Leaders Play Pivotal Role in Transforming IT Talent
By Tony Daniello, AVP, Support Services, CDI
Embrace IT transitions by recognizing core talents and strengths, leveraging prior experience, building a culture of passion and resilience, and preparing teams for what’s next.
Recently, I was asked to voice my opinion on the changing role of the data storage administrator (see http://searchstorage.techtarget.com/feature/A-look-at-the-future-of-data-storage-careers).
With the rapid shift in the storage landscape to flash disk technology, the storage administrator, implementation engineer, and other traditional roles have become more simplistic in nature. I am not saying that these traditional roles are by any means obsolete. In fact, just the opposite is true, as IT leadership asks, “How can someone in these traditional roles take the knowledge that they gained and expand their career into a broader one that encompasses even more new technologies?”
As leaders, we want to encourage other managers and staff to start thinking about the ways our existing resource base of IT talent and subject matter experts can expand their influence and responsibilities into the next generation or next wave of technology. Use the following healthy career development concepts and retention strategies to guide your efforts. I sincerely believe that these concepts apply not only to the storage arena and data center, but also to other roles in IT and other industries.
Recognize Core Strengths
As individuals advance along their career paths, they will certainly showcase relative strengths in some areas over other weaker areas. As leaders, we need to gain a firm understanding of these core strengths to help develop their next career phase. These strengths can also help the business determine whether a net new area of focus can be funded, staffed, and launched in a short amount of time.
For example, an individual might demonstrate effective skills in communicating with customers on the phone or in presenting in front of an audience. Another person, in the same or a different role, might learn and apply new knowledge at a faster pace than other members of the team. At some point soon, leadership may want to determine which individual would be most effective at leading a small group on a new client opportunity, or developing a knowledge base about new cloud technologies.
It’s our duty as leaders to help ensure both customer satisfaction and company success, and in doing so, we need to leverage resource strengths and talents to help get to the next level. At the same time, we can help team members focus on areas of improvement.
Leverage Prior Experience
Engaged work teams today often include people with diverse backgrounds and experience in a variety of industries, settings, and cultures. As leaders, we need to identify how we can combine their previous experience with the new knowledge they are gaining in their current role to generate a proper career path to the next level. For example, someone with a network security background would likely be a good fit in a future role with VMware NSX.
Build a Culture of Passion and Resilience
Just as new and exciting changes are affecting the IT industry, the passion a person feels toward a specific technology or role may also change. For example, as leaders, we might try to assess whether an employee is thriving or satisfied in their current career path as opposed to under-performing. Another possibility is that the individual might want to look at a completely new path altogether.
We need to help team members identify their passions and align them with career goals. In the engaging career conversations that I have with my team members, I look for what really drives each of them. Individuals can also get feedback from me along their own journey of self-discovery. Sometimes, our conversations reveal latent passions and hidden talents they didn’t know they had!
Teams that cultivate this environment of self-discovery, passion, and skills development enjoy the most success. They are more resilient in response to change. Rather than dwell on the disruption of change, they leverage their own talents and master the skills necessary for career transition.
Draw On Your Own Experience to Prepare Your Teams
I have gained a lot of knowledge as I progressed through my career. I knew when it was time for me to take my next step in my career. Today, I help pass this information about progression, improvement, and advancement on to my teams.
I share what I did to take the next step, get to the next level, set goals, overcome challenges, and redefine my career. As leaders, we can use our own experience to help mentor individuals and teams. We can advise them about methods and practices that worked well before and might work best again. We can also advise them about what is not likely to be effective, what challenges might surface, and what actions they could take to conquer the challenges.
As the pace of change in the IT landscape accelerates, rewarding new career paths are always emerging. Whether you view these changes as disruptive or as natural progressions in step with the advances in technology is largely a matter of perception. Strong leadership will help define the direction of the team and the individual to always prepare for and achieve that next level of performance. By staying ahead of the curve and adding proper guidance, you will help your teams advance from a culture of stagnation to a culture of re-tooling and preparation for the new challenges being offered just down the road.