Career advice: Large enterprise or small company?

After I graduated in 2007, I signed up with a big company that has a huge IT department. Everyone said it was a smart move, because it’s a great company with great benefits. All true. But I feel stifled, doing the same things day after day. I feel like a smaller company would give me a chance to do a lot more and would be more interesting, though the hours could be longer and the benefits package slimmer. Would it be crazy to try a change like that in the current economy?

As someone who has worked in both large and small companies, I can tell you that there are benefits and challenges in both environments. Before you jump, though, make sure you’ve exhausted every opportunity at your current company. If you feel like you have mastered your current responsibilities, are you finding areas where you can contribute or make improvements in related areas? Speak with your manager. Tell him or her that you’d like to contribute more and ask where help may be needed. Is there an innovation or optimization project, for example, that you can get passionate about? Although the economy is challenging, organizations’ current hyperfocus on ROI has created a number of exciting opportunities for IT to help companies improve their performance.

I am the head of software development at a large company, and in the past I have worked in almost every aspect of application development. I’m now in charge of a very large group and have enjoyed the management aspects of the job. I’m starting to think I’d like to move higher in management, perhaps even to become a CIO. How best could I broaden my experience base to prepare for such a move? The key to growing into a senior leadership role is to gain a broader understanding of how IT impacts business strategy and operations. Your role in application management may allow you to consider a role in IT infrastructure or IT portfolio management, two functions where you could begin to develop this larger business knowledge. In addition, many companies are investing in capabilities to improve their business processes as a way to further leverage IT resources. These roles are often located in the business units and offer a great way to learn the operations of the company and the effect of IT on them.

The cloud is starting to loom over us at my company. I’m one of a vocal minority who opposes moving anything significant to a cloud computing basis for a variety of reasons, and it seems likely that at least some of our critical functions are going to end up in the cloud. It’s not my decision, so I can just sit back and wait to say, “I told you so.” But I’d rather that we not go through anything as painful as I what I fear could happen. I’m just one of many IT directors. What more can I do to be heard? The key is to make your opposition a fact-based discussion on the needs of the business and how best to meet them, using a hybrid of on- and off-site computing. Many options now exist for companies to take advantage of moving infrastructure, software or application development to a cloud-based model, which offers rapid provisioning of services in multitenant environments on a pay-as-you-go basis. However, as you know, most clouds don’t provide enterprises with the requisite security, scalability or functionality to access information and ensure that it is in compliance. Start by examining the business needs. Then analyze the pros and cons of the services your company is considering moving to the cloud. You may be surprised that you become an advocate of cloud computing!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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