where I have sold new equipment to do a job rather then rely on a "Sales Person" to do the correct thing rather than just flog off what is the flavor of the month this week.


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Quite right too

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to I Have Seen the Enemy and ...

Well we are designated hitters in most respects. IT services business not the other way round. Why would you permanently employ a network architect specialist and then get in managing director during AGMs. A lovely idea I must admit but probably not workable. A company is always doing business, but at least perception wise it's not always doing IT.

The only reasons outsourcing/contracting is n't a given everywhere is that companies generally like to have someone in their control involved and said person needs to be instantly available to crack the password the CFO put on the company accounts spreadsheet just before he went on holiday.

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not all CTO's are tech hands on...

by secure_lockdown In reply to Unqualified IT managers

it would be nice if every CTO had a sys. admin background and was able to setup networks - but to be honest - the CTO's job is to make decisions not to do the grunt work.

it's also perfectly fine for the CTO to ask more hands on tech staff for specific tech recommendaons -- but it's their job to use that info and make a decision that benefits the company in IT related area.

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By example

by jdmercha In reply to not all CTO's are tech ha ...

So we have CAT3 wiring in our building. IT wants to upgrade to CAT5. CTO needs to cut his budget. "We've had CAT3 for years. We can't afford to change now."

If you don't understand the difference, how can you make a decision?

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Well the ideal solution

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to By example

Is that while the Manager of the IT department has very little technical knowledge they rely on the experience of the people who work for them to advise them.

It is only when there is no two way communication between these people that problems occur. In this instance you very well may require Cat5E cabling to replace the CAT3 but have you asked does the company actually have the funds available to pay for this.

A managers job is to balance what you need with what you can actually afford. If it was to come down to the difference between a New server or some cabling I'd chose the server and put up with the slow performance of the network as there will be far more than just a bit of wire and a few plugs involved what about all the hubs/switches this when added in makes the small cost of the cabling a lot more expensive.


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by jdmercha In reply to Well the ideal solution

"A managers job is to balance what you need with what you can actually afford."

So now the non-tech manager is faced with the server group demandng a new server for $5,000, while the network group is demanding new wiring for $10,000. And the budget only has $7,000 to woirk with.

He'll look a lot better to the CEO if he saves $2,000 rahter than asking for $3,000 in additional funds. But what he doesn't see is that the benefits of the new server can't be realized if the network doesn't support it. So he will choose to waste $5,000.

This is a simplified example of course, but I see things like this all the time.

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Actually in this case

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Exactly

The full benefits of the new server an not be realized and the cables still need replacing but as they tend to be unseen they go unnoticed {Sad but quite often true.}

While this is hard to believe I still work for some places with Token Ring networks it makes it very hard when you want to add a new workstation but these places still get their work done and are only sharing files rather than actually using a remote storage unit for all the required files.


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Its not a trend

by piratetoolz In reply to Unqualified IT managers

The fact that businesses place business people in IT director or officer level positions isn't a trend, thats the way it has always been. I was once told by a former employer that "IT supports Operations, Operations does NOT support IT."

Sure, there are folks out there that have a good grasp on both sides of the house...but the truth is that most gearheads, geeks, and techies are not businessmen. We are gearheads, geeks, and techies.

What needs to happen is those business people that are promoted into high level IT management positions be indoctrinated into the importance of IT...does it matter if they memorize all of the abbreviations or know exactly what Citrix is? No. They are there to manage IT (FinOps, vendors, etc) not make the technology work.

That's OUR job.

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