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One piece of career advice all CIOs agree on

Posted by David Brown, EVP, Hays US on Thursday, Nov 23, 2017

The career advice all CIOs agree on | Hays BlogHow can you guide your career along the most rewarding and satisfying path? Whether your goal is fast progression, increasing compensation, or working at the forefront of technology, continual learning is crucial.

Hays interviewed more than 50 senior IT leaders about their careers and advice, and they all talked about the importance of keeping up with new developments and learning new skills, regardless of seniority.

“Dedicate yourself to learning. Among your skillsets, count continuous learning as one of the most important. Don’t focus on titles or climbing ladders, staring at the next step on a ladder will blind you to how much else is out there,” says Mike McKinney, CTO at Marick Group. “Becoming stale and losing sight of technical skills is not an option today. When becoming an IT leader, one may not have as much exposure to the hands-on side of the job but maintaining a technical understanding of your business is critical. Remember what brought you to your current position and respect that.”

The skills and knowledge you need will evolve as your career does, and you will find your career development smoother if you are continually looking forward, developing the skills you’ll need in the next stage. Know where on the career path you are currently, and what the next step will be for you.

“Don’t try to rush your progression. IT offers fantastic opportunities for advancement, but it takes time to build a career. You can try to race from one level to the next and just focus on job titles, but if you focus instead on the skills and experiences you’re getting then you’ll build a career that stands the test of time,” says Cary Ortiz, Vice President of App/Dev at Nielsen Catalina Solutions. “Embrace learning new things, not just external recognition. It is a challenging and fulfilling career if you approach every challenge as an opportunity.”

Spend time growing your network so you can tap into others’ experiences.

“I keep up with the frontline of technology by consuming a wide variety of technical media, and I keep a lab in my home where I can test technologies,” Lexington Technology CIO Rob Mancini says. “I also keep in touch with colleagues and peers who are very good at what they do so I’m always listening to other experts who can improve my own understanding and broaden my point of view. You have to proactively expand your own knowledge and understanding or you will get stuck at a certain point and the industry will keep moving past you.”

If most of your experience is in contracting, consider taking on a full-time role to get critical business and people management experience, or if your experience is primarily in full-time roles then a strategic move to contracting could help you develop specific technical or project management skills. Your recruiter can help you determine the right career move for you.

Finally, many of the CIOs we interviewed talked about the importance of curiosity. If you can nurture an unending curiosity about technology and business then you will naturally seek out new information, new connections, and new skills. 

“Continue to be curious,” says Thoughtworks CTO Rebecca Parsons. “Embrace learning new things and keeping up with new developments. You can’t be successful if you don’t keep up with the most current tech.

Asked how she kept growing her career, Rebecca said: “I stay curious, which means I continue to learn, to read up on new things, because I always want to know more.” 

As RainKing CTO Dennis Arndt says, natural curiosity is critical for a long-lasting IT career: “IT is a great career with many options and you will be able to go as far as you want, as long as you want it badly enough and are willing to work hard. But I would also say that if you’re not naturally curious and don’t enjoy learning new things, then maybe an IT career is not for you.”

Read more from the IT leaders, or request the Hays DNA of a CIO report for specific insights and advice for your career.


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